Defense co-counsel Gerard Marrone abruptly resigned from the case, telling Eyewitness News that he simply could not in good conscience continue to represent Aron, who is accused of abducting and murdering an 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn.
"The allegations were too horrific, and it's not something I wanted to be involved in," he told Eyewitness News. "I have three boys. One of my sons is seven. I looked at my own children and there are no words. You see the victim and you feel so sad."
Marrone admitted there was a time earlier this week when he cried over Kletzky's death.
Marrone is an experienced defense attorney, who is also a former amateur boxer.
He walks with a limp because he was shot in the back when he was 21.
He's taken hits before, but he says he's had a difficult time dealing with the reality of this case.
"A little piece of me died when I got the case," Marrone said.
So he says he's giving up the case, not because of Levi Aron's guilt or innocence, but because of what Kletzky endured in the final minutes and hours of his life.
"Before I got involved I believed in the divinity of human beings, and when I got involved I questioned the divinity of human beings," Marrone said.
Marrone says the medical examiner's report was the final straw.
On Wednesday, investigators revealed that the 8-year-old had been drugged with a potent mixture of pain relievers and muscle relaxants before he was murdered.
"Knowing what he went through, just putting two and two together, you know they made more than one attempt," Marrone said.
They were surprisingly candid remarks from the accused killer's former attorney.
"Looking in his eyes what did you see?" Eyewitness News asked.
"How about I answer that question when the case is over. It is something I'll never forget," Marrone said.
Marrone and his co-counsel Pierre Bazile suggested last week that Aron was schizophrenic and said they were considering an insanity defense.
Bazile sought to downplay that speculation this afternoon
"Reports in the press that a so-called 'insanity defense' is planned are premature," he said in a statement. "Please refrain from publishing this erroneous information."
People in the community we spoke with insisted that an insanity plea would be an injustice.
Mourners gathered in Borough Park on Wednesday night, crying and singing at a memorial service.
"There's nothing we could say that could really affect the family as much as singing," said Benny Rogosnitzky, cantor at Park East Synagogue. "So we asked the family to come together with the community to sing and pray, and hopefully inspire them."
Leiby's father, Nachman Kletzky, joined the community. The service marked the end of the eight-day mourning period of Shiva.
Meanwhile, some chilling new details are emerging about how prosecutors say suspect Levi Aron killed the boy. Aron faces an eight-count indictment, including two counts of felony murder that have a penalty of life without parole.
The Medical Examiner says Leiby was given a mix of pain killers and muscle relaxants before being smothered and dismembered.
Prosecutors also say Aron took Leiby to a wedding in Monsey and then let the boy use a gas station rest room on the way back to Brooklyn. Did Leiby have a chance to escape?
"Did he have an opportunity? Was he too frightened to do anything about trying to escape? I don't know," Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said. "That's all speculative."
The Kletzky family has started the Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund. As of Thursday morning, they've raised $45,000 since the launch of the website.
More information can be found and donations can be made at www.leibykletzkymemorialfund.com.
Donations can also be sent to:
NACHMAN & ESTY KLETZKY
C/O RABBI BINYOMIN EISENBERGER
BROOKLYN, N.Y. 11219
Condolences can also be written to the Kletzky family online. The family will read all comments.
In the aftermath of the murder, New York City Council has introduced legislation known as "Leiby's Law." It's designed to help lost children find a safer way to ask for help. The proposed Leiby's Law would establish pre-screened businesses as safe havens for children in need of help across the city. Parents in the Orthodox Jewish community in Borough Park are also considering getting state-issued ID cards for their children.