UPDATED at 10:00 AM
Hopefulness turned to heartbreak early Wednesday when a chasidic boy who never came home from day camp on Monday was found murdered.
Police said the dismembered remains of Leibby Kletzky were discovered at two locations, including a bin outside an automotive business in Park Slope and a suspect’s home over two miles away. Levi Aron, 35, a maintenance supplies store clerk who lives in the area, has been charged with the murder.
At a news conference at police headquarters Wednesday morning, Kelly described the incident as "totally random" and said there was no indication Aron knew the boy. It appears the child — who had turned 9 according to the Hebrew calendar but was still 8 according to his secular birthday, which is next week — became lost in his way to meet his mother on 13th Avenue and may have asked the suspect for directions. Leibby appears to have strayed about seven blocks from the route that was supposed to take him to his waiting mother.
Early Wednesday morning detectives entered a home at 466 East 2nd Street in Kensington, Brooklyn and took two men and one woman to a nearby police precinct for questioning.
Kelly said that when detectives asked Aron, who works as a clerk at a maintenance supply company, where the boy was, he gestured toward his refrigerator, where body parts were found. Aron lives at the top of a three-floor private home owned by his parents, shared by other relatives, the commissioner said. Kelly said but investigators are checking with authorities in Tenessee, where he worked for two years as a security guard, for any prior criminal history.
It’s unclear how long the suspect may have abducted the child, but Kelly said it appeared he killed the child out of panic because of the intense search by police and volunteers in the area.
Kelly said detectives were led to the scene where the rest of the remains were found by information from Aron.
A former neighbor of the suspect, who came to the scene this morning, said he knew the suspect for over ten years. The family was dysfunctional, he said, and he instructed his children to stay away from the man in question. "I kept my kids away from that house." He described the man, who he said davened daily at the shul around the corner, as "disturbed."
A Borough Park resident and businessman, who gave his name only as Ephraim and is a father of eight, had joined in the volunteer search efforts of the past two days. He called the tragedy, "A double murder – one was the child, and the other is the image of a Jew."
From the air and on the ground, police and volunteers had launched an intense search on Monday for Leiby. According to the NYPD, the child was last seen when he left 1205 44th Street at approximately 4:50 p.m. on Monday afternoon.
Leibby left Yeshiva Boyan to meet his mother on 13th Avenue. She notified the authorities when he failed to arrive. NYPD launched a "level one" mobilization according to authorities on the scene.
In addition to NYPD, organizations involved in the search include volunteer Shomrim community patrols from Borough Park, Flatbush, Williamsburg and Chaverim from Lakewood, and Hatzolah. As of Tuesday evening there was no further information, and no clues as community members began to fear the worst. Administrators at Nechmod Day camp said they continue to work with the police.
Flatbush Shomrim coordinator Bob Moskovitz began working 10 p.m. on Monday night at the command center near the family’s home on 57th Street and 15th Avenue. He said Leibby has no disabilities, and no history of wandering off. The entire Borough Park area of eight to ten square miles had been canvassed by midday Tuesday, he said, and the search area continues to widen.
"The volunteers are coming faster than I can hand out the grids," said Moskovitz, referring to map sections. Volunteers work in pairs, said Moskovitz, and women as well as men have been a big part of the efforts.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose office joined community leaders in offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to Leibby’s return called the youngster "a good kid." He also said, "the shomrim in our community have been remarkable, and "the police have put unbelievable resources into this."
NYPD resources include helicopters, K-9 units, and mounted police. A mounted officer on the scene explained the benefit of mounted police. "We have the advantage of being able to see from a higher point of view. We can also be more mobile than a patrol car might be, being able to [look] into smaller areas."
"This is every parent’s nightmare," Kelly said at the news conference. "But an incident like this is extremely rare."