NEW YORK — A man’s decapitated, dismembered body was found in an apartment in a luxury condominium building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on Tuesday afternoon, according to three law enforcement officials who were briefed on the matter.
The investigation was in its early stages Tuesday evening. Detectives had found an electric saw near the man’s torso, and his head and all but one of his limbs were missing, two of the officials said.
There were several plastic bags with unknown contents nearby, and it appeared that some effort had been made to clean up the evidence of what had happened, one of the officials said.
It was not immediately clear whether the dead man was the condo’s owner, but investigators were operating on the theory that he was, the law enforcement officials said. A sister of the condo owner made the gruesome discovery around 3:30 p.m. when she went to check on him after not hearing from him for a day, the officials said.
The saw was still plugged into an electrical outlet when the police arrived. Detectives were investigating whether the dismembering of the victim may have been interrupted by the arrival of the condo owner’s sister at the front door, prompting the killer to flee through another exit, one of the law enforcement officials said.
The death was not immediately labeled a homicide, and a Police Department spokesman said that the medical examiner’s office would determine the cause of death.
The building where the body was found, at 265 East Houston St. near Suffolk Street, is a 10-story, glass-and-brick structure that is among the expensive apartment towers that have risen in recent years in an area once defined by tenements.
The first condos in the building to go on the market in 2015 were 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom units with Italian marble kitchens and master baths, white oak floors and asking prices in the $2.5 million range, according to the website Curbed. Access to the apartments, Curbed noted, was via a private, keyed elevator.
Several of the building’s units were sold last year for prices ranging from about $2 million to about $2.4 million, according the website StreetEasy.
By 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, detectives and officers, including some with the Emergency Service Unit’s canine team, had cordoned off the corner at East Houston and Suffolk streets.
As some officers stood in front of the building, a canine officer led a German shepherd back and forth near the building while the dog sniffed at garbage bags and a side entrance.
Reporters and cameramen stood in Houston Street and across from the building on Suffolk, while patrons sat in the outdoor dining area of a Suffolk Street bar called Subject sipping drinks as more officers arrived.
Leslie Feinberg, who owns the bar with Brian Grummert, said that as “a nosy neighbor,” she had walked over to take a look when police cars, ambulances and fire trucks converged on the apartment building several hours earlier.
“I saw a young woman in hysterics” in the lobby, Feinberg said.
“From my understanding, she found the victim,” Feinberg said, adding that men wearing suits whom she took to be detectives had led the young woman from the scene.
Feinberg said she had come to know many of the building’s residents during the three years she has operated the bar. She described them as mostly well-off professionals in their 30s and 40s.
Word spread quickly that something bad had happened in the apartment building, she said.
“This neighborhood is very tight-knit,” she said. “It seemed within moments everybody knew what was happening.”
Her own reaction, Feinberg said, was “total shock.”
“You kind of forget New York City is New York City sometimes,” she said.
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