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A Monster Among the 'Frum'

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Eichenstein stepped forward. “You’ve got the wrong guy,” he said. He relayed the information provided by his wife and pointed to a stack of credit-card slips. “It has to be the top one,” he says. The piece of paper carried the name Levi Aron and a time of purchase: 4:30 p.m.

“The time stamp is off by an hour,” a ­detective protested. The Tri State tape showed Leiby Kletzky being hustled into the Honda at 5:30.

“Swipe my card,” Eichenstein said.

The detective looked dubious.

“Go on. Swipe it.”

The receipt curled out of the machine.

“See?” Eichenstein said. The machine was marking transactions an hour earlier than they’d occurred.

In a long caravan, the police proceeded to their new target, a mile away. They walked to the third floor of the house. Levi Aron was there to greet them.

Shortly after German arrived at Tri State, Aron had returned to his attic apartment. In his confession, he describes what happened next, his account chilling in its nonchalance. Leiby had not fled while he was at work. “He was still there. So I made him a tuna sandwich,” reportedly heavily dosed with a cocktail of prescription drugs, including a muscle relaxant called cyclobenzaprine, an anti-psychotic called quetiapine, and two different painkillers. (Aron does not mention the drugs in his confession, nor how he obtained them.) “That is when approximately I went for a towel to smother him,” he continues. “He fought back a bit, but eventually he stopped breathing.”

Aron—now covered with scratches and scrapes—grew frenzied anew. “I didn’t know what to do with the body,” he wrote. After about fifteen minutes, he carried Leiby’s remains into the front room and placed them on a mattress. Using a kitchen knife, he cut off one leg at the hip. He tried to fit it into a plastic garbage bag but discovered it didn’t fit. He severed it again, at the ankle. He repeated the process with the other leg and stored the parts in the refrigerator and the freezer. He took a shower, “went to clean up a little,” took a second shower, and left the apartment to dispose of the rest of the body. But in other ways he was almost casual about covering his tracks. In Aron’s kitchen, the responding officers found three bloody knives on the counter along with a telltale red smudge on the freezer door.

A friend called to tell German the good news: The police had arrested a suspect. He doubled back to East 2nd Street, where dozens of onlookers had gathered. As German watched, a pair of detectives exited the house and stood for a moment on the lawn. “Is he alive?” German ­remembers asking.

A few minutes later, Aron guided the police to a Dumpster in the Greenwood Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. In the Dumpster was a red suitcase. In the red suitcase, sawed into pieces and divided into separate plastic bags, was the ­remainder of Leiby’s corpse.

The funeral for Leiby Kletzky, held a day later, on July 13, consumed the entire neighborhood. German watched as the coffin was ­carried through Borough Park, surrounded at all moments by a palpitating sea of mourners, their crying faces flushed and broken.

On a humid day a few weeks after the killing, I visited a storefront shul, or ­shtibel, a block away from the Aron residence. Dozens like it had sprung up in Borough Park in the early part of the last century, as the area’s Jewish population swelled. Unlike the grand synagogues in the rest of the neighborhood, a shtibel usually consists of a pair of rooms and a small kitchen. I knocked at a heavy metal door and was shown into the library by Tzvi Singer, a rabbi in his forties who spends five days a week there immersed in Scripture. His black jacket was worn at the elbows. “You must understand,” he said, “Jews have lived through many atrocities. You open these books”—he waved his pale fingers at the adjoining shelves—“and you will find record of the worst of possible crimes. And yet I will tell you, I have not found evidence of an atrocity such as this one.”

“Where the murderer was a Jew,” I said.

“Where the murderer was a Jew, yes, and also a neighbor.”

Singer showed me into the plainly decorated main chamber of the shtibel. ­Under a row of fluorescent lights, a half-­dozen men were bent in fervent prayer. Jack Aron had worshipped here, sometimes accompanied by Levi, and regularly enough that their faces were familiar. But as Borough Park has tried to comprehend what happened to Leiby Kletzky, it has looked for places to put the blame, and the Aron family has been ostracized. A family acquaintance says Levi’s stepmother has been fired from her job at a local library—she can have it back only if she can produce a note from the police certifying that she is not under investigation.


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