Alleged Midwood arsonist indicted for attempted murder

July 15, 2019 Kelly Mena
The fire caused signficant damage. Photo via FDNY
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Brooklyn’s district attorney today announced attempted murder and arson charges against a 41-year-old Pennsylvania man for intentionally setting fire to a rabbi’s home in Midwood.

DA Eric Gonzalez’s office on Monday arraigned Matthew Karelefsky of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, before Brooklyn Supreme Court on a 17-count indictment, charging him with first-degree attempted murder, second-degree arson, second-degree attempted murder and related charges for setting fire to a home on East 17th Street that injured 11 people, including a six-week-old infant, four first responders and two police officers.

“This defendant allegedly traveled to Brooklyn with the sole intent to kill and had no concern for the dozens of people he deliberately put in harm’s way,” said Gonzalez in a statement.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, on June 13 around 3:50 a.m. a rabbi of a local yeshiva and his wife awoke to a fire in their three-story home at 1492 E. 17th St. The fire spread to two homes on either side of the property, causing 13 residents and an infant to evacuate, with many individuals being treated for smoke inhalation.

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Fire marshals determined that the fire was intentionally set and began underneath the rabbi’s front porch, where remnants of charcoal, lighter boxes, plastic and rags were discovered, supposedly drenched in accelerant.

Officials say video surveillance obtained from across the street shows the defendant setting the fire, while additional footage from the day before  shows Karelefsky purchasing charcoal and matches.

The charges come about a month after the defendant was initially arrested on June 15. At the time of his arrest, he was wearing a pink shirt with a white collar — the same clothing the defendant was allegedly seen wearing the day of the fire.

The 41-year-old is said to have a tattoo that reads, “Never let go of the HATRED — KILL Rabbi Max” and to have previously published numerous social media posts declaring his hatred and intent to harm the rabbi.

Karelefsky was ordered held without bail and is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 10. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top count.

“I intend to prosecute this case vigorously and hold this defendant accountable for his alleged crimes,” added the district attorney in his statement.

Karelefsky’s attorney declined to comment.

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