Suspect Charged in Williamsburg Businessman's Murder, Police Say
WILLIAMSBURG — Police charged a Crown Heights man Wednesday night for the January murder of a Brooklyn businessman whose charred remains were later found in a Long Island dumpster, police said.
Kendel Felix, 26, of Montgomery Street, now faces second degree murder charges for sufficating Menachem Stark, 39, a building developer and father of seven children, according to sources and NYPD officials.
Two other men were in custody for the murder of the Brooklyn businessman. One of the three men help by police confessed to kidnapping and killing him, then torching his corpse in a Long Island dumpster, sources said. More people are being sought by investigators in connection to the crime.
Stark was last seen alive on security footage being abducted by two men and thrown into a Dodge Caravan at 331 Rutledge St. as he left his Williamsburg offices and headed to his nearby home shortly before midnight on Jan. 2, 2014, police said.
Detectives believe that the men who abducted Stark had been hired by a local contractor who was angry at Stark over an outstanding debt, and were only supposed to frighten him into paying, sources said. Police are also open to an alternate theory that he was killed during a botched robbery attempt.
Investigators believe the men accidentally suffocated Stark during the shakedown, and then panicked over how to dispose of the body, sources said.
The bumbling assassins drove around New York City and Long Island looking for a place to dump Stark's body and tried to do so at a gas station in Great Neck, Long Island, sources said. But their van got stuck in a snowbank and they had to rock the van side to side to free it, as a video camera captured the entire incident, sources said.
The men eventually freed the van before pulling out. They drove to another gas station across the street where they bought a container of gas then put the body in the dumpster behind the station and set him on fire, sources said.
The first man taken into custody confessed to involvement in the crime and is expected to be charged, sources said. After his interrogation police picked up the other two men, sources said.
Stark, a developer, owed millions of dollars to business associates who were trying to recoup their losses in bankruptcy court, according to reports.
His family said Wednesday night that they were glad to have some resolution in his death.
"It is definitely a relief but we can't bring him back," said Stark's younger brother, Yitzy Stark.
"We believe it was an accidental killing," he added, emphasizing that Stark's death was not the result of any business improprieties.
"Thank God we have an arrest. The kids will know he was not a monster. He was a good man."
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday, "we are pleased with the direction the investigation is now going."
"Over the last 24 hours, the pace of that investigation has accelerated significantly," Bratton added.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind lauded police for cracking the case.
"I have followed this terrible and tragic case from the beginning and applaud DA Ken Thompson and the NYPD for their tenacity in pursuing the murder suspects," Hikind said.
Councilman David Greenfield said that the impact of the killing reverberated throughout the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and beyond.
"The callous murder of Menachem Stark shocked not just the Jewish community, but all people of good conscience," he said. "Certainly, his family can have no peace until every person responsible for this depraved crime is brought to justice."