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Monsey stabber’s lawyer wants to autopsy victim despite religious prohibitions

The attorney representing the man who stabbed multiple people in Monsey, N.Y. at a December 28 Hanukkah celebration wants to exhume and examine the body of Josef Neumann, who died while in a coma that resulted from being stabbed in the attack.

Michael Sussman is representing Grafton Thomas, who has been charged with murder after Neumann’s death, in addition to other attempted murder and federal hate crime charges. Neumann died on March 29, at age 72.

“We need to know medically if it’s a murder or if it’s the consequence of some disease pattern or something else,” Sussman told Lohud.

Neumann, in keeping with Jewish burial tradition, was buried as soon as possible after his death, on March 30. He was buried without an autopsy. Modern-day Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law generally hold that autopsies should not be performed, and not at all without the supervision of a rabbi, because Jewish dictates that a body must be buried with all of its constituent parts, even down to bits of blood and hair.

The District Attorney’s office said it had not yet decided about whether to oppose Sussman’s motion for exhumation.

“The DA is very aware of the headache that would cause the Neumann family and for all of the victims of the horrific machete attack carried out by Grafton Thomas,” said Peter Walker, chief of detectives for the Rockland County District Attorney’s office. “We all have to take into account the deep religious beliefs of the Neumann family as well, which we are certain Mr. Sussman is aware.”

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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