NEW YORK – A man accused of abducting and dismembering an 8-year-old boy who got lost on the way home has agreed to avoid trial by pleading guilty to murder charges, according to a state lawmaker and a person briefed on the plea negotiations.
State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Wednesday that Levi Aron is expected to enter the plea as part of a deal that would result in a life sentence.
Prosecutors struck the deal in close consultation with the family of the boy, Leiby Kletzky, the assemblyman said. The boy's disappearance and horrific death last year stunned his tight-knit Hasidic community in a section of Brooklyn represented by Hikind.
"The Kletzky family would very much like to avoid a trial and to relive the tragedy," Hikind said. "It's way too painful."
The Brooklyn district attorney's office declined to comment on Wednesday. There was no immediate response to a phone message left with Aron's attorney.
A person briefed on the plea negotiations confirmed Wednesday that under the pending agreement, Aron would get a sentence of 40 years to life behind bars. The defendant, who has previously pleaded not guilty, would change his plea at a status conference scheduled for Aug. 9 in Brooklyn, the person said.
The person was not authorized to discuss the deal publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Leiby's family is Hasidic, which is an ultra-Orthodox type of Judaism. Their neighborhood, called Borough Park, is home to one of the world's largest communities of Orthodox Jews outside Israel.
Leiby went missing while walking home from religious day camp, the first time he was allowed to walk by himself. He missed his turn and got lost, and police say he approached Aron for help.
About two days later, Leiby's severed feet were found in the freezer at Aron's apartment, along with bloody knives and a carving board. The rest of the boy's body was found in a red suitcase in a trash bin several blocks away. His legs had been cut from his torso.
According to prosecutors, Aron admitted he killed the boy after he panicked when he saw posters with the boy's photo. After the two met on the street, Aron took the boy to a wedding upstate, then to his apartment. The boy remained there alone, possibly of his own free will, all day while Aron was at work. When Aron returned, he took a bath towel and smothered the boy, he said, according to authorities.
The medical examiner's office said that before the boy's death he was given a cocktail of prescription drugs.