Mourners lined the streets of Borough Park Wednesday night, gathering to bid a grim farewell to an 8-year-old boy who police say was snatched off the street by a stranger who later suffocated and dismembered him.
Police believe Leiby Kletzky, who would have turned 9 this month and was not used to walking home alone, had gotten lost and asked the suspect, Levi Aron, for help.
On Wednesday evening, his grieving parents were joined by thousands at a Borough Park synagogue for Kletzky's funeral service, with speakers broadcasting over a loudspeaker and intermittently breaking down in sobs. They spoke and chanted in Yiddish, stressing the community's resilience and unity after what one called an unnatural death.
"There's no greater pain than this," one said, as translated by a mourner.
Among the women, who listened separately from men, some said their children attended the same day camp from which Kletzky was walking home from when he disappeared. It was open Wednesday and counselors were on hand to help the children deal with the news.
"This is not human," said Moses Klein, 73, a retired caterer who lives near the corner where the boy was last seen.
Meanwhile, a source tells NBC New York that Aron, who turned 35 on Wednesday, gave a lengthy confession, and told investigators he spent "several hours" with the boy before he killed him.
Police got a tip that Aron was their suspect based on surveillance video released late Tuesday night, and tracked him at his home in Kensington.
When detectives arrived at Aron's apartment, the door was open, Kelly said. They entered and asked where the boy was, and Aron nodded toward the kitchen, where police found carving knives covered with blood, along with human remains, in the refrigerator.
He then reportedly directed police to an area about two and a half miles away, near 20th Street and Fourth Avenue, where the rest of the boy's remains were found in a black plastic bag inside a red suitcase that had been tossed in a Dumpster.
A source tells NBC New York that he said he suffocated the child first before dismembering his body.
Aron lives in the third floor of his parents' house on Avenue C. His parents live on the ground floor and another tenant lives on the second floor of the building.
Police said Aron had moved back to Brooklyn after living in Memphis, Tenn. for about two years. Investigators will be contacting authorities in Tennessee to piece together the details of his life, Kelly said.
Authorities are also looking into whether he had a history of mental illness.
Residents in the tight-knit Hasidic community where the boy lived with his parents and four sisters said they were stunned by the horrific crime.
"I'm still in shock," said Motty Jay. "I need some time to process what's happening in this neighborhood."
Miriam Jalas said she would "never believe that someone could do such a thing to a kid."
"My heart was hurting," said Rubin Badalov.
Kletzky was last seen around 4:50 p.m. Monday as he left his day camp at Yeshiva Boyan on 44th Street in Borough Park.
He was supposed to meet his parents about seven blocks away, but did not show up. It was the first time the boy had been allowed to leave the camp on his own, Kelly said.
He said there are "no easy answers" for parents in deciding when their kids can handle walking home from school alone.
"Parents know their children better than anyone else," Kelly said.
The boy had been seen on surveillance video walking alone, including one that was in the opposite direction from where he was supposed to be going.
Authorities say Aron once had a summons for public urination but otherwise did not have a criminal record.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind said the boy was the only son of the Kletzky family. The couple has four daughters, and the husband works as a driver for a private car service.
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