NEW YORK – An 8-year-old boy who was abducted after leaving day camp apparently spent a day in his kidnapper's apartment while the man was at work before he was given a cocktail of prescription drugs, smothered and dismembered, police and medical officials said.
The suspected kidnapper, Levi Aron, was indicted Wednesday on charges of murder in the killing of Leiby Kletzky, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said. Aron previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and remained under medical evaluation.
Leiby got lost on his walk home from a religious day camp July 11 and asked Aron, whom he met on the street, for help, Hynes said. It was the first time the little boy was allowed to walk alone, and he was supposed to travel about seven blocks to meet his mother but missed his turn.
Just about 33 hours later, detectives found the boy's severed feet, wrapped in plastic, in Aron's freezer. A cutting board and three bloody carving knives were found in the refrigerator. The rest of the boy's body was discovered in bags inside a red suitcase in a trash bin. His legs had been cut from his torso.
Police and prosecutors said Aron, a hardware supply store clerk, confessed to suffocating Leiby with a bath towel, but they said they were continuing to work on verifying his horrific and bizarre explanation for the boy's death. It remained unclear why Aron took the child in the first place, they said.
The medical examiner's office said Wednesday that the boy's death was caused by intoxication from the combined effects of cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxant; quetiapine, an anti-psychotic; and the pain medications hydrocodone and acetaminophen, followed by smothering. Prescription drugs were found at the apartment.
Aron's attorney, Pierre Bazile, had no comment Wednesday on the medical examiner's findings. Bazile has said his client told him he heard voices and suffered from hallucinations. Aron was placed on suicide watch. Bazile said he worried about his mental state — and also said Aron's family was distraught.
Detectives believe the boy was killed sometime late in the afternoon or early in the evening on July 12, after Aron was believed to have taken the boy to a wedding 35 miles north of Brooklyn, and then went to work the following day, according to chief police spokesman Paul Browne.
That meant the boy was alive for about a day after he disappeared, and it's possible he may have been at Aron's apartment of his own free will, alone, in the hours before he was killed.
Video cameras captured the fateful encounter between Aron and the boy on a Brooklyn street as Leiby's mother waited anxiously just a few blocks away, investigators said. The boy was seen trailing Aron, then getting into his brown sedan and the two drove away, they said.
Almost immediately, searchers started looking for the boy. Leiby was Hasidic, an ultra-Orthodox version of Judaism, and lived in Borough Park, a safe and somewhat insular neighborhood and home to one of the world's largest communities of Orthodox Jews outside Israel. Aron, who lived nearby, was Orthodox but not Hasidic.
But the two were not in Brooklyn — they were at the wedding in Spring Valley, N.Y., and spent several hours there, Aron told police. Other wedding guests confirmed Aron was there, but didn't see the boy.
"Detectives now have reason to believe beyond Aron's confession that Leiby was at the wedding, but not necessarily inside the venue," Browne said Wednesday.
A gas station attendant along the route saw the boy go to the bathroom, prosecutors said.
By the time the pair returned to the city, it was so late that Aron decided to take Leiby to his home to sleep and left him there Tuesday while he went to work, according to the police version of the confession. Workers at the supply store said Aron showed up as usual that day, but seemed troubled.
Police believe Aron left work shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, and killed Leiby after being spooked by the growing search for the boy, which included fliers with the child's picture.
"When I saw the fliers, I panicked and was afraid," Aron said, according to police.
Investigators also have said Leiby may have been tied up and tried to fight back in the moments before he was killed. There also were marks on the boy's remains that could have been caused by restraints, but it's not clear exactly when — or for how long — the boy was restrained.
Brooklyn District Attorney Hynes said the investigation continued into whether Aron was suspected of kidnapping or having inappropriate contact with any other children.