The 28-year-old man accused of murdering New School professor Jeremy Safran in the basement of Safran's Brooklyn home admitted to the crime—but claimed he acted in self-defense.
As he was walked out of a police precinct, Mirzo Atadzhanov told reporters, "I was defending myself."
Safran's body was found in the basement of his Prospect Park South home at 155 Stratford Road around 6 p.m. on Monday. He had been stabbed repeatedly and EMS pronounced him dead at the scene. After searching the basement, police officers found Atadzhanov in a closet.
A neighbor, Doreen Giuliano, revealed that she noticed a man observing the Safran house and then warned Safran's family. Giuliano told the Daily News she spotted a man 'casing' the house 'for hours' and sitting outside in a black Lexus. "He parked the car, walked down the block, came back up and went down her alley. Then he got back in his car and sat there for three hours," Giuliano told the tabloid. "He came down the alley way and put something in his trunk, and he was looking left to right, left to right, and then he went back and he went in the side door."
Giuliano said that she texted Safran's wife shortly before 5:45 p.m. From WABC 7:
[The wife] responded that a man had been poking around the backyard and asked Giuliano to describe the man.
"Jen!! He went in your side door he went in your house," she wrote back. "He is still in your house."
They met on Safran's front lawn.
"And I said to her, there's a man in your house, you need to call 911," Guiliano said. "She said, 'That's strange, because my basement lights went out.' She said, 'Jeremy's around here somewhere.'"
Later that night, [Safran's wife] texted back, "Thank you, you saved us."
When Atadzhanov was taken out of the house, Giuliano said that his hands were bloody. (Giuliano, you may recall, is the mother of John Giuca, who was convicted of the 2003 "Grid Kid" murder; Giuliano famously underwent a makeover to seduce a juror.)
Atadzhanov, who lives in Brighton Beach, is charged with murder and burglary. He was arrested in 2016 for allegedly trying to rape a woman who was staying at his apartment through a Couchsurfing.com listing, but the charges were dismissed.
The suspect's mother was shocked at the murder charges, telling the Post, "This didn’t happen. He didn’t do it. He is a smart boy. He has a master’s in biology. He was planning to become a nurse. He was a doctor back in our country, a cardiologist. He was the top chess player in the Republic." She added, "I’m just shocked, I don’t know what to think. Burglary? We’re not poor people. We’re educated people. We are decent."
In a statement, the New School called Safran "an internationally renowned psychotherapist" who was "deeply respected and admired by The New School community and his colleagues throughout the psychology profession for his work and research on psychoanalytic theory and practice." William Hirst, Malcolm B. Smith professor and co-chair of psychology at New School for Social Reserach, said, "Jeremy’s contributions to the Department and to the field of psychotherapy research cannot be underestimated. With characteristic energy and determination, he worked not only to move the Clinical Psychology Program to full accreditation, but to make it the vibrant, respected program it is today. He was a brilliant mentor to many students and an inspired instructor."