A 35-year-old man has been charged with murder in the killing of an 8-year-old Hasidic boy whose dismembered body was found Wednesday in a freezer and a trash bin in Brooklyn, N.Y., the New York City Police Department said.
Levi Aron was arrested Wednesday after making statements that "implicated" him in the killing of Leiby Kletzky, who had stopped to ask the suspect for directions on his way home from camp, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
He has been charged with second-degree murder.
Kelly said the child's dismembered remains were found early Wednesday in Aron's refrigerator and in a plastic garbage bag dumped into a trash bin in Brooklyn.
"This was a horrendous crime," Kelly told reporters during a press conference Wednesday.
Thousands turned out to mourn Kletzky Wednesday night in Borough Park, a tight-knit Orthodox community in Brooklyn, The New York Post reported.
"Here lies my child. Purity of heart. Very quiet and very respectful. Satisfied and never demanding. My child is gone. I'm in very deep sorrow," Nachman Kletzky, Leiby's father, said in a speech at his son's funeral, the Post reported.
Leiby was last seen walking home from Boyan Day Camp just before 5 p.m. Monday. A grainy surveillance video shows a man walking near the boy, who is seen in the footage wearing a backpack as he walks down the street, police said.
Kelly said the boy appeared to be lost and had asked Aron for directions. He said the boy's parents had agreed to let him walk seven blocks alone from his day camp to a location where he was supposed to meet his mother.
"This is the worst nightmare that can happen to anybody," Rabbi Berish Freilich, a senior leader in Brooklyn's Jewish community, told FoxNews.com.
Freilich, who knows the boy's family, described the neighborhood in Borough Park as "very safe."
"It's an extremely safe area for children," Freilich said. "This is devastating for everybody. Who would think of hurting an innocent young boy?"
Kelly said he does not believe Aron knew the boy and described the alleged crime as "totally random."
"It was just happenstance and the terrible fate for this young boy," he said.
Kelly said that approximately 35 minutes after Leiby left the camp, he was inside the suspect's 1990 brown Honda Accord. Kelly said the suspect made statements that indicated he brought the boy to his apartment, where he killed him and dismembered his body.
Investigators tracked Aron with the help of surveillance video that showed him being approached by the lost boy.
Police then visited Aron's third-story attic apartment at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday, where they found body parts believed to be Leiby's inside the man's freezer.
"When detectives asked where the boy was, Aron nodded toward the kitchen," Kelly said, adding that deputies then found a cutting board and large amounts of blood.
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.
Kelly said statements made by the suspect indicate "he panicked and that's why he killed the boy."
Aron, whose birthday was Wednesday, lived alone in the apartment in a building shared with his parents. He once had a summons for urinating in public but otherwise did not have a criminal record.
The suspect has lived most of his life in New York, working as a clerk at a maintenance supply company in Brooklyn, but about a couple of years living in Memphis, Tenn., where he worked briefly, Kelly said. He lived about a mile away from the boy and was believed to be Orthodox.
Kelly said detectives were investigating whether he had a history of mental illness. Kelly said there was no evidence of a sexual assault, and said it didn't seem like Aron had ever seen the child before.
The medical examiner has yet to determine the cause of death, he said. The New York Post, citing sources close to the investigation, reports that that boy was suffocated before he was dismembered.
Thousands of people had joined the search for Leiby, who was last seen near 44th Street and 12th Avenue in Borough Park.
Investigators hunting for the boy noticed the man on the video going into a nearby dentist about 5:30 p.m. Monday, police said. The dentist, located later in New Jersey, said he remembered someone coming into the shop who wasn't a patient, but who was paying a bill for a patient there.
Kelly said Leiby waited for Aron at a street across from the dentist's office for about seven minutes before the two got into his vehicle.
Freilich said Leiby was the only son of the Kletzky family. The couple has four daughters, and the husband works as a driver for a private car service.
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district includes the area, said the outpouring of support for the boy and his family has been tremendous.
"This is beyond the pale," Hikind told FoxNews.com. "In this neighborhood I represent, crime is really nonexistent ... You'd never dream in a million years there's something to be concerned about."
Hikind said that while the man may have killed the child because he panicked, "no one is asking the question of why he picked him up in the first place."
"This guy is an adult, an older person," he said. "This has to be a wakeup call for parents everywhere."
A community-funded reward for information leading to the child's safe return was raised on Tuesday to $125,000 as police checked schools, synagogues, homes and businesses for any clues into the boy's disappearance.
As many as 2,000 people took to the streets Monday to search for Leiby, and crowds returned again on Tuesday, with buses carrying some volunteers in from New Jersey. Members of the community where the boy lived described him as obedient and unlikely to talk to strangers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.