The dismembered body of a missing 8-year-old Hasidic boy was found early today at two locations in Brooklyn -- with police arresting a suspect in the grisly slaying who had the child's severed feet in his freezer, authorities said.
Police made the gruesome discovery after raiding a Kensington home and arresting 35-year-old Levi Aron, who led them to parts of missing boy Leibby Kletzky's body, stuffed in a red suitcase and hidden in a Dumpster outside an auto repair shop about two miles away, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said during a news conference this morning.
Police have arrested Levi Aron. Aron is a suspect in the killing of 8-year-old Leibby Kletzky.
"This is every parent's nightmare," said Kelly. "We understand that. This is what makes this case so horrific."
Kelly said Aron and the boy did not previously know each other.
Cops said Aron, who works as a clerk at the Empire State Supply Co. hardware store on McDonald Avenue in Kensington, allegedly suffocated the boy before chopping him up. Kelly said they also found three knives in a butcher block inside Aron's apartment.
Kelly said Aron "panicked" when he saw the police response to find the boy and "that's why he killed the boy."
"We don't know precisely the communication between the man and the boy," Kelly added.
Kelly said Aron confessed to the murder and told cops what had happened after they asked him about the boy.
Charges against Aron are pending.
Kelly said Aron lived in Memphis, Tenn. and moved back to Brooklyn two years ago. He said Aron has one summonses for public urination that he got last year.
"We have no record of this man being reported [as a pedophile]," said Kelly.
Cops said they do not know whether the boy was molested before being killed.
One of Aron's co-workers said the suspect acted "completely normal" at work on Tuesday, a day after the boy's disappearance.
"I can't believe this," he said. "He was a strange guy, but he was here yesterday and he was fine after killing this little boy."
"I am very shaken up about this. Our phones have been ringing off the hook all morning. It's very sad," added a store manager.
It was a tragic end to the "angelic" boy, who disappeared Monday afternoon after getting lost while walking alone for the first time from his Borough Park day camp and following a man down a busy street, sparking a massive search.
"There are no words, just no words, to describe the sense of what happened here," said State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn).
"Everybody's shocked. You can see it on the faces of everyone you see here. We've had tragedies, people getting hit by cars, but nothing like this. Some stranger took this child and murdered him in the most brutal way possible."
Leibby would have turned 9 years old next week.
Police said Aron was tracked him down by tracing credit card transactions and video surveillance that showed the boy walking behind a bearded man on 45th Street and Dahill Road and possibly getting into a gold-colored car.
Police had observed Aron in a video recorded at 5:30 p.m. on Monday where he was seen entering a dentist’s office on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn.
Kelly said detectives located one of the dentists who worked there at his home in New Jersey last night and established that the suspect had been in the dentists’ office on Monday to pay a bill.
With the assistance of a receptionist and another dentist associated with the practice, detectives at 2 a.m. found records at the dentists’ office that established the suspect’s name and address. Aron was arrested about 40 minutes later.
Kelly said Aron's door was "slightly ajar" and found him sitting inside his apartment.
When asked about the boy, Kelly said Aron "nodded" and pointed to his kitchen. Cops found blood on the freezer handle and three carving knives "with blood on them," Kelly said.
Witnesses who saw police raid the Aron's home at E. 2nd St. and Avenue C recognized the bearded man from surveillance videos.
A gold-colored Honda was also found outside the residence. Investigators were seen going over the vehicle inch-by-inch this morning.
Neighbors said Aron regularly attended the local shul.
"You could tell he was mentally unstable," one neighbor said. "He would be calm but then would flare up. The whole family is strange."
"I'm shocked," said Rosso Safia, 23, owner of the Park Slope Auto Center. "There's a little kid in the Dumpster we use. I have a little girl of my own. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to us."
Safia said the store put it's garbage out around 6:30 last night and that the dumpster is emptied some time between midnight and 3 a.m. He said police told him the dumpster was empty when the boy's body was discovered.
"When they pick up the garbage they leave the plastic top open so anyone could have tossed it in."
"I came here yesterday and searched all day and night because I heard of what happened," said Benny Polatseck, 21, a volunteer from Monsey, NY. "It's a horrific, horrific story and a horrific ending."
Another volunteer, Joel Walter, 25, said he was with Kletzky's parents Monday night.
"They were very stressed and frightened, as every parent would be," said Walter, of Borough Park. "They were crying, they didn't know what the end would be. They were hoping they'd still find him."
Kletzky was last seen on surveillance video around 45th Street and Dahill Road walking behind a bearded man in a white shirt and dark pants.
"The boy is standing alone at some point. The male crosses the street in his direction, and the boy follows him on Dahill Road," said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, adding that it's unclear whether the pair exchanged words.
The suspect is seen driving off in the Honda Accord, although "we don't know for certain whether the boy had gotten into the vehicle or not," he said.
Leibby's distraught dad, Nachman, a passenger-van driver with five daughters, reviewed the earlier footage. "He had tears in his eyes," said Moishe Lefkovitz, the manager of the locksmith shop at 44th Street and 15th Avenue where the surveillance footage was taken.
"He kept shaking his head, saying, 'Where are you going? Where are you going? What are you doing?' "
Authorities say the boy was caught on video walking alone from the Boyan Day Camp at a school on 44th Street near 12th Avenue at 4:50 p.m. Monday after returning from a class trip to Manhattan Beach Park.
Leibby -- who usually takes the bus -- was allowed to leave camp on foot so he could meet his mom and dad just seven blocks away, where they had a doctor's appointment.
The couple even took special pains to repeatedly go over the boy's walking route with him, a pal said.
The child had instructions to walk up 44th Street to 13th Avenue and then turn right on 13th Avenue and walk straight across to 50th Street, said a family friend, Rabbi Bernard Freilich.
"It sounded like he wasn't an expert on the streets," Freilich said.
Surveillance shows the boy walking out the front door on 44th Street toward 13th Avenue, as instructed, but instead of turning right toward the meeting spot, he kept going.
Kelly said Leibby "appeared lost" and asked Aron for directions -- sealing "a terrible fate for the boy."
Video footage from the locksmith shop shows him on that corner at around 5:20 p.m. The last known footage of him with the suspect was recorded between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m.
His parents waited until 7 p.m. before contacting the Shomrim, the local civil-patrol group. Shomrim contacted the NYPD at 8 p.m.
Officers and search dogs, aided by the scent of Leibby's personal belongings -- including of his black leather shoes -- flooded the school looking for clues.
An estimated 3,000 volunteers -- including busloads from Hasidic communities in Lakewood, NJ, and upstate Monsey -- joined the search.
"You're totally wiped out. It's a total disaster. You're running on adrenaline, and all of a sudden, this," said Bob Moskovitz, the coordinator for the Flatbush Shomrim. "It's a horrible, horrible situation."
Mayor Bloomberg summed up the mood, saying, “As a father, I cannot begin to imagine the horrible heartbreak that Leiby Kletzky’s family is going through, and in speaking with their rabbi today, I conveyed my deepest condolences.
"This killing was a stunning shock to our entire city, and I ask all New Yorkers, including the thousands of individuals who volunteered to search for little Leiby, to keep the Kletzky family in their thoughts and prayers."
Additional reporting by Rich Calder, Selim Algar, Lorena Mongelli and Jamie Schram
story from the New York Post