A young Brooklyn boy who vanished while walking home from a day camp in one of the safest parts of the city was killed and dismembered by a stranger who he had turned to for help after getting lost. Hit the jump to read the rest of the story.
An intense search for the missing 8-year-old, Leiby Kletzky, ended early Wednesday morning with the gruesome discovery of pieces of his dismembered body inside the home of a man who had been seen with the child around the time he disappeared, police said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the 35-year-old suspect, Levi Aron, made statements implicating himself in the boy’s death.
Investigators tracked Aron with the help of surveillance video that showed him being approached by the lost boy.
When detectives arrived at the man’s home, they asked him where the boy was and he nodded toward the kitchen, Kelly said.
Detectives saw blood on the freezer door and they opened it to discover bloody knives, a cutting board and feet inside, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Additional body parts were found inside a red suitcase that had been tossed into a trash bin in another Brooklyn neighborhood.
Police and volunteers had been looking since late Monday afternoon for Leiby, who disappeared while on his way to meet his mother in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park.
The break in the case came when investigators focused on a grainy surveillance video that showed the boy, wearing his backpack, walking down the street, while a man walked nearby.
Detectives noticed the man on the video going into a nearby dentist’s office, Browne said. The dentist, located later in New Jersey, said he remembered someone coming by to pay a bill for a patient, and police were able to identify Aron using records from the office. When they went to his home, they made the gruesome discovery.
Police said Aron lives alone in the apartment, in a building shared with his parents. He once had a summons for urinating in public but otherwise did not have a criminal record, Kelly said.
Outside the family’s apartment building Wednesday morning, men and women from the community clustered in separate groups. Many of the mothers gathered there said the streets are safe enough for a child Leiby’s age to walk home alone.
“This is a no-crime area,” said State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district includes the area.
Investigators hunting for the boy noticed the man on the video going into a nearby dentist about 5:30 p.m. Monday, Browne said. The dentist, located later in New Jersey, said he remembered someone coming in to the shop who wasn’t a patient, but who was paying a bill for a patient there, and police were able to track down the man using records from the office. When they went to his home, they made the gruesome discovery.
The medical examiner’s office will determine a cause of death and positive identification.
Leiby was last seen near 44th Street and 12th Avenue in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn just before 5 p.m. Monday. The Hasidic boy was coming home from day camp and was supposed to meet his mother about three blocks away but never showed up.
Hasidism is a form of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Followers live in tight-knit communities nearly closed off to modern society and wear traditional dress – for men, dark clothing that includes a long coat and a fedora-type hat. Men often have long beards and ear locks.
Most of the 165,000 members in the New York City the area live in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and are part of three different major sects. Hasidism traces its roots to 18th-century Eastern Europe.
The insular community rarely seeks outside help, and Hikind often speaks for the group.
The man in custody at a Brooklyn precinct was Jewish but it’s not clear if he’s Hasidic. A $100,000 reward had been offered, Hikind said the outpouring of support has been tremendous with people from all over the state volunteering their time to scour the neighborhood and hand out flyers.
Hikind said the boy was the only son of the Kletzky family. The couple has four daughters, and the husband works as a driver for a private car service.
“Everybody is absolutely horrified,” he said. “Everyone is in total shock, beyond belief, beyond comprehension … to suddenly disappear and then the details … and the fact someone in the extended community … it’s awful,” he said.
Hikind said the parents did not know the 35-year-old man, who lived about a mile away from the boy.