WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the rape and severe burning of a woman who was found in park near the Wichita State University campus, police said Thursday.
Police Lt. James Espinoza confirmed that the suspect is Cornell McNeal of Wichita. It's unclear whether McNeal has an attorney, and no one answered the phone at his home. He has not yet been formally charged.
The suspect was linked to the attack by forensic evidence obtained after the woman was found and taken to a hospital Friday night, according to Wichita Police Chief Nelson Mosley. He said police are still investigating whether the man knew the 36-year-old victim, who remains in critical condition. Police have not been able to talk with her.
McNeal is being held on suspicion of rape and attempted first-degree murder.
Firefighters were responding to a grass fire around 11 p.m. Friday when they found the woman at Fairmount Park with severe burns on more than half her body and cuts on her head. Police said investigators believe she was attacked following a "random encounter" with the man, but no details have been released.
Mosley said "this tragic and horrendous incident" affected not only the victim, but the entire community. He said police and fire departments, along with forensic experts, were still investigating. He said tips were coming in to police, but he declined to discuss specifics, saying it could jeopardize the case.
According to Sedgwick County District Court records, a woman whom McNeal had once dated got a protection from abuse order against him in 2007, alleging that after she broke up with him, McNeal had threatened her and had broken windows out at her home and car. That woman is not the same person as the victim in the park case, police said.
Court records also indicate McNeal has a criminal history that includes misdemeanor convictions for criminal trespass and theft.
He was also charged with battery in a 2009 case that he appealed from municipal court to district court. He eventually pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to time served.