Levi Aron, the man who previously confessed to killing and dismembering an 8-year-old Hasidic boy this week, pled not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping yesterday in court. As inmates screamed "F----- killer!" and onlookers yelled "murderer," his lawyer planted the seeds for an insanity defense ("He hears voices and suffers from hallucinations"), and Aron was held for a psychiatric exam and put on suicide watch. On his weekly radio show this morning, Mayor Bloomberg revealed that he had spoken to Leiby Kletzky's parents, and lamented that he "couldn't explain" to them how such a horrible crime could occur: "How could anybody be this sick?"
It also came out today that Leiby's parents did not attend his burial after a massive funeral service because it was too painful, according to a family friend. In addition, they have been kept in the dark about how Leiby died—they don't know he was dismembered. Family friend Jonathan Schwartz, whose son was friends with Leiby, said the parents have not expressed anger toward Aron: "All they say is that this is something that God wanted and they have to accept it with love and peace," Schwartz said. Leiby's grandmother said she couldn't speak at all. "It's not going to bring my grandson back," she said.
Even though investigators say there was no evidence of sexual abuse, police have established that Leiby had been tied up by rope, and struggled with Aron as he suffocated him to death, leaving marks on the 35-year-old man's wrists. Police continue to investigate Aron's written confession—they are looking into whether he had taken Aron to a wedding in Rockland County Monday night after a chance meeting earlier that day, when the boy got lost walking from camp to meet his parents seven blocks away.
The murder of Leiby has shook the insular world of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community—Aron was not on a list of suspected child predators kept by the Borough Park Shomrim patrol. "No one ever complained to us about him," Borough Park Shomrim member Jacob Daskel said. He also explained, "The community doesn't go to the police with these names because the rabbis don't let you. It's not right."
Even though the Shomrim were unable to locate Aron, police were aided by amateur sleuth Yaakov German, who spent all day Monday and Tuesday banging on doors and demanding to see security footage at local stores, eventually leading to tape of Aron going into his dentist's office, then coming out and leading Leiby away.
The thing the Orthodox community is most shocked by is that Aron was one of their own. "Everybody is confused here because this never happens between Jewish people," said Barukh Badalov, who owns a barbershop on 48th St. Although the ultra-Orthodox community of Borough Park has long been untrusting of outsiders, they admit that they would go out of their way for others in their community. “If you’re in the airport and need help, a Jew will help you. I pick up hitchhikers, boys waiting to go to yeshiva. When I travel and see another Jew, we’ll eyeball each other; there’s a connection. Everywhere you go, all over the world. I’ll still do it,” Yocheved Schachter told the Times.