Man accused of Hanukkah stabbings indicted on attempted murder, assault charges

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Ramapo police officers escort Grafton Thomas from Ramapo Town Hall to a police vehicle, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Ramapo, N.Y. Thomas is accused of stabbing multiple people as they gathered to celebrate Hanukkah at a rabbi’s home in the Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City. (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

MONSEY, N.Y. — The man accused of stabbing multiple people at a New York Hanukkah celebration has been indicted on assault and attempted murder charges, Rockland County District Attorney Tom Walsh said Friday.

Grafton Thomas, 37, allegedly slashed at least six people with the intent to cause their deaths, authorities said.

Thomas had pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder in connection with the December 28 stabbings. A judge set his bail at $5 million.

Walsh said Friday the indictment charged six counts of attempted murder in the second degree, three counts of assault in the first degree, three counts of attempted assault in the first degree and two counts of burglary in the first degree.

The sixth victim is another son of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, who hosted the Hanukkah celebration at his home, a law enforcement source told CNN Friday.

Meyer Rottenberg suffered a superficial wound when he ran into a room and closed the door while the suspect was chasing him, the source told CNN. He was not hospitalized.

CNN previously reported that Rabbi Rottenberg’s other son, Shloime, was also injured in the incident.

Shloime Rottenberg was hit in the side of the head by the suspect’s machete during the attack and doctors had to use three staples to close his wounds, Rabbi Shmuel Gancz told CNN.

Suspect faces federal hate crime charge

Federal prosecutors have also charged Thomas with obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill — a federal hate crime.

At a news conference Friday, Walsh called the attack a “violent and heinous crime.”

The assault disrupted an Orthodox Jewish gathering the night of December 28 in the home of a rabbi in the hamlet of Monsey, about 30 miles north of New York City.

In a criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent Julie S. Brown said investigators found journal entries in Thomas’ home that “express anti-Semitic sentiments.”

But Thomas’ family, in a statement released by his attorney, Michael H. Sussman, said the suspect “has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races.”

After slashing his victims, the suspect tried to enter a nearby synagogue before community members shut the doors and kept him out, witnesses said. Thomas was at large for about an hour before police arrested him in Harlem without a struggle.

Thomas had been interviewed by police in connection with the stabbing of a Jewish man five weeks earlier in the same town, Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said this week.

On November 20, an Orthodox Jewish man walking to synagogue in Monsey was stabbed and slashed, police said.

Police questioned Thomas after seeing a car on surveillance video that they believed might be a Honda Pilot registered to Thomas’ mother. Weidel said that there was no indication the car was used in the crime.

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