East Mount Airy

Man, Wanted for Sexual Assault of 71-Year-Old in Philly, Arrested in N.C.

Authorities said after the assault, Downing stole the victim’s gray 2014 Toyota Corolla and drove it down to Chowan County, North Carolina

A man wanted for sexually assaulting and beating a 71-year-old woman after breaking into her Philadelphia home in broad daylight was arrested Monday night in North Carolina.

Zyree Downing, 22 of Middletown, Delaware, was arrested around 11:32 p.m., the Philadelphia Police Department said. He will be transported back to Philly by the PPD's Special Victims Unit and be arraigned in the coming days.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's office said Downing will face rape, burglary, strangulation and related charges for allegedly beating and sexually assaulting the victim on Sept. 15.

Downing’s apprehension came just hours after the PPD released his photo and asked for the public’s help in finding him.

According to Philadelphia Police Department Capt. James Kearney, Downing first demanded money from the victim and, when she offered jewelry instead of money, repeatedly punched her in the head and back, as well as choked her. That’s when he allegedly forced her to take off her clothes and proceeded to sexually assault her.

Downing entered through the unlocked front door of the victim’s house on the 7400 block of Devon Street in the East Mount Airy neighborhood, the PPD said. At the time, he was screaming for help, which Kearney said was a "ruse" to enable him to commit the crime.

The man dragged the woman up and down the stairs as he beat her, then he sexually assaulted her on the second floor, Kearney said. She eventually managed to fight him off.

“He repeatedly told her she was going to kill her, and she told my investigators that she is a strong woman who will survive, and she did. She has my respect, and today I think she’s a hero," Kearney said.

Authorities said after the assault, Downing stole the victim’s gray 2014 Toyota Corolla and drove it down to Chowan County, North Carolina where he crashed it. Local officials found the car abandoned, the DA's office said. They ran the vehicle's tag and contacted Philly police.

"According to investigators, one of the passengers in the stolen car turned up a local hospital and was interviewed by local authorities," the statement from the Philadelphia DA's office reads. "That passenger additionally helped local authorities identify Downing as the driver of the stolen vehicle."

Downing was then arrested by local authorities, Philly officials said.

“It’s disturbing. I get worked up over it,” an emotional Kearney said following the assault. “It’s disturbing. People go about their daily lives and to be interrupted with a traumatic incident like this is concerning. So, we need the help. We need people to come up and step forward and be this great city that I know it is.”

The District Attorney's Office also added that Downing had faced weapons charges in June of this year when he was involved in a shootout in North Philadelphia. Video showed him and another male exchanging gunfire, which resulted in Downing being shot multiples times and hospitalized in critical condition. The other male wasn't identified or arrested, making Downing the only victim, the DA's office said.

Downing was arrested and charged in the case, however, the DA said when Philly police officers, who were witnesses for the state, didn't appear to testify twice in court, the case was withdrawn.

Resources for victims of sexual assault are available through the National Sexual Violence Resources Center and the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-4673.

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