Before the bloody and fatal stabbing, it had been a summer day like any other.
Two best friends — 6-year-old PJ Avitto and 7-year-old Mikayla Capers — were enjoying the sun and playing tag outside a public housing complex in Brooklyn. Just before 6 p.m. that Sunday in 2014, the pair asked for permission to go to PJ’s home to get some Icees, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.
But as the pair got into an elevator to head upstairs, Daniel St. Hubert, 31, followed them, prosecutors said. When the children wouldn’t quiet down in the elevator after he asked, St. Hubert pulled out a nine-inch steak knife and began stabbing and slashing the children.
PJ was stabbed 11 times, and died of chest injuries at the scene on June 1, 2014. Mikayla, who had been stabbed 16 times, crawled to the entrance of the building — and “miraculously survived,” prosecutors said. After the attack, she spent nine days in the hospital.
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Mikayla, now 11, testified against St. Hubert in court, referring to him as “the bad man,” according to the New York Times. She said she knew her friend PJ was dead as soon as St. Hubert ran out of the elevator.
“His eyes were open,” Mikayla said as she described PJ’s appearance after the attack, CBS New York reports. “There was a bunch of blood on the floor.”
St. Hubert was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder charges for the crime that occurred nearly four years ago, the district attorney announced. It’s not the first time he’s faced prison time, either: St. Hubert had been release from prison just nine days before the 2014 attack occurred. He had been serving an attempted murder sentence, PIX 11 reports.
“It is impossible to fathom that someone would brutally stab small, innocent children who were going to get some Icees after playing in a playground,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. “But the evidence established beyond any doubt that the defendant committed this heinous crime and he has now been held responsible.”
The knife used in the attack had been left behind near the scene, prosecutors said. DNA evidence on the knife matched DNA from St. Hubert that was in a criminal database, which led to his arrest, prosecutors said. DNA from the blood on the knife matched the children.
During the trial, St. Hubert’s defense lawyer, Howard Greenberg, called the 11-year-old survivor of the attack “delusional,” and accused her of being “a pathological liar.” He also said the DNA match was “junk science,” the New York Times reports.
Greenberg got Mikayla to admit on the stand that, on occasion, she has told white lies, CBS reports.
But following two days of deliberation, the Brooklyn jury found St. Hubert guilty.
A witness had seen St. Hubert walk into the elevator and then leave the building soon after, prosecutors said. Others said they saw St. Hubert fleeing the scene and stumbling in the grass nearby. Surveillance camera footage showed St. Hubert just blocks from the scene 10 minutes after the attack. And at St. Hubert’s home, investigators found packaging from a cutlery set that included the kind of steak knife the children had been stabbed with, according to the district attorney’s office.
St. Hubert’s sentencing is set for May 15, prosecutors said. He faces 50 years to life in prison.
His lawyer told the New York Daily News that St. Hubert will appeal the verdict.
“I believe this case will be reversed on appeal,” Greenberg told the newspaper. “There was too much cheer amongst the jurors. This is not a happy time, no one should be laughing.”