Sketch released in pair of Brooklyn stabbings targeting children

N.J. Burkett has the latest on the search for the man who stabbed two children.
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
A sketch was released Monday of the man wanted for stabbing two children as they rode the elevator down from their apartment in the Boulevard Houses complex on Schenck Avenue near Stanley Avenue in East New York to get ice cream around 6 p.m. Sunday.

The little boy, 6-year-old Prince Joshua "PJ" Avitto, died at the hospital, while 7-year-old Mikayla Capers is still fighting for her life.

"I saw that sketch and it dawned on me he was the one I used to give a dollar to," dad Nicholas Avitto said. "He's a homeless guy. I seen him in my hallway sleeping."

A man brought in for questioning earlier in the day, but he was let go a few hours later.

New York City police rushed the man in for questioning after community activists said someone mistook him for the suspect in a sketch of the wanted suspect. But he was free to go a few hours later.

Based on the proximity and the weapon used, police now believe the same suspect may be responsible for the stabbing death of 18-year-old Tanaya Grant Copeland as she walked home from band practice Friday night. There is an incredible sense of fear in the neighborhood because the attacks appear to be random and targeted children.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said he wants the killer caught, so the NYPD is using every resources available to them in this manhunt.

"This is a particularly heinous crime," he said. "Two young children in an elevator with no place to escape, nothing at all, and some character gets on and just starts stabbing them?...(Residents) have every right to be concerned."

"We need all hands on deck," said Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who called on the FBI to join the investigation, citing the agency's unique forensic expertise.

"If it's going to help us catch this individual, sure, we need all the help we can get," said the victim's uncle, Scott Avitto.

Family members said Capers was stabbed 15 times and has many defensive wounds across her body as she fought her attacker. She is said to be alert, but in a lot of pain.

Avitto was also stabbed multiple times. "He was just coming into his own, beginning to understand things," godfather Hank Alston said. "It's just a great loss, great loss. I had big hopes. There would've been no limit to what he could've accomplished in his life."

Funeral services will be Friday morning for Avitto at St. Paul's Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

A vigil and march was held in the community on Monday night to call for peace and pray for justice.

"I miss my baby," Nicholas Avitto said. "I act like I took him to school today...I took his book bag and walked to his school, and I acted like was with me. And I was talking to an invisible person that was supposed to be my son. And believe me, it gave me tranquility, a little serenity."

Meanwhile, Copeland was stabbed at least 30 times Friday night, her body found in the middle of the street by a cab driver near the intersection of Linwood and Stanley avenues. Police now believe the two murders are connected, with this incident happening four blocks away from where the children were stabbed.

The NYPD has released a photo of the knife used in the attack, described as a Dura Lock, that has not been manufactured since 2004.

A $13,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest. There are also promises from the city to install more surveillance cameras in there area. There were no cameras in the building, leaving police without a good description of the suspect.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the situation outrageous. "This community should receive the cameras that they need," he said.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while the New York City Housing Authority has installed 11,000 cameras in 1,000 buildings, including nearly 4,000 in just the past year, it's been sitting on $27 million allocated for cameras that have never been purchased. The authority pledged to finish the job by the end of the year.

Housing officials insist they've spent millions installing cameras in buildings across the city, just not here.

"We've been moving forward with the installation of security cameras," a spokesperson said. "We have spent all of the previously allocated $47 million and have been steadily and appropriately moving forward with the process to spend $27 million."

NYCHA is responsible for the management of 334 developments with 2,600 buildings, 3,300 elevators and thousands more entryways, stairwells and hallways. It estimates it would cost at least $200 million to install "an ideal network of NYCHA security cameras."

"Everyone deserves to be safe in their homes," read a NYCHA statement. "We're continually working with the NYPD and our residents to make our properties as safe as possible. One facet of that is having security cameras. Recognizing that, we've been moving forward with the installation of security cameras at developments for which we have dedicated funding. This was a horrible crime and our thoughts are with the families of these young children who must be coping with overwhelming grief at this senseless loss. We are working closely with the NYPD as they focus on this crime."

Community advocate Tony Herbert said innocent people will suffer as police run down every lead. "Unfortunately, the good has to suffer because of the bad. If you see someone who mirrors this image make that call we want that monster off the street."

Related Topics:
news stabbing child death East New York New York City
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