Sex Offender Arrested in Mugging and Choking Attacks on 2 Elderly Queens Women: Cops

Police released this image of who they say attacked two elderly women in Queens.
DCPI

A registered sex offender who spent eight years behind bars for rape and sodomy has been arrested for mugging and choking two elderly Queens women, officials said Tuesday. Richard Smalls, 58, has been charged with attacking a 72-year-old woman, authorities said.

The victim was getting her mail in the lobby of her building near 64th Ave. and 98th St. in Rego Park on July 28, police said.

According to police, Smalls demanded the women's valuables and ran off after taking cash and about $500 worth of jewelry from her. She was taken to Long Island Jewish Hospital with bruises.

On Aug. 9, Smalls allegedly struck again, this time choking 79-year-old Maria Salazar in the lobby of her Rego Park building, according to cops.

Salazar had just returned to her building after picking up some milk when her assailant approached her. 

Salazar's daughter, Valentina Henao, told the New York Daily News her mother said she knew something wasn't right. 

"She looked at him. She knew he was suspicious," said Henao, 47, who appeared visibly shaken during the interview as she recounted her mother's ordeal. "When the elevator came, she opened the door and went inside the elevator. When the elevator closed so, she thought she would just come upstairs - but he opened the elevator, went inside and grabbed her from the neck, and pushed her."

Henao said the attacker choked her mother for about eight seconds, bruising her neck before running off with the lobby packages. She said some packages were left behind that might help aid authorities with fingerprints of her mother's attacker.

Saying her biggest fear is that the suspect would come back, Henao said she told her mother to not go out after 5 p.m. 

According to police, Smalls, who lives in a homeless shelter in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, had several criminal offenses. He was paroled in 1989 and arrested in 2003 for breaking into a Rego Park woman's home and forcing her to perform a sex act. 

Court records indicate that Smalls was convicted of sodomy and burglary was released from jail in March 2014. His parole ended last year.

Smalls is being held without bail in Queens Criminal Court. He is due back in court Friday.

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