Levi Aron admits guilt in plea
Former hardware store clerk Levi Aron admitted Thursday to abducting and dismembering 7-year-old Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn last year in a disjointed guilty plea punctuated by whispered monosyllabic answers and frequent prompting from his lawyers.
The plea and an expected prison sentence of 40 years to life climaxed a case that riveted the city last July when the Orthodox Jewish boy's disappearance while walking home from day camp triggered a frantic block-by-block search in Borough Park. The plea agreement was praised in a statement from Kletzky's parents, who did not attend.
"Today my family has finally received some partial closure on one aspect of this nightmare," said Nachman Kletzky, whose wife is expecting another child. "A day doesn't pass without our thinking of Leiby, but today we close the door on this one aspect of our tragedy and seek to remember only the gifts that God has bestowed."
Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Neil Firetog said psychiatrists had found Aron, 36, competent, but his defense team - which had explored a possible insanity defense - admitted that his blank, unresponsive demeanor appeared bizarre.
They said he did not meet the legal definition of insanity or incompetence, but his "flat affect," reticence and need for prompting were the result of medications and a mental condition that required treatment.
"His mental state isn't the same as yours or mine," said defense lawyer Pierre Bazile.
Aron acknowledged that he picked up Kletzky in Borough Park, drove him to a wedding upstate, brought him back to his apartment and then realized the next day a community search was on. "I panicked," he said.
He admitted he drugged the boy with prescription medications and got a towel. Asked what he did with the towel, he said, "Smother." Asked how he got rid of the body, he said, "In a suitcase." He admitted using a kitchen knife to cut Kletzky up.
Aron offered no motive and never betrayed any emotion about the events. Lawyer Jennifer McCann said his odd behavior partly reflected his feelings. "He is remorseful in his own way," she said. "He shows his remorse in his reticence."