Police have arrested a man suspected of killing three woman in the same Brownsville public housing building since 2015.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison announced that officers arrested Kevin Gavin for the three murders. “Mr. Gavin was familiar with many residents of the building”—393 Powell Street at the Woodson Houses—”and ran errands for some of the elderly tenants who resided at that location,” he said.
Gavin lived at 393 Powell Street as well. Harrison said that forensic evidence and “credible witnesses” helped lead them to Gavin.
On Friday, Juanita Caballero, 78, was found unconscious in her 6th floor apartment with a telephone cord wrapped around her neck, Harrison said. Her son had discovered her, because he was planning on spending the weekend with her. EMS pronounced Caballero dead at the scene.
Caballero’s death outraged residents, who had long demanded more security at the building. City Council Member Inez Barron told the Daily News, “This is the third time that a senior in this residence has been found murdered inside their own apartment. The prior two incidents are yet to be resolved. They are still open cases, and I’m very concerned about that as well.”
Resident Myrtle McKenny’s home health aide called police on November 9th, 2015, because the 82-year-old was unconscious in her apartment. McKenny was pronounced dead at the scene, and a month later, the medical examiner determined she was the victim of a homicide, after being stabbed in the back of her neck. At the time, the NY Times noted that the building’s lobby and halls did not have cameras, though residents had asked for them.
Nearly four years later, police found Jacolia James, 83, unconscious in her 11th floor 393 Powell Street apartment on April 30, 2019. James’s grandson found her with trauma to her head and neck, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Again, residents called for more security; they said that there was only a security camera above a delivery door to the senior center, but still no cameras at the entrance or lobby.
Harrison said on Thursday that forensic evidence was found at James’s crime scene.
James’s daughter sued NYCHA in 2020 for the lack of security measures in the building, faulting the agency for not having security cameras or guard. The suit said, “Despite this 2015 murder, no security measures of any type were implemented to protect the safety and security of residents.”
The investigation is ongoing, Harrison said, adding that it was possible the killings stemmed over disagreements over money.
NYPD Chief of Housing David Barrere said, “NYCA put in four cameras [in the lobby] approximately one year ago, they were slated to have 65 additional cameras put into that building. Unfortunately, COVID hit and the capital budget was taken away, so they were never installed.”
The cameras did not play a role in the case, Barrere said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, whose office is part of the investigation, said he was confident “we have the right person in custody.” He hopes to impanel a grand jury soon to indict Gavin.
Gavin will be in court later today, where he will be assigned an attorney.