Led out in handcuffs from Brooklyn’s 88th Precinct on Wednesday night, the suspect accused of setting a deadly fire that killed a neighborhood philanthropist came face to face with the media — and the victim’s close relative.
Dondre Richardson, of East 125th Street, was charged with second-degree murder and arson in connection with the early-morning fire on Jan. 20 that killed Antonio Litman, 55, in his Adelphi Street home. The fire was one of two recent fires that were deemed homicides.
Litman was found unconscious in the vestibule of his home by firefighters in the early-morning blaze. Attempts to revive him failed and it was quickly noticed by EMS that he had puncture wounds to the neck and chest, officials said.
As from the 88th Precinct walked him out of the stationhouse tonight, Richardson screamed to reporters and photographers assembled there, “I was his friend!”
But Litman’s family members were not impressed. His cousin Felicia Geddis shouted back, “We will follow you and we won’t let you go!”
“He did the devil’s business – what can you say about a person like that,” Geddis sighed.
Geddis praised Litman’s charitable nature and said, “he would give you the shirt off his back.” While cousins by relation, they were raised together almost like brother and sister.
“Just once in your lifetime, he was the beacon in our family who cared about everyone,” said Geddis. “I don’t know [Richardson], and I don’t want to know him, and I know he is saying a lot. But Antonio, was every bit of happiness to our lives. [The suspect] took one of the best people you can ever know, my brother, and there’s no reason for it.”
Police sources say that Richardson lived in a homeless shelter on Wards Island. It was unclear what his relationship was with Litman, but neighbors say Litman was charitable — some calling him “Santa Claus of the block” because of his generosity.
Litman was said to be a buyer and seller of cargo ships and was the sole resident of the three-story home. The fire caused heavy damage to the first floor and basement, fire officials said. Investigators quickly concluded that the fire was arson, and that Litman was murdered.
No motive has been established, though police sources say Richardson may have been living in the home with Litman.
Litman was the founder of Virginia’s House of Hope — a non-profit that says it has distributed food, clothing and school supplies to more than 10,000 families. Neighbors said that Litman also took special interest in the block, sometimes coming out to the street to clean up trash that had collected.
“Giving was his passion, he cared about the homeless, children, for his foundation, his neighbors, he would give bags of groceries. He was such a caring person, it’s just too much,” Geddis said.