MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Nearly 26 years after a Harlem woman was brutally raped, stabbed in the face, and strangled to death in St. Nicholas Park, her recently convicted killer is headed to prison for 25 years to life.
Steven Carter, now 50, had a "long and deep history" of crime, including the vicious murder of Antoinette Bennett, who was found sprawled face down among the children’s climbing blocks in St. Nicholas Park in November 1986, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Bonnie Wittner said before she issued the maximum sentence Monday.
Carter got away with the attack until last year, when investigators retested DNA evidence recovered from under the 26-year-old victim's fingernails and found on her body and matched it to Carter's. At the time, Carter, who'd had 26 prior convictions, was about to be released from Rikers on an unrelated weapons possession conviction.
"He grabbed her from behind, he threw her to the ground, and he stabbed her in the face three times, pushing that sharp knife through her cheek all the way into her mouth," said Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges, describing Carter's attack during the sentencing.
"He pulled down her pants, he raped her or attempted to rape her, and he put his hands around her neck and he squeezed until she died."
In June, a jury found Carter guilty on two counts of second-degree murder based on the newly found DNA evidence.
Mourges, who is also chief of the Forensic Sciences/Cold Case Unit said this act was not the first time he had been a sexual predator. When he was 16, Carter beat and raped a 30-year-old teacher while in a juvenile detention center, she said.
"This defendant is dangerous to women and he should never be free to prey on another living human being," said Mourges, asking for the maximum 25 years to life sentence.
Carter, however, told the judge that he's sorry for what happened to Bennett, but insisted they had the wrong man.
"I did not commit this crime," said Carter, who wore a grey T-shirt, jean shorts and black sneakers. "I am innocent of all charges for this crime."
Carter's attorney, Lori Cohen, had argued that they had a consensual sexual encounter—but that someone else was responsible for the murder. She said they plan to appeal.
Starting last fall, prosecutors began re-examining evidence in more than 3,000 unsolved Manhattan murders that took place since the '70s.
Carter's case is the first murder conviction to come out of the Cold Case Unit reinvestigations, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., in a statement.
"Every victim deserves justice and we will continue to use every law enforcement tool at our disposal to ensure that cold cases do not become forgotten cases,” said Vance.