The high-profile case of the slain "Lollipop Lady" was cracked in a fairly ordinary fashion: A fingerprint matched a name, John Royster.
But that was just the beginning. After Royster was picked up Wednesday evening, the slender loner began talking. And talking.On Thursday, officials said they had solved a startling string of attacks once thought unrelated - including the vicious beating of a piano teacher in daylight in Central Park.
Along with the park beating, Royster was to be arraigned Friday in the killing of the owner of a dry cleaner on Park Avenue and the beatings of two other women in Yonkers and in Manhattan.
Royster, 22, described as "extremely emotionally disturbed," could face the death penalty if convicted in the Park Avenue case, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
The crimes, especially the Central Park beating, horrified the city while threatening to damage its recent reputation for dwindling crime. The arrest "brought a sense of order and justice to crimes that shocked all of us," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.
Roysters' friends told the Daily News that a girlfriend had recently left him and returned to her native Japan. After that, "something came over me; I just had an urge," he told police, according to the News.
Royster said that just before the Central Park attack, "I was thinking of my girlfriend," he scrawled in in a three-page confession for police. Excerpts were quoted in today's newspapers.
Detectives said they found Royster in the city's Bronx borough Wednesday evening after matching fingerprints from the Park Avenue killing to records from Royster's March arrest for jumping a subway turnstile.
A police source who spoke on condition of anonymity said Royster admitted to committing all four crimes, reciting details of the attacks about which "only (police) would know."