It was a hot fall afternoon in 1988, and she had a few extra minutes at lunch, so J. stopped in to pray at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, on Fifth Avenue at 90th Street. The blonde 27-year-old actress was about to leave when a teenage boy came up from behind with a knife and threatened to kill her.
“He dragged me down some stairs, took my jewelry, then went ballistic and strangled me until I passed out for maybe ten seconds,” J. says now. The boy repeatedly slammed her head into the concrete floor. Then he demanded that she strip. J. blurted out – falsely, but smartly – that she had a vaginal infection. “He took all my clothes, said he’d kill me if I screamed, and ran away.” She was treated for neck and head injuries, filed a police report, and never heard of any arrest. “But I never forgot his face.”
Two weeks ago, J. opened a copy of New York. In a story called “Central Park Revisited,” she saw a photograph of Matias Reyes and began yelling “That’s the guy! That’s the guy!”
When Reyes confessed to the April 1989 rape and beating of the Central Park jogger, he reignited one of the city’s most controversial crime sagas. But Reyes also told investigators of attacks he’d committed that never made the papers. At least four other women are suddenly getting a resolution to their own nightmares.
J. is the ninth known Reyes victim. Her attack, on September 21, 1988, is the earliest Reyes is now believed to have committed in a spree that stretched until his arrest on August 5, 1989. C. Hugh Hildesley was rector of the Church of the Heavenly Rest then, and this summer he was puzzled when a detective called, asking about the old incident. “They said a man had told them a lot of stories and they were trying to determine if they were true,” Hildesley says. “The police never said this had anything to do with the Central Park jogger case.”
J. called the district attorney’s office after reading about Reyes and was interviewed by investigators last week. “For me, it’s closure,” she says. “I’m happy to learn he’s in jail.”
The news also completed another eerie circle. In 1995, J. was working as a personal trainer, and Salomon Brothers hired her to exercise corporate directors and select employees. One woman J. trained was an investment banker still recovering from grievous injuries: the Central Park jogger. “We talked about how she’d been attacked and so had I,” J. says. “It was a bond we had.”