The woman’s horrifying ordeal began around 5:35 a.m. when she was grabbed by a man as she unlocked the door to the Catholic Center, where she had arrived early in order to cook breakfast for “those in need,” including the homeless and underprivileged, sources said.
“I want a piece of you,” her attacker snarled as he tried to push her to the floor. He had followed her around the Washington Square Park before the attack, police said.
Sources say she initially tried to fight the man off, but was repeatedly punched in the face and chest until she was overpowered.
Throughout her ordeal, sources say, the woman repeated the solemn “Hail Mary” — a cornerstone of Catholic prayer, which is repeated over and over again as part of the Rosary.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, Our Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women," the prayer begins, while ending, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."
According to sources, when the attack finally ended, the rapist said, “I should have killed you, too.”
The suspect, who was described as a man in his mid-20s with an elastic bandage on his right hand, wore a fedora hat, which cops recovered near the crime scene, and dark-gray sweater and dark pants. Police released surveillance video of the suspect, who also took some of the victim's belongings. He was tracked to Midtown, but police said the trail went cold.
Crime scene investigators recovered forensic evidence that they hope will lead to a possible identification of the attacker.
Meanwhile, the victim was treated and released form the hospital.
“We are grateful that she was not more seriously hurt,” a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the police at 1800-577-TIPS. All calls will be confidential, authorities say.