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DNA From Knife in Brooklyn Stabbing Linked to Possible Suspect, Sources Say

By  Trevor Kapp Murray Weiss and Aidan Gardiner | June 4, 2014 3:32pm | Updated on June 4, 2014 5:10pm

 Police are searching for a man, left, who they said stabbed three people in East New York, killing two of them.
Police are searching for a man, left, who they said stabbed three people in East New York, killing two of them.
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Composite with NYPD, Instagram/tajgibson22, Family Handout and Facebook/SuperFlyNaya

BROOKLYN — Police identified a possible suspect in the separate knife attacks that left a nursing student and a 6-year-old boy dead in East New York over the weekend, sources said Wednesday.

Investigators have matched DNA found on what they believe is the murder weapon with a suspect, sources told DNAinfo New York.

A 7-year-old girl was also injured in the attacks.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton did not confirm the suspect's arrest, but said investigators were "making good progress" in the case. "Are there persons of interest we are dealing with, there certainly are."

Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce was also optimistic about the investigation.

"The case has somewhat picked up a lot of steam in the last two hours. We are not right now at liberty to give you any more than that because we are pursuing it," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

Police said that the killer first attacked five days ago when he knifed student Tanaya Copeland, 18, multiple times on a desolate East New York street.

Two days later he stabbed and killed Prince Joshua "P.J." Avitto, 6, and critically injured Mikayla Capers, 7, in an East New York elevator Sunday afternoon.

Police have combed homeless shelters and talked to parole officers and social service agencies since the assaults, sources said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that police had identified a suspect from DNA found on what police believe was the murder weapon, but Bratton did not immediately confirm that.

The seemingly random attacks shook the community and local politicians and food companies have responded by offering a $67,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the suspect.

"I just pray to God that he gives himself up or they apprehend him," said Rochelle Copeland, whose daughter, Tanaya Copeland, 18, was fatally stabbed on Friday.

"I'm a very strong person. It's harrowing to know that a psycho like that is out there," the grieving mom added during a Wednesday morning press conference.

Investigators have reviewed footage taken near Copeland's murder, which appears to show a man fitting a similar description to the suspect in the stabbing of the children. There were no cameras in the building where the children were stabbed, 345 Schenck Ave., and only six in the surrounding Boulevard Houses complex, which has outraged local politicians and residents.

The New York City Housing Authority "is moving forward" to use $500,000 from the city to install 15 cameras in the lobby of each building in the complex and create new infrastructure to allow for more cameras in the future, among other upgrades, a housing spokeswoman said.

In the meantime, the supermarket chain Western Beef has put up a $50,000 reward along with $12,000 from Crime Stoppers and another $5,000 from Borough President Eric Adams' office.

"The owners had this sense of outrage over what happened but also deep sorrow. When you have those two emotions, it makes you really want to do something to help," Petrofsky added.

The NYPD has also increased its presence in the neighborhood while the suspect remains at large.

"This is a deranged individual who is dangerous. He's shown you what he or they can do. So we want you not to put yourself in harm's way, but make that call," said Brooklyn North Chief Gerald Nelson.

Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).