NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison on Wednesday for the grisly murder of an 8-year-old boy who got lost on his first walk home alone from camp in their close-knit Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Levi Aron, 36, pleaded guilty on August 9 to second-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Leiby Kletzky as part of a deal with prosecutors. The boy went missing on July 11 last year and his body was found two days later.
Aron, who was sentenced during a hearing in a state court in Brooklyn, will be eligible for parole in 40 years.
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and black yarmulke, Aron listened silently to his sentence with downcast eyes. When asked by the judge if he wanted to make a statement, he whispered "No."
Aron kidnapped Kletzky after he sought his help on the street when he lost his way walking home in the New York City borough after religious camp, prosecutors said. Instead, Aron led the boy to his apartment.
The child's disappearance triggered a massive search by the community and police.
After seeing missing child flyers plastered throughout the neighborhood, Aron said that he "panicked," drugged the boy with prescription medication and suffocated him with a towel, according to court documents. Aron admitted that he then dismembered the body, disposing of the parts in a dumpster and his freezer, where police later found them.
Aron's lawyer, Howard Greenberg, called the sentence a "bitter pill" during the hearing and told reporters afterward that his client's family had a history of schizophrenia and that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was younger.
Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jewish state assemblyman who served as a spokesman for Kletzky's family, said after the sentencing that they were "satisfied" with the plea deal, which will spare them from having to relive the details of the crime at a trial.
"He should spend the rest of his life in prison, and I am confident that he will," Hikind said.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, David Storey and Paul Simao)