Police charge suspected Brooklyn serial killer who allegedly murdered senior NYCHA residents

Brooklyn murder suspect Kevin Gavins, 66, is walked out of the 73rd Precinct by detectives on Jan. 21, 2021.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Police believe they’ve stopped a serial killer who targeted senior residents within a NYCHA housing complex in Brooklyn over the past several years — posing as a friendly neighbor before going on the attack, authorities said on Jan. 21.

Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison announced that Kevin Gavin, 66, a suspected serial killer who had been murdering elderly individuals within Brownsville’s Carter G. Woodson Houses (NYCHA) at 393 Powell St. in Brownsville was arrested on Wednesday. The charges were made just after noon Thursday.

“Yesterday, Mr. Kevin Gavin was arrested for three murders that occurred between 2015 and, unfortunately, 2021 at the Woodson Houses, which is a senior housing development located at 393 Powell Street in the confines of the 73rd Precinct,” Harrison said. 

According to police officials, Gavin also resided in the area and gained access to his victims by posing as a friendly, helpful neighbor, often running errands for those physically impaired.

“The way we developed probable cause was through forensic evidence, credible witnesses, and our partnership with the Kings County District Attorney’s office,” Harrison announced.   

Gavin’s initial victim is reported to be Myrtle McKinney, an 82-year-old resident who was found on Nov. 9, 2015 inside of her apartment by her home health aid. But the cause of death was not immediately clear. 

Chief of detectives Rodney Harrison held a press conference to discuss the capture of a suspected serial killer in Brooklyn. Photo by Dean Moses

“It was believed that Ms. McKinney died from natural causes, but while being examined a stab wound was discovered at the left rear of her neck, which changed the classification of this incident to a homicide. The case has remained open throughout this time with very few investigative leads,” Harrison said.

His next victim, Jacolia James, was murdered on April 19, 2019, where she was also found in her apartment with suspicious wounds around her neck within the same apartment building. It was then that detectives started to see a pattern and pinpointed Gavin as a prime suspect. 

“Until recently, the second homicide victim was an 83-year-old woman, identified as Ms. Jacolia James who was found on April 30, 2019, lying face down inside of her apartment by her grandson. Her grandson had seen her earlier that night at approximately 7 pm, and when he returned home, almost four hours later, she was deceased,” Harrison said. 

The third victim, Juanita Caballero, was found dead by her son last week. 

“The third and most recent homicide victim was 78-year-old Ms. Juanita Caballero on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Her son came to spend the weekend with her and instead found her inside of her apartment lying on the floor with a telephone cord wrapped around her neck,” Harrison described. 

The investigations are still preliminary, and as the assigned detectives work diligently with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Harrison assures the family they will go forward and bring justice as they continue to follow all leads on any other incident involving Gavin. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez believes that the defendant will be indicted. Photo by Dean Moses

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez extended his condolences to families of the victims and the community itself, hoping they can feel at ease knowing justice is being served. Gonzalez also promised accusations will be dealt swiftly and efficiently, stating that he will panel a grand jury to hear all of the evidence in the case, and he is confident that upon hearing the evidence that they will charge and indict the defendant, Gavin. 

“I wanted to be here because I want the community to know how devastating these losses have been and to the people of Brownsville and to the residents of those houses that these women were beloved mothers, and grandmothers, and neighbors, and the fear that has existed in the Woodson Houses, regarding what has been happening there. We are very proud that we are able to make this announcement today,” Gonzalez says. 

He further assures that the community will be safer because they have the right person in custody because they caught the man who took advantage of these vulnerable women.

Harrison also shared that these acts may have been committed over arguments due to money or finances.