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Kidnapped Hasidic Landlord Found Dead

Menachem Stark’s body discovered in a dumpster at a Long Island gas station

Stephanie Butnick
January 06, 2014
Menachem Stark. (ELI WOHL/VIN NEWS)
Menachem Stark. (ELI WOHL/VIN NEWS)

The body of Menachem Stark, the well-known Hasidic landlord who was kidnapped outside his office in Williamsburg late Thursday night, was discovered in a dumpster outside a gas station in Great Neck, Long Island, Friday afternoon. Stark, who surveillance video captured being approached by two men as he left his office at 331 Rutledge Street on Thursday night, attempted to fend off the attackers for several minutes before being thrown into a beige minivan. His wife alerted the local Shomrim, who notified the NYPD and issued a missing persons report.

Stark’s body was charred, the New York Times reports.

Fernando Cerff, who owns the Getty gas station where Mr. Stark’s body was found and is a snowplow operator, said he arrived to work at 7 on Friday morning and noticed smoke coming from the open trash bin. Thinking a colleague had thrown a lit cigarette away, Mr. Cerff said, he threw some snow into the bin without looking and left in his truck to plow.

When he returned at 3 p.m., he noticed the smell.

“I went to throw out the garbage and it smells terrible. I was sick,” he said. “The police came and found a body.”

No motive or suspects have been identified in the grisly case. According to the Times, Stark and his business partner, Israel Perlmutter, had been sued several times for defaulting on loans and declared bankruptcy in 2009 after defaulting on a $29 million loan for a large property in Brooklyn.

The New York Post took a different approach, making Stark’s murder Sunday’s cover story, accompanied by the headline, “Who didn’t want him dead?” The controversial article, which has sparked outrage among the Hasidic community (more on that later today), suggests that there was a long list—they described it as “a mile long”—of people angry at Stark over various business dealings gone sour.

We’ll update you as we learn more about any potential suspects and motives.

Stark is survived by a wife and seven children, the oldest of whom is 16. He’s the brother of Cantor Yaakov Yosef Stark, seen here reciting a Kel Molei Rachamim, or prayer for the departed, for the renowned Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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