Friday, July 15, 2011

Amateur Sleuths Helped NYPD Crack Kletzky Case

After Leiby Kletzky disappeared and the tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community mobilized to try and find him, one of those men looking for him found critical pieces of information that helped lead to his admitted killer. While many assumed that Kletzky had walked along a predetermined route, Yaakov German was able to get a hold of surveillance video from several local stores and realized that instead of walking down 13th Ave, he never made a critical turn, and continued walking in a different direction away from his home. That meant that searchers were looking in the wrong direction.

Additional persistence paid off as they eventually uncovered video showing Kletzky along with Levi Aron:
When 44th St. dead-ended at Dahill Road, the trail seemed to go cold again.

A video store had footage that showed only sidewalks on one side of the street. Benchers Unlimited had footage of both sidewalks but no sign of the boy.

Then German spotted newly installed cameras at a car-leasing company, Tristate Fleet. That's when they spotted Aron, the man who would be later identified as Leiby's killer.

"We found the kid," German said. "We saw somebody going with him and back forth. We watched it in slow motion.

"We saw the perp going across the avenue, going into a white house, up three steps, going in for three minutes and coming back out. We went by and saw it was a dentist's office."

All this time, German was feeding information to Mayer, the liaison to the NYPD, and he was sharing it with detectives.

At about 5:30 p.m., cops arrived at Tristate. "They came in here, screeching tires," said owner Yehuda Bernstein, 40.

Cracking the case

Cops, who confirmed German's account, tracked down the dentist at home. They learned that Aron was the only patient who had been in and out quickly - to pay a bill - and they got his address.

Soon after, they swarmed Aron's house on E. Second St., where they found Leiby's severed feet in the freezer, 2 miles from where the rest of his body would be found in a Dumpster.

German, who shopped at the hardware store where Aron was a clerk, was outside the house when cops made the arrest early Wednesday.

"I never saw a detective with tears before in my life," he said. "They said, 'They don't have the whole body.' We all started crying."
Alon has confessed to the killing, but not all aspects of his confession match up with the evidence released to date. He says that he killed Kletzky after panicking over how the community reacted to his disappearance, but it also appears that Kletzky put up a fight before being killed by suffocation with a towel.

His lawyer claims that Aron hears voices and he's currently undergoing psychiatric evaluation, and I suspect that his lawyers will lay the groundwork for either an insanity defense or a reduced manslaughter charge on extreme emotional disturbance rather than murder 2.

This case is going to be a challenge for Brooklyn prosecutors as the jury pool all but likely to be prejudiced against Aron. Heck, even hardened criminals were yelling at Aron outside his arraignment:
Even hardened criminals agreed with the commissioner, screaming, "You f--king killer!" in Brooklyn Criminal Court before Aron pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping charges.

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes said his office confiscated Aron's computers and will also investigate whether Aron had previous improper contact with kids here and in Tennessee, where he previously lived.

A disheveled Aron was held without bail and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation on Rikers Island after his lawyer told the judge his client "hears voices and suffers from hallucinations."
Investigators also confirmed that Alon did attend a wedding in Monsey, New York hours after Kletzky was abducted although quite a few people say that they didn't know or recognize him. Apparently, he was a distant cousin of the bride. The boy was never seen inside the wedding hall, and would have stood out because of his distinctive appearance (Kletzky had "payot" (long locks of hair in front of his ears), which is common in the Hasidic community, but not in the traditional Orthodox community.

Police are continuing to try to corroborate the admissions, and to pinpoint the timeline leading up to Aron's capture.

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