The Public Housing Elevator Murder Case
At six in the evening on Sunday, June 1, 2014, 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto and his 7-year-old friend Mikayla Capers, residents of a Brooklyn, New York housing project complex called Boulevard Houses, were riding the building's elevator on their way to get some ice cream.
When the elevator stopped at the lobby and the door opened, a heavy-set black man wearing a gray shirt entered the elevator and stabbed the two children, dropped the bloody knife, and fled the building. The Avitto boy, stabbed in the torso, lay unconscious and unresponsive. The girl, Mikayla, had been stabbed in the chest, and had cuts on her hands.
At the Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, doctors pronounced Prince Avitto dead. His friend, in critical condition, was transferred to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for specialized surgery.
Unfortunately for homicide detectives, the elevator compartment was not equipped with a surveillance camera. Investigators were working off the theory that the man who stabbed the housing project children might be the same person who, on Friday May 30, 2014, had stabbed 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland to death. That homicide had been committed just a few blocks from the housing project. The unidentified perpetrator in the Tanaya Copeland case had left the murder knife at that crime scene as well.
On Tuesday, June 3, 2014, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, appearing before reporters gathered at a press conference, blamed the housing authority bureaucracy for failing to install surveillance cameras in the housing project elevators. The mayor specifically pointed his finger at his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg.
Since politicians create bureaucracy, this criticism was rather ironic. Moreover, while surveillance video is an excellent investigative tool, the presence of a camera in the elevator would not necessarily have prevented the stabbings.
On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at eight o'clock in the evening, New York City detectives arrested 27-year-old Daniel St. Hubert as a suspect in the elevator stabbing case. According to a police spokesperson, Hubert had a criminal history. He was on parole in connection with a domestic dispute assault conviction.
Because Mayor deBlasio couldn't blame guns in this case, he blamed the housing authority and the former mayor. Maybe he should have blamed himself as a big government politician who reveled in bureaucracy. Or better yet, he could have blamed the man with the knife.
In the end, the Avitto boy's murder was not blamed on failed mental health care or a dysfunctional criminal justice system. The mayor and his supporters ultimately blamed this murder on "society." It was our fault.
In April 2018, a jury sitting in Brooklyn, New York found St. Hubert guilty of murder and attempted murder. The judge sentenced him to 50 years to life.