Ramapo, New York (CNN)The suspect in a string of stabbings during a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s Monsey, New York, home was found with “blood all over him,” a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the case told CNN on Sunday.
Grafton Thomaswas driving a Nissan Sentra across the George Washington Bridge into New York City when his car’s tag was captured by a license plate reader at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.
Police apprehended Thomas without incident after midnight, a New York Police Department spokeswoman told CNN earlier Sunday.
Ramapo officers picked him up and transported him upstate, the spokeswoman said. Monsey is a hamlet within Ramapo, a town some 40 miles north of New York City.
Thomas is from Greenwood Lake, about a 40-minute drive northwest of Monsey. He was arraigned Sunday on five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary, Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel told reporters.
Wearing a white jumpsuit, Thomas was led into the courtroom in handcuffs. He kept his eyes on the floor and said nothing audible during the proceeding, speaking only to his attorney. A group of Orthodox Jews watched the hearing from the gallery.
Thomas entered a not guilty plea to the charges. His next court appearance is Friday.
During arguments over bail, Rockland County Senior District Attorney Michael Dugandzic said Thomas had no ties to the community. The prosecutor also said that one of the victims has a skull fracture and that when police stopped Thomas he had blood on his clothes and smelled strongly of bleach.
Public defender Kristine Ciganek argued her client had no criminal history and lived with his mother. He has been arrested twice, she said (Dugandzic said the defendant had been arrested earlier in the year for menacing and reckless endangerment. It was not clear the outcome of those charges.)
Judge Rhoda Schoenberger set bail at $5 million and said, if released, Thomas must forfeit any firearms he owns, and stay away from the alleged victims and the rabbi’s Monsey home.
Rabbi’s son among victims
Five people were taken to hospitals near the rabbi’s home after the suspect entered the Hanukkah celebration in the New York suburb and began stabbing people, according to police and witnesses.
The victims were Hasidic Jews, the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley Region said in a tweet. Two people are in critical condition, council co-founder Yossi Gestetnertold CNN.
One of the victims was the son of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, at whose home the attack unfolded, and another victim suffered head wounds and is in serious conditions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The rabbi’s son is recovering, he said.
The attacker pulled out a knife that was “almost like a broomstick,” said Aron Kohn,who attended the Hanukkah celebration.
There were at least 100 people in the home at the time, as the rabbi was “lighting the candle” on the seventh night of Hanukkah, Kohn said.
The suspect tried to run into a nearby synagogue, but someone closed the doors, Kohn added.
Rockland County — where the stabbing took place — has the largest Jewish population per capita of any US county, according to New York state. About 90,000 residents, almost a third of the county’s population, are Jewish, Weidel said. Read more at https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/29/us/new-york-stabbing-rabbi-home/index.html