A Brooklyn man accused of abducting a young boy from a street corner and chopping him up into small pieces was due in court late yesterday to face murder charges.
The suspect, Levi Aron, 35, has reportedly already given a written confession, obtained by a local NBC station and posted on its website.
"I understand this may be wrong and I'm sorry for the hurt that I have caused," the confession read.
Police are investigating whether Aron might be behind other unsolved child killings or disappearances.
Hours after the dismembered body of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky, the son of a Hasidic Jewish family, was found by police in two different locations, thousands of mourners gathered in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighbourhood for his funeral.
The child vanished on Monday afternoon, after leaving a summer camp near his home. He had, for the first time, received permission from his parents to make some of the walk home on his own, having earlier memorised the route with them. Yet he seemingly missed a turning, became lost and eventually asked a stranger for directions. The man he chose to trust, police say, was Aron.
Residents from other mostly Jewish enclaves as far away as Boston, upstate New York and New Jersey had rushed to Brooklyn 36 hours earlier to join in the search for the boy after he was reported missing.
The news that he had been found dead and, perhaps almost as shocking to some, that the accused was also Jewish, came quickly.
The killing has also upended a jealously-held belief among residents of Borough Park that theirs is one of the safest areas in all of New York City, in part because the Jewish community has its own Neighbourhood Watch supplementing police patrols.
Detectives got an early break after obtaining surveillance video tapes clearly showing a lost Leiby Kletzky approaching the suspect.
Aron then stopped briefly at a dentist's office to pay a bill before heading off with the boy in his car.
After tracking Aron with help from the dentist's office, police arrived at the apartment in the early hours of yesterday. When they asked where the boy was, Aron allegedly pointed to his fridge. It had blood on the handle and the police found the feet of the victim inside, as well as two knives and a chopping board.
The suspect directed them to a skip in another part of Brooklyn, where they found a suitcase containing the rest of the boy's body parts.
Police said they had no evidence that the child had been sexually assaulted and had not been able to find a motive for the killing.
In his alleged confession note, however, Aron suggests that he panicked and smothered the boy with a towel after realising that his entire neighbourhood had been mobilised to find the missing boy.Reuse content