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DNA links suspect to new rapes

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The suspect, 58, has lived under several aliases and is known to Queens prosecutors as Anderson Worrell and to Manhattan prosecutors as Clarence Williams. In addition to the old Queens and Manhattan cases, he has recently been linked to nine previously unsolved rape cases in Maryland and two in New Jersey, Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau said. Other women in New York City have come forward identifying Worrell as their attacker, Morgenthau said, but he noted that the state's statute of limitations, put in place because victims' memories often become hazy over time, would prevent prosecution. He has begun lobbying to have the law changed, arguing that there is no such problem with the hard science of DNA testing, a technology that only recently became available. Neither Maryland nor New Jersey has statutes of limitations for sexual assaults.Worrell's lawyer, Michael Rubin, defended his client's reputation, noting that the 58-year-old was a respected Arabic scholar and translator who had worked in Egypt in the 1990s."He's always maintained his innocence," Rubin said.Worrell has also gone by the names Fletcher Worrell, Anderson Morrell and Omar Abdul Hakeem, according to Manhattan and Queens prosecutors. He was arrested and indicted in 1973 after allegedly climbing through the window of a Manhattan apartment and robbing and raping a 25-year-old woman at gunpoint, the Manhattan DA said. Officers caught him fleeing the building after a neighbor heard screams and called police, Morgenthau said.Out on $5,000 bail, Worrell then allegedly confronted two women in a vacant lot in Hollis in 1974, attempting to rape one, a spokeswoman for the Queens DA said. After the other woman hit him with a discarded set of bicycle handlebars, he fled, but not before turning and shooting the woman he allegedly tried to rape, the spokeswoman said. The woman was hit in the pelvis and spent a week in the hospital.Worrell went on trial later that year in the Manhattan rape, but the jury could not reach a verdict, Morgenthau said. In the Queens case, however, Worrell was convicted of attempted robbery, attempted murder and attempted rape and sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, the Queens DA spokeswoman said. He subsequently entered a guilty plea in the Manhattan case, Morgenthau said.The state Appeals Court ruled, however, that Queens prosecutors had mistakenly admitted part of Worrell's statement to police into evidence and overturned the conviction, sending it back for a retrial, Morgenthau said. Worrell also withdrew his plea in the Manhattan case and, when he was out on bail pending retrial, fled in 1978, the Manhattan DA said. He remained at large until last fall, when he was fingerprinted as part of a routine background check while trying to buy a shotgun in an Atlanta suburb. Georgia police then arrested Worrell based on a warrant issued for his arrest years ago and extradited him to New York City. Prosecutors going through the evidence from the old Manhattan case discovered a pair of the victim's underwear with Worrell's DNA, Morgenthau said, providing the evidence for other cases.Rubin, Worrell's lawyer, said his client thought the Queens and Manhattan cases were resolved and did not know he was a fugitive. His client, jailed at Rikers, will face new trials in the Queens and Manhattan cases and must return to State Supreme Court in Manhattan May 17.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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