The man police believe is responsible for raping and choking a woman who was walking on a Long Island path in broad daylight appeared in court for the first time Thursday.
A week after ambushing the victim along the makeshift trail in a small patch of woods near Route 112 and Skips Road in Coram, 29-year-old Jesse Diaz faced a judge in a virtial arraignment as he was charged in the May 27 attack.
Diaz was arrested on Wednesday and faces a first-degree rape charge and a second-degree strangulation charge.
Prosecutors said that the 23-year-old woman was taking the shortcut — one she is very familiar with — on her way home around 1:45 p.m., when Diaz was sitting in a folding chair just beyond some trees, waiting to strike.
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The Suffolk County prosecutor said that the victim heard Diaz run up behind her, and then grabbed her by the throat. As she tried to scream for help, she lost consciousness, the prosecutor said. When she woke up, Diaz allegedly was raping her in the woods.
"The poor girl is devastated, her parents devastasted and the sad thing equally is it could have been prevented," David Cion, a Coram resident who knows the victim, said in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
"The girl was doing her laundry. Coming back from the laundromat, walking down the trail, a shortcut," he explained. "In the middle of the day mind you, and she gets brutally attacked. What else has to happen before someone takes this seriously."
When the victim left, she ran to get help. She was later taken to a hospital for treatment. Diaz's mother and girlfriend attended the court proceedings on Thursday, and left the courtroom in tears. His girlfriend, who did not give her name, told NBC New York that "he's not guilty, I was with him that day."
However, prosecutors said they have DNA evidence pinning the crime on Diaz.
Officials did not say whether they thought the attack was a crime of opportunity or of the man had been following her for some time.