NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Levi Aron, charged with first-degree murder, pleaded not guilty Thursday in the killing of young Leiby Kletzky.
Aron was led into a courtroom at the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn for his arraignment wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, with his hands and legs cuffed. He kept his head down as the judge discussed the murder charges against him.
EXTRA: Levi Aron Disclosure (pdf)
The not guilty plea was entered by his attorneys.
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For the first time, Aron’s handwritten confession became part of the public record and provided some insight into the mindset of the accused man, CBS 2′s Pablo Guzman reported. In that confession, Aron repeatedly writes about feeling afraid and panicking about the situation.
“I brought him to my house, thinking I’d bring him to his house the next day. We watched TV, then fell asleep in the front room. I went to the middle room to sleep that next morning he was still sleeping when I was ready to leave.
So I woke him and told him, I’ll bring him to his house when I get back. Afterward towards the end of the day when I saw the flyers, I panicked and was afraid.
When I got home he was still there. So I made him a tuna sandwich. I was still in panic from the fliers and affair to bring him home.”
Aron then went on to give grisly details of the alleged murder of the young boy, giving gruesome details of the heinous act.
“That is when approximately I went for a towel to smother him — in the side room. He fought back a little bit until eventually he stopped breathing. Afterwards I panicked because I didn’t know what to do with the body.
I placed the parts in freezer, then showered. I panicked and looked for something to transport the parts.
I understand this maybe wrong and I’m sorry for hurt that I’ve caused.”
Prosecutors said Aron kidnapped Kletzky from his neighborhood in Borough Park and gave him a toxic mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs before smothering him. Aron then allegedly butchered the 8-year-old’s body, hiding part of it in his freezer.
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“There will be evaluations by our psychiatric experts to determine whether a psychiatric defense is viable and whether or not we have evidence to present it at trial,” Aron’s defense attorney, Jennifer McCann, said outside the courtroom Thursday.
Aron had been undergoing psychiatric evaluations at Bellevue Hospital since his arrest. Aron’s lawyers said he was “hearing voices” and needed to listen to music to drown them out.
Inside the packed courtroom Thursday, there were concerned faces and anxious stares from those who knew Kletzky.
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“I want to see his face,” Hikind said outside the courtroom. “I want to see what a murderer like this looks like.”
Those in the Borough Park community are stunned that defense attorneys are even considering an insanity plea, but they still believe justice will be done.
“I don’t think he was insane,” said Borough Park resident Yitzi Katz. “He had a normal family. He led a normal life.”
“The focus is not revenge,” Mayer Schwartz told CBS 2′s Lou Young. “The focus is about why did it happen, the story? Why did God let it happen?”
Investigators pulled dozens of bags of evidence out of Aron’s home in Kensington, Brooklyn. Some of the bags, CBS 2 learned, contained children’s clothing, a child’s pillow, spoon and cup.
Prosecutors have so far refused to discuss the possibility that Aron may be involved in other cases involving children. Some answers may be forthcoming, if prosecutors file more charges.
“Every individual arrested, charged with a crime in the United States, is entitled to a defense regardless of how heinous the crime they’re alleged of committing may be,” said defense attorney Pierre Bazile.
Aron’s court case could take at least a year, his lawyers have said. In a statement, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said there will be a trial and that he will not accept a plea deal.
Meanwhile, the Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund, which the family created to raise money for other needy families, has collected more than $260,000 in donations, according to its website. It has a goal of raising $1 million.
Do you think Levi Aron is guilty? If convicted, what is the appropriate punishment in this case? Sound off in our comments section below…