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Police investigating possible links between Hanukkah stabber and earlier Monsey attack

The chief of the police department covering Monsey, New York said on Thursday that investigators were looking into whether the man suspected of injuring five Jews with a machete at a Hanukkah party Saturday was also involved in a November stabbing of an Orthodox man on his way to synagogue, but that they did not yet have any specific evidence linking him to the earlier crime.

The Hanukkah attack, which has left one man in a coma that his family members say may be permanent, took place only a few minutes drive from the location of a stabbing in November. In that incident, a man was attacked just before 6:00 a.m. as he walked to a synagogue in Monsey, a town with a large Orthodox Jewish population.

Brad Weidel, the chief of the Town of Ramapo Police Department, which covers Monsey, said that Grafton E. Thomas, the alleged Hanukkah assailant, said that law enforcement had no evidence of Thomas’ connection to the first incident, which occurred on Howard Drive in Monsey.

“I have to live in the legal world, not in the speculative world that others live in,” he said. “Nobody should think for a second that we don’t want to bring the justice the individual or anybody who may have been involved in Howard Drive.”

He confirmed that Thomas had been questioned in the aftermath of the November incident, since his mother’s vehicle, a Honda Pilot, matched the description of a vehicle seen on security footage in Monsey around the time of the attack. But he said that police did not obtain a search warrant for Thomas’ home or for the car.

While a witness caught the license plate number of Thomas’ vehicle, leading to his arrest, enhancement of the footage of the vehicle tied to the earlier attack has not led to investigators being able to discern its license plate number, Weidel said.

On Sunday, multiple news outlets reported that investigators in the Hanukkah attack found a smaller knife, in addition to the machete allegedly used in the attack, in the car. The knife reportedly had dried blood on it, and ABC7 reported that investigators were trying to determine if it was connected to the November attack.

At the press conference, Weidel said that no such evidence has emerged from the vehicle.

“Nothing that was taken out of that vehicle, certainly not some of the stuff that’s being reported,” he said.

Wiedel said that there are still “a lot of leads” for the Howard Drive attack in November, and that many of the detectives working the Hanukkah attack case are also working on the Howard Drive attack.

“This is just a lead,” he said. “This is what we have here.”

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman


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