NEW YORK – The man who police say killed and dismembered Leiby Kletzky, 8, a boy from a tight-knit Jewish community in Brooklyn last month, plead not guilty Thursday after evaluators determined that he is fit to stand trial.
Levi Aron, 35, who is accused of first degree murder and kidnapping, was silent during his 10-minute appearance in Brooklyn Supreme Court and had his legs and waist were shackled, The Wall Street Journal reported.
There was uncertainty if Aron would be ruled competent to stand trial. He told detectives that he was hearing voices telling him “to take his own life for what he did,” according to court papers. He also told police who took him in "I'm famous," according to court papers.
His lawyers said their client told them that he hears voices and has at times experienced hallucinations. Since he’s been charged with the killing, he’s been undergoing court-ordered psychiatric tests, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“It is not a rendering on sanity or insanity,” Jennifer McCann, an attorney for Aron said, according to the paper. “It’s only on competency. Neither the prosecution or the defense can proceed with their cases until he is found competent, so we are glad that he was found competent.”
Despite today's ruling, Aron's lawyers said they will continue to look at the possibility of some type of insanity defense.
The not guilty plea comes after he reportedly admitted to detectives that he killed the boy and tried to hide the body after he learned about a widening police search.
Kletzky’s killing gripped the city and jostled parents across the country.
It was July 11 and the first time the boy’s mother allowed him to walk home from a nearby day camp. The boy got lost in the Borough Park neighborhood and asked the suspect for help, police say.
An extensive manhunt ensued that ended days later when police found his severed feet inside a freezer in Aron's apartment and other remains in a suitcase thrown into a Dumpster in another Brooklyn neighborhood, police say.
Kletzky was given a concoction of drugs, then smothered and dismembered on July 12, the Brooklyn District Attorney has said. The district attorney's office said it would not accept a plea from Aron and will go forward with the trial.
Aron's next court appearance is in October.