GENEVA, N.Y. — One year after a pregnant teenager was repeatedly stabbed in her home, the hunt for her missing boyfriend took a startling twist when a size-13 sneaker with a fish-nibbled foot inside washed up on the shore of Seneca Lake.
The next day, a badly decomposed body with missing limbs was spotted 14 miles away bobbing in weeds near the fiordlike lake’s midway point in central New York’s wine country.
Police now suspect fugitive Alfonso Whitfield Jr., 26, whose remains were recently identified, drowned in a rain-swollen creek that bisects this small Finger Lakes city as he scrambled to evade police minutes after Mercedes McIntosh was attacked on April 6, 2009.
McIntosh, 19, was stabbed and slashed 22 times in the apartment the couple shared with their infant son, but still managed to call 911. Patrol cars and an ambulance showed up “within a minute or two but he must have got by us,’’ Geneva’s police chief, Frank Pane, said.
Still conscious despite heavy loss of blood — one lunge at her throat narrowly missed her jugular — McIntosh identified the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Whitfield as her attacker. She was four months’ pregnant and miscarried the next day. But over the next week, she made a gradual recovery while in intensive care.
Neighbors reported seeing Whitfield fleeing the house down an adjoining street that skirts Castle Creek, a meandering and typically shallow waterway he’d been seen hopping across on previous occasions. After days of spring downpours, however, the creek had turned into a 10-foot-deep torrent.
“It was snowfall mixed with rain that day,’’ said Detective Greg Bendzlowicz.
“We know he left in only jeans, a hooded sweat shirt, and sneakers, and no other form of identification. If he did in fact attempt to cross, he would have jumped into some extremely cold water that was moving extremely quickly.’’
Whitfield might also have been swept away while trying to hide under a bridge where the creek goes underground for a while before emptying into the lake less than a half-mile away.
While the cause of death is still pending, a state crime laboratory positively identified the remains as Whitfield’s using a DNA sample from his son.