A Brooklyn man was arrested Wednesday after the dismembered remains of a boy who had gotten lost two days earlier were found in the man's freezer and trash container, police said.
New York police officials suspect 35-year-old Levi Aron was behind the gruesome murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, saying they believe he strangled the boy to death before dismembering his body.
Kletzky was meant to meet his family on Monday on his walk home from day camp in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood but never arrived.
A search by police and members of the neighborhood's tightly knit Orthodox Jewish community led authorities to the apartment of suspect Levi Aron early on Wednesday, said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at a news conference.
Rumors soon began to spread within the Hasidic community in town that the boy's family was acquainted with the suspect, saying Aron was even a guest at the victim's family home last Saturday.
When detectives arrived at Aron's attic apartment, 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.
The rest of the body was found inside a red suitcase that had been tossed into a trash bin in another Brooklyn neighborhood, police said.
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 walking down the street with a man. The boy is shown in the footage getting into Aron's brown Honda sedan about 35 minutes later.
Aron was a familiar face around the neighborhood's tightly knit Orthodox Jewish community.
"I prayed with him on several occasions… There were all sorts of rumors about him," said Israel Farkash, an Israeli expat living in the Brooklyn community. "Some of the rumors claimed he had a criminal record linked to sexual offences."
Aron's co-workers were also shocked to learn the news. "He was a strange guy but he was here yesterday acting normal, as if he didn't murder that little boy," remarked a co-worker.
Searching for Leiby (Photo: Israel Farkash)
"We're deeply shocked," explained Farkash. "People don't understand how this sort of thing happened here. There are over 150,000 Jews in this neighborhood alone, walking around free and fearless."
Farkash believes his fellow community members are especially shaken by the fact that this murder was allegedly committed by "one of their own."
"People are unwilling to digest the situation especially due to the background of the suspects involved. It's not some kind of stranger but Orthodox Jews," added Farkash.
Associated Press contributed to the report