A two-state investigation is now underway to figure out why a Brooklyn man kidnapped, murdered and dismembered a 9-year-old boy with autism who was lost and trying to find his way home, NYPD detectives said Wednesday.
According to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, 35-year-old Levi Aron was arrested early Wednesday in the gruesome kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Leiby Kletzky. The victim was reported missing Monday after he did not return home from day camp.
Commissioner Kelly said that police arrested Aron at his home at 466 East 2nd St. in Brooklyn at 2:40 Wednesday morning. When cops first stormed up to Aron's third-floor attic apartment at 2:00 A.M., they found the door ajar, Kelly said. Detectives asked Aron where the boy was, and Aron pointed to the refrigerator in his apartment. Cops found blood stains on the refrigerator door, which they opened to find a bloody cutting board, a knife and body parts.
"[Aron] killed him [in the apartment], then dismembered the body," Commissioner Kelly said at a press briefing at Police Headquarters Wednesday morning. Further questioning resulted in Aron telling detectives that he had moved more of the boy's remains to a dumpster two miles away in South Park Slope.
Police responded to that dumpster on 20th Street near 4th Avenue minutes later. Inside, they found a plastic bag inside a suitcase. Inside that bag were some of the boy's remains.
"I heard [the detectives] say they had a head and a torso," Samantha Hernandez told PIX11 News.
She lives in an apartment building two doors up from where the dumpster was, and watched the scene unfold outside her window. She and her brother also ran up to the roof of their building to see what was unfolding in the early morning investigation.
"They had a... bag," she said, "tied at both ends, and it wasn't as long as the boy['s body] that I saw on the video."
She's talking about surveillance video of the last minutes before Leiby Kletzky (pronounced, "Lye - bee Kletz - key") vanished.
In the video, the boy wanders around the corner of 18th Avenue and Dahill Road in Borough Park around 5:30 p.m. Monday, then is approached by a man. Commissioner Kelly identified the man as Aron. Kelly said that the boy had been walking home from his day camp for the first time ever and got lost. Leiby Klotzky apparently asked Aron for directions. Aron talkes with the boy, then leaves to go into a nearby dentist's office to pay a bill. For seven minutes, Leiby waits on the corner, possibly having been told by Aron to stay there. Aron returns, and the boy who's been described as autistic ends up getting into a 1990 gold-colored Honda with Aron.
That car, according to the commissioner, was found by volunteer community searchers near Aron's home, which is about six blocks from where the surveillance video was recorded. The volunteers alerted police in one of two major breaks in the case, according to Commissioner Kelly.
The other break came from the dentist's office out of which Levi Aron emerged to pick up the boy. Detectives reached the dentist at his home in New Jersey overnight Tuesday and got access to records showing that Levi Aron had been in the dentist's office minutes before Kletzky disappeared. That linked Aron to the surveillance video and the license plate number of the car that volunteers found matched Aron as well.
Once investigators connected the clues, they swooped in, and the case quickly unfolded.
Aron recently moved back to Brooklyn after having lived for several years in Memphis, Tennessee, where he worked as a security guard. "We are contacting authorities in Memphis," Commissioner Kelly said. Aron does not have any record of prior major crimes, according to Commissioner Kelly, but a deeper investigation into his background is underway.
Aron took the boy back to his apartment, Kelly said, and when, a few hours after the boy disappeared, a search got underway, Aron learned about it and panicked. That's when Aron killed the boy, according to the NYPD.
"This was a horrendous crime," Ray Kelly said, "We are extremely grateful for all of the assistance we got from the community." The commissioner offered condolences to The Kletzky Family on behalf of the NYPD.
And now, the Hasidic community to which Kletzky belonged prepares to bury him.
"This young [boy] was brutally murdered," said Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the Borough Park neighborhood where the boy lived. "The community here is just waking up with absolute shock, beyond belief."
"It's hard to fathom this innocent little boy taken by someone from a neighboring community, brutally murdered," Assemblyman Hikind told PIX11 News. "It's just -- what in God's name is happening? How is this possible? How can people do this to other people and to a 9-year-old innocent child. It's crazy!"
Leiby Klatzky was actually 8 years old. His birthday would have been next week, according to Commissioner Kelly. Ironically, Levi Aron's birthday is Wednesday, the same day he was arrested.
Assemblyman Hikind and other community leaders had offered a $115,000 reward for Leiby's safe return.
"This is not about a child just in Borough Park," Assemblyman Hikind told PIX11 News. "This is about all children and what we need to do to protect our children. If this can happen here, it can happen anywhere."