Parents’ Nightmare: Brooklyn Boy Abducted On First Walk Home From School, Found Dismembered

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On Monday afternoon, eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky went missing after walking home from school. Early this morning, his remains were found both in a trash can and in a Brooklyn refrigerator. Police already have a suspect in custody. Although this trajectory of a child walking home alone is pretty standard in missing children’s cases, this tragedy has some very striking details: This was little Liebby’s first walk home alone. And he was only walking six blocks.

The New York Times reports:

The police said it was the boy’s first day of walking home by himself. “He’d asked his parents’ permission to walk home alone and the parents were waiting outside” for him to return, [Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman] said.

The parents live on 15th Avenue. They were to meet their son at 13th Avenue and 50th Street; six blocks from the school.

The police retrieved other video showing the boy walking near a hardware store in the direction of where he was to meet his parents, but not quite at that spot.

Mr. Browne described the contents of another videotape showing the boy following a bearded man in dark trousers and a white shirt. Video recorded at 5:30 p.m. showed the same man entering a dentist’s office on 18th Avenue, in Brooklyn.

Frightening and devastating stories like Leibby’s are often framed by the media much like scare campaigns pointed directly at parents. The abduction of one child in one area in one particular set of circumstances is narrated as if it could have happened anywhere, particularly to you — viewer who also happens to be a parent to school-aged children like Liebby. While each of these stories in which children go missing or are brutally murdered are unique given the loss of such a young life, they almost always get spun into larger debates about modern parenting.

But an eight-year-old walking six blocks alone, in daylight no less, from school is hardly a poor parenting choice. As contemporary parents struggle over when exactly to instill independence, at what age to leave children alone in the home, how often to check in with their kids via cell phone, this story does seem to have particular cultural relevance. I know and have cared for many eight/nine/ten-year-olds who walk to the park unattended, specifically in safe neighborhoods in Brooklyn where the community is close-knit and there is another adult waiting for them. But after this story, I wonder if I still will.