BROWNSVILLE, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A man arrested in the death of a 78-year-old woman who was found strangled with a telephone cord inside her Brooklyn apartment building is actually a serial killer, police said, charged in three murders in the same complex.
Juanita Caballero's body was found just before 5 p.m. on January 15 in the hallway of her Powel Street apartment at the Carter G. Woodson NYCHA senior housing development in the Brownsville section.
Officials identified the suspect as 66-year-old Kevin Gavin, the brother of Leon Gavin, who lived in the building who was known to help elderly residents with their errands.
Leon Gavin died in April of 2020, and Kevin Gavin moved into the apartment. At that point, he had been identified as a suspect in a 2019 death, and by extension, in an unsolved 2015 death.
It is unclear at this point why he was allowed to move into his brother's apartment.
"He had a relationship with our victims," NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said. "He used to run errands for them. What we believe is, it sounds like the reason he might have committed these acts is over an argument over money or finances."
Some elected officials and relatives of the victims are accusing the NYPD of negligence and racism, alleging the investigation was not taken as seriously as it should have been after the first murder.
Caballero's son told police he found the body. The front door was locked, and the son said he tried to perform CPR. The Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death to be asphyxia.
Detectives said there was no sign of forced entry, and nothing appeared to be taken.
"I'm heartbroken," Steven Caballero said. "My mother was brutally murdered."
In November of 2015, 82-year-old Myrtle McKinney was discovered dead on her kitchen floor by police.
The death was initially ruled to be natural causes but later reclassified as homicide after the funeral director found a knife wound on the back of her neck. She also suffered three broken ribs.
"Relieved there's an arrest and surprised it's over five years later," her son, Mark Lewis, said. "Didn't think it would take that long. Have to move forward and see what's next."
Detectives are said to have long eyed Gavin, but he was never charged due to lack of evidence.
He is also now suspected in the 2019 death of 83-year-old Jacolia James, discovered dead in her 11th floor apartment with trauma to her head and torso.
"There is no reasons or excuses that is enough for our family," said Lamarr Crafton, James' oldest grandson. "This community needs public safety. It needs consistency. It needs to trust the good guys to be here."
Councilwoman Inez Barron and Assemblyman Charles Barron held a news conference Thursday afternoon with the victims' family members in which they placed the blame squarely on the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"We're calling on the city, state, and national resources to look into all of these murders, homicides, that were here," Inez Barron said. "This has been a string of deaths that have occurred in a senior development, and we're saying the NYPD has been negligent...and not put resources into solving these crimes in a timely manner."
A fourth death in the building in 2019, Henry Higgins, is not being linked at the moment, but the investigation is ongoing. The Barrons, however, say that death is also suspicious.
"If these were white senior citizens, you would have taken this case more seriously the first time around," Charles Barron said. "This is unconscionable and unacceptable...we're not going to stand for it. We demand respect for our senior citizens."
They cited delays in installing additional cameras and lighting, despite adequate funding, and what they call a laissez-faire approach to the investigation.
"They had time to do something, they just won't do something," Steven Caballero said. "I need the mayor to step up, the governor to step up, NYCHA...y'all didn't do your jobs."
Gavin is facing three counts of second-degree murder.
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