Levi Aron, the suspect held in connection with the killing and dismemberment of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of murder and kidnapping, and defense attorneys said he will receive a psych exam after claiming that he hears voices and suffers hallucinations. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report.
As Levi Aron was brought out of the 67th precinct where he'd spent the night, people on the street screamed at him while chasing the police car carrying him to court.
The accused murderer faced more shouts from prisoners inside a Brooklyn courthouse as he arrived for his arraignment.
Aron pleaded not guilty Thursday to the first-degree murder and kidnapping of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky and will undergo a psychological evaluation.
"I have some serious concerns about the client's mental state, his cognitive ability. He's indicated to me that he hears voices and there's some hallucinations involved, as well," said Pierre Bazile, one of Aron's defense attorneys.
The Brooklyn district attorney told the judge that Aron, 35, had admitted to smothering, killing and dismembering the Borough Park boy.
Kletzky was reported missing Monday evening when he failed to return home from day camp, and detectives used surveillance video to identify Aron as a suspect his disappearance. Police then discovered some of Leiby's dismembered body parts in Aron's refrigerator when they searched his apartment on Wednesday.
"We have concerns with his mental state. He does appear to be unwell," said Bazile. "We're going to have him examined."
"For now, the most important thing is to have him examined psychologically," said Gerard Marrone, another defense attorney. "It's called a 730 examination. So he's remanded at this time. We'll see what his psychological state is and that's the most important thing right now to everyone involved."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced today that Aron wrote a confession and that the medical examiner believes Leiby may have been smothered or suffocated. Further lab tests will determine the exact cause of death.
The boy's arms and wrists may marks indicating that he was tied up, but he did not show signs of sexual molestation, according to Kelly.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said a grand jury is currently reviewing the evidence against Aron.
"Right now the jury is hearing the testimony. I expect that the testimony should be concluded by tomorrow, and then we will ask for the main charge of felony murder, based on the kidnapping, which is murder in the first degree, and whatever other charges we think are sustainable," said Hynes.
Aron is scheduled to be back in court in two weeks.
Aron Writes Confession
The police commissioner said Aron wrote how he first met and lured Leiby on Monday afternoon. The boy became lost while walking home from his day camp Monday afternoon in Borough Park and asked the older man for directions.
Aron got the nine-year-old boy into his car by taking him to a wedding in Monsey, N.Y. After the wedding, Aron said it was late and let the boy stay in his apartment in Kensington.
Co-workers at the hardware store where Aron worked said on Tuesday the suspect seemed to have "cleaned up" and trimmed his beard.
Aron described he came home from work at one point that day and made lunch for the boy, according to Kelly.
Then Aron described in "graphic detail" the murder and dismemberment of Leiby and wrote he was "sorry for the trouble he caused," according to Kelly.
Aron previously claimed he "panicked" and committed the murder once he heard about the massive search for Leiby, involving hundreds of volunteers from the local community and across the state.
However, when pressed for further details, Aron would not discuss his panic or give any further reasoning to police.
"Usually in this business you see a lot of violence, but there's usually some sort of irrational, twisted logic that's given to why a violent event took place. Here, it defies all logic, and I think that's really what's so terribly disturbing about this case. There's absolutely no reason," said Kelly. "Nothing more innocent than an eight-year-old child."
There is no indication that Leiby was mentally disabled and Aron wrote the boy did not attempt to leave the apartment.
As for Aron, those who know the suspect describe him as shy and a little odd.
Originally from Brooklyn, Aron lived briefly in Memphis after marrying a woman he met online. They were divorced one year later, and his ex-wife, Debbie Aron, said the crime is totally out of character.
"Nobody knows what's going on. I'm just now finding out information. I've been in total shock since my phone has been ringing off the hook at eight o'clock this morning," she said yesterday.
Returning to Brooklyn from Tennessee two years ago, Aron lived in an attic apartment in the house where his parents and uncle also lived.
"My brother lives across the street with five kids. I can't imagine, somebody on his block, somebody I grew up with would do such a horrible thing. I'm like beyond words," said Shimi Kaplan, who knew Aron.
Meanwhile, Borough Park residents are mourning the child's loss.
Last night, thousands joined members of the local Hasidic Jewish community for Leiby's funeral, including many who did not know the boy.
Leiby's father choked back tears and delivered a eulogy for his son, calling the boy a gift from God.
The boy was then buried in a New Jersey cemetery.
Workers at Leiby's day camp say as of now they have no plans to change their policy for dismissing children.