NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters uncovered a man’s body following a suspicious overnight fire in Brooklyn.
Police said he was stabbed before the fire was set.
On Monday night, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez learned the victim was a cherished member of the community.
Russell Bullock was visiting his old neighborhood in Fort Greene on Monday hoping to run into Antonio Litman, his friend of more than 30 years. He was shocked to find out Litman, founder of the charitable foundation Virginia’s House of Hope, had been stabbed to death inside his home on Adelphi Street, near Dekalb Avenue and that the murder scene was set on fire.
“Giving, the most giving person, but no … this ain’t right,” Bullock said.
The fire broke out in the basement of Litman’s four-story brownstone at around 3 a.m. After firefighters put out the flames they discovered the 55-year-old’s body, face down in the foyer. Police said he’d been stabbed multiple times in the neck and body.
“I have no idea why somebody would want to hurt him. You know, you have jealous people in the world,” Bullock said.
Litman was a friend and neighbor of the Bartok family for 15 years. They praised his work helping disadvantaged families and struggling schools, and said he threw neighborhood block parties, always opening his heart and home to everyone.
“Amazingly sweet and generous guy. I used to call him the mayor of Fort Greene. He’d sit on the stoop talking to everybody and anybody. Total character,” Jayce Bartok said.
“I was really sad because he was sort of like an uncle to me and Jayden, my friend here. He was really nice to us and he would always get us Christmas presents and stuff,” Jaxon Bartok added.
“He gave all the kids on the block Hoverboards,” neighbor Jayden Russell said.
Bullock, who said Litman found wealth in the shipping industry, said he believes Litman’s generosity may have lead to this tragedy.
“They probably wanted more from him that he probably just shut the doors and said, ‘I can’t give you no more,'” Bullock said.
Fire officials are still trying to determine how the fire was set, while police search for the person that wanted a man who gave so much to this community dead.