The case raised fears in New York City in 1994, when a woman was raped at 5:30 p.m. in Prospect Park while carrying groceries home. But what happened next prompted an uproar: A high-profile newspaper columnist, citing questions raised by police investigators about the woman’s account, said it was a hoax.
When semen was discovered on the woman’s jogging shorts, the columnist, Mike McAlary of The Daily News, found his career on the ropes. The episode even figured in a play, starring Tom Hanks, about Mr. McAlary’s storied life that hit Broadway 15 years after the tabloid writer died of cancer in 1998.
No one was ever accused of being the rapist, however, until Tuesday, when the police said that technology unavailable in 1994 had allowed them to match the suspect’s DNA with a serial rapist serving life in prison in Sing Sing.
Even though the suspect, James Edward Webb, 67, cannot be charged because of an old statute of limitations, the remarkable announcement brought a small, final measure of closure to a case that had roiled the city and spurred a debate about journalistic integrity.
James Edward WebbCredit…New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
“We hope that this knowledge brings a measure of closure to the victim and some comfort in knowing that this individual is behind bars, will remain there and won’t harm anyone else,” Oren Yaniv, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we are bound by the statute of limitations, which expired well over a decade ago, making criminal charges legally impossible.”