Today’s news:

Authorities arrest suspect in Forest Pk rape attempt

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (r.) holds a flier promoting a self-defense class as state Sen. Toby Stavisky (l.) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (c.) look on. Photo by Karen Frantz
TimesLedger Newspapers

A man suspected of attempting to rape a 23-year-old woman in Forest Park last week was convicted of manslaughter in 1990, police said, and several of the city’s women officials lauded his arrest Tuesday afternoon.

“Today is a safer day for Queens,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) at a news conference Tuesday at the Forest Hills subway stop, at Continental Avenue and Queens Boulevard.

She thanked the victim of the March 29 attack for coming forward to police, making the arrest of the suspect possible.

“It’s really hard for a victim to come forward and say what has happened to them,” she said. “It takes a tremendous amount of bravery.”

She was joined at the news conference by Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing).

Richard Kassebaum, 42, of Howard Beach, was arrested and charged with attempted predatory sexual assault, attempted rape and sex abuse in connection with the Forest Park incident, police said.

Gothamist reported Kassebaum had been convicted in the stabbing death of his aunt in 1990, but the Queens district attorney’s office could not confirm that because Kassebaum’s criminal complaint had not been finalized yet. Police did say however, that Kassebaum was found guilty of manslaughter in 1990.

The New York Times reported at the time that a 19-year-old Richard Kassebaum had stabbed his 49-year-old aunt, Barbara Jacoutot, to death in her Flushing home in 1990. Police had investigated the possibility the aunt had also been sexually assaulted because her clothes had been cut away, The Times reported.

The Kassebaum arrested this week would have been about 19 years old in 1990.

The victim of last week’s attack was jogging in Forest Park when a man attacked her from behind and zapped her with a stun gun, police said. The man attempted to rape her but was scared off by a couple and their dog, a police spokesman said.

The jogger was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for injuries to her neck, police said.

Just three days after the Forest Park incident, another woman was assaulted in a cemetery near Corona Avenue, police said. They said at about 4:30 a.m. Monday a man approached the 41-year-old victim with a knife and forced her into the cemetery, where he raped her.

The NYPD was asking the public’s assistance in locating the suspect, who they described as Hispanic, 25 to 30 years old and 150 to 175 pounds with black spiked hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information was asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS or submit tips online at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting 274637 and entering TIP577.

Quinn said the city has been teaching self-defense classes across the boroughs to address sexual assaults.

“We’ve been conducting these trainings as we’ve heard more and more reports of rape, sexual assaults and attempted rape and sexual assaults to make sure that girls and women know how to protect themselves,” she said.

The next self-defense class will take place at Queensborough Hall April 16 at 6:30 p.m.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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