An ex-convict was found guilty Tuesday in the rape and torture of a Columbia University graduate student who survived 19 hours of torture in which he scalded her with boiling water and attempted to blind her before trying to burn her to death.
Robert Williams was convicted of attempted murder, rape, kidnapping, arson and other charges in the attack, which was so prolonged and agonizing that the victim begged her tormentor to kill her and later tried to kill herself. The verdict followed a gruesome trial that included dramatic testimony from the victim, who said the 31-year-old Williams made her swallow fistfuls of painkillers, ordered her to gouge out her eyes with scissors, sealed her lips with super glue and gagged her with duct tape before torching her apartment.
Williams, who previously served eight years in prison for attempted murder, could get a life sentence at a hearing set for July 24. The evidence against Williams included DNA from the victim found on a shirt he was wearing when he was arrested and DNA from him on one of the woman's T-shirts. The victim also identified him in court. The woman told teary jurors Williams repeatedly raped and sodomized her, scalded her with boiling water, threw bleach at her eyes in an attempt to blind her and slit her eyelids during the excruciating torture in her upper Manhattan apartment. Tied up and left unconscious to die in a fire her attacker set in her apartment, the woman woke up and used the flames to burn through some of her restraints and escape.