June 1, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A Manhattan livery car driver was charged in a decades-old cold case for allegedly raping a Queens woman who was a passenger in his car, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Danny Stewart, now 58, was indicted by a grand jury and arraigned in Queens Supreme Court after DNA evidence tied him to the rape that took place nearly 25 years ago.
Stewart allegedly picked up a 23-year-old woman at 4 a.m. in Jamaica on Sept. 15, 1996, according to the charges. The woman had just completed back-to-back shifts at two local restaurants.
He allegedly refused to let her out of the livery car when it neared her home. Instead, he drove to a dark parking lot nearby and allegedly displayed what appeared to be a gun. He then allegedly choked and raped the woman, the charges state.
Stewart allowed the 23-year-old to leave the car after the alleged assault. The victim walked home and then went to the hospital, where staff performed a rape kit to collect evidence of the sexual assault.
However, at the time, no DNA databank existed. The databank was created in 2000, at which point the city was able to test every rape kit in its possession for DNA — including the victim’s.
No match was found until last year when Stewart — who lives on West 91st Street — was swabbed for DNA in New York. The New York State DNA databank matched his DNA to the victim’s rape kit and the NYPD and Queens District Attorney’s Office were alerted.
“The break in this 25-year-old cold case, the oldest sexual assault case ever prosecuted in Queens County, came from a DNA match that had been previously unattainable,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “Justice is not always immediate, but a victim’s suffering deserves closure.”
A Queens County grand jury indicted Stewart and he was arraigned on Thursday on a single count of rape in the first degree.
He is set to return to court on June 15, 2021. If convicted, Stewart faces 12-and-a-half to 25 years in prison.