A construction worker has reportedly confessed to the January murder of Brooklyn Hasidic businessman Menachem Stark, which he has told investigators was a botched robbery.
Kendal Felix, 26, who worked for a contractor who worked with Stark, intended to rob the landlord when he and two buddies snatched him off the street outside his office on a snowy night in the Williamsburg section, the Daily News reported.
“They weren’t thinking about killing him. It looks like a straight up robbery,” a source told the News.
Felix, who lives in Crown Heights, was charged with murder. He has admitted to his role in the crime and implicated the other two, sources told the New York Post.
Felix apparently heard that Stark often carried large amounts of cash. He didn’t know that the Hasidic landlord was up to his ears in debts, which investigators initially believed to offer a motive in the puzzling case.
Police cracked the case after linking all three suspects to a van used to kidnap Stark.
“The pace of the investigation has accelerated over the last 24 hours and hopefully will continue to accelerate over the next 24 hours to its conclusion,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said during a brief appearance with Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who nodded in agreement. “It’s accelerating and it’s moving in a very quick direction.”
Satmar political leader David Niederman praised the police actions in a statement.
“Today is bittersweet,” Niederman said. “Bitter because Menachem is no longer with us and he is forever missed. Sweet that the law enforce community has made an arrest in this heinous crime.”
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) also praised the authorities. “I have followed this terrible and tragic case from the beginning and applaud the NYPD for their tenacity in pursuing the murder suspects,” said Hikind.
Stark was snatched outside his office in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, late on the evening of January 2 and bundled into a van. His charred body was found in a Long Island dumpster a day later.
An autopsy revealed he died from compression asphyxiation, possibly from being subdued during a struggle with his attackers.
Felix told cops he and his cohorts accidentally suffocated the father of seven as he fought to escape, a source said.
Members of Stark’s Hasidic community praised him in the days after the murder as a generous philanthropist. News reports, however, described a pattern of decrepit conditions inside the low-rent apartments he owned.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.