A Columbia journalism student will tell jurors on Friday how a sadist turned her Manhattan apartment into a "torture chamber" where she was raped, disfigured and nearly blinded.
"He ordered her to stab out her eyes," Assistant District Attorney Ann Prunty said Thursday as she opened the trial of 31-year-old Robert Williams with a horrific account of the alleged assault on April 13, 2007.
Standing naked in the bathtub with her lips glued and taped shut, her hands and ankles bound, the 23-year-old victim "couldn't do it," Prunty said.
"The next thing she heard was the kettle whistling," the prosecutor said. "She will never be able to stand that sound again."
Prunty's description of how Williams allegedly poured the boiling water on his victim stunned the packed Manhattan courtroom into silence and caused a veteran sketch artist to flee in tears.
The testimony that followed was even more gruesome.
"He chose a butcher knife and slowly began to slice into her face and eyelids, carving and disfiguring her face," Prunty said.
"In her despair, she told him to just kill her, but he was just getting started."
The 19-hour assault ended only after she blacked out - finally overcome by the overdose of painkillers she was forced to swallow - and he lost interest.
"Then he could no longer feel power over another human being," Prunty said.
Williams is charged with 71 criminal counts, including attempted murder, arson, rape and sodomy. He faces life in prison.
Shackled and with his hands encased in protective mitts, Williams stared straight ahead as Prunty spent an hour describing the victim's agony.
The former Bloods gang member tried to cover up the crime by wrapping the victim in a futon and torching her Hamilton Heights apartment, police said.
Prunty said the woman was too smart - and too tough - to die. She used the flames to melt the computer cables binding her to a futon frame. She also remembered everything, even faking blindness so she could "memorize distinguishing features," Prunty said.
"She described this man to a T," she said.
The ordeal left the student with a scarred face, severe burns and liver damage from the pills.
She was not in the courtroom Thursday. Her parents were - and they refused to cry in public.
Williams was waiting in the building elevator when the victim returned from a job fair around 10 p.m., police said.
Williams stood 6-feet-tall and weighed 160 pounds, a foot taller than the student. She got off on the fifth floor and he followed.
"He asked where Mrs. Evans lived," Prunty said. "His ruse froze her for a minute."
Then the assault began. "He shoved his way through the door," Prunty said. "She screamed and reached for her cell phone. He slapped it from her hand."
Williams "proceeded to violate her in every way imaginable, and in some ways, unimaginable" before grabbing her camera to record his depravity, Prunty said.
Then Williams took the torture to new level.
"He wanted to see her face, her fear and humiliation," Prunty said. "He gave her scissors and ordered her to cut off her hair."
Fearing she might be able to identify him, Williams threw something in her face.
"She thought it was water," the prosecutor said. "Then she realized it was much more sinister ... she smelled bleach."