NEW YORK (JTA) — The dismembered body of an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy who disappeared while walking home from camp was found and a suspect was arrested in his murder.
The intensive hunt for Leiby Kletzky, the Chasidic boy who had been missing since Monday afternoon, ended early Wednesday morning with a grisly discovery by police in the Brooklyn apartment of Levi Aron.
During a raid of his apartment, Aron pointed police to his refrigerator, where they discovered some of Leiby’s remains and bloodied knives. Police found the rest of the dismembered body wrapped in black plastic bags inside a suitcase in a dumpster in a nearby Brooklyn neighborhood.
Police arrested the 35-year-old Aron, who they say made incriminating statements, at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday.
The boy disappeared after gaining his parents permission to walk halfway home for the first time from his day camp in the Chasidic stronghold of Borough Park; he was supposed to meet his parents seven blocks from the camp. His disappearance set off a massive search that included hundreds of volunteers and involved a huge mobilization of the area’s Orthodox community.
Leiby apparently became lost on his way to meet his parents, surveillance footage from various locations suggested. One video showed the boy waiting outside a dentist’s office. The dentist’s office provided police with the name and address of Aron, who had come to the office to pay a bill on Monday.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a news conference that police believe the boy asked Aron for directions and entered the suspect’s car. Police say they do not believe the boy knew the suspect.
The suspect, who also is Jewish, lived in an attic apartment in the adjacent Kensington neighborhood. He had worked as a deliveryman for a maintenance supply company. Aron has no previous police record in New York beyond a summons last year for public urination.
Kelly said there is no evidence that the boy was molested by the suspect, though police are investigating the possibility. The commissioner said the suspect told police that he panicked and killed the boy after becoming aware of the massive search effort.
Aron while living Tennessee for two years had worked as a security guard and been married. His arrest stunned his ex-wife.
“I am in shock. I am not believing this,” Debbie Kivel, 34, told the New York Post. “He loved children. He loved kids. My kids are now 13 and 10, but when we were married they were younger — and he loved them.”