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Man arrested, had severed feet in freezer
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NEW YORK — An 8-year-old Brooklyn boy who got lost while walking home alone from day camp in his Orthodox Jewish neighborhood was killed by a stranger he had asked for directions, and his remains were found stuffed in a trash bin and the man’s refrigerator, police said Wednesday.
The gruesome killing of Leiby Kletzy shocked the tight-knit Hasidic community in Borough Park, in part because it is one of the safest sections of the city and because the man under arrest is himself an Orthodox Jew.
A 1½-day search for the boy ended with the discovery of his severed feet inside a bloody freezer at the home of a man who was seen with the child on a surveillance video, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press. The rest of the remains were in the trash in another neighborhood.
“It is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.
Police said there was no evidence the boy was sexually assaulted, but they would not otherwise shed any light on a motive except to say Mr. Aron told them he “panicked” when he saw photos of the missing boy on fliers distributed in the neighborhood. Police were looking into whether Mr. Aron had a history of mental illness.
Detectives were still questioning him Wednesday afternoon, and no immediate charges were filed. It was not clear whether he had an attorney. The medical examiner’s office was working to determine how the boy was killed.
Hasidim are members of an Orthodox Jewish sect who live in somewhat insular neighborhoods. The streets are policed by a group of volunteers known as the Shomrim patrol. Many of the mothers who gathered outside the Kletzy family home on Wednesday said the streets normally are safe enough for a child to walk home alone.
Adel Erps, like other neighbors, expressed shock that the suspect was Jewish. “He’s a sick person, obviously, but it hurts so much more,” she said.
Mr. Aron’s family was Orthodox but not Hasidic, and he lives about a dozen blocks from the Kletzy family. When detectives arrived at his attic apartment around 2:40 a.m., they asked him where the boy was, and he nodded toward the kitchen, Commissioner Kelly said.
Detectives saw blood on the freezer door and opened it to discover bloody knives, a cutting board and feet inside, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.
Mr. Aron told police where to find the rest of the body, and it was discovered wrapped in a plastic bag inside a red suitcase that had been tossed into a trash bin in another Brooklyn neighborhood, Commissioner Kelly said.
Police and volunteers had been looking since late Monday afternoon for Leiby, who disappeared while on his way to meet his mother on a street corner seven blocks from his day camp. This was the first time he had been allowed to walk the route alone; his parents had taken him on a practice run on Friday.
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