The deceased body of the kidnapped Orthodox Jewish real estate developer from Williamsburg, 39 year-old Menachem Starks, was discovered Friday afternoon in a smoldering dumpster at a Great Neck, Long Island gas station.
According to sources, initial reports are that Starks died of suffocation, but his body was also badly burned around the hands and midsection.
Tests are underway by the Nassau County medical examiner to determine whether the burns were post mortem.
Sources say employees of the Getty station noticed a small plume of smoke rising from the dumpster around 7 a.m. Friday morning, and assuming it was an errantly discarded cigarette, simply threw shovels full of snow over the top of the dumpster to distinguish the fire.
According to the NY Post, “In the morning, it was smoking,” said Fernando Cerff, owner of the gas station located at 120 Cuttermill Road in Great Neck. “We threw snow on it, and it stopped.”
Around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, Cerff said the smell of charred flesh overwhelmed him as he went to discard some trash in the dumpster.
“There was a smell—-it was horrible,” said Cerff. “I got a really bad feeling about it. I knew something was wrong.
The station was closed immediately, and the entire dumpster was removed from the property, with later reports saying that Starks’ body had been wrapped in fabric and set ablaze.
Initial reports are that Starks’ body was in the dumpster overnight.
Police were able to identify Starks’ body, but initially ran into difficulties contacting family members due to the timing of the weekly Jewish Sabbath.
“It’s a little hard to get ahold of some people,” one law enforcement source said of the difficulties contacting Starks’ family.
Ultimately, a contingency of NYPD detectives and community affairs reps visited Starks’ home at around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, where Starks’ family was assembled.
Starks had been missing since late Thursday evening after his wife said he failed to return home by midnight.
Family members subsequently contacted Shomrim, the Orthodox neighborhood watch group.
Videotaped surveillance footage showing two suspects duct-taping Starks’ hands before forcing him into a white Dodge Caravan outside his South Side Associates offices at 331 Rutledge St. in Willamsburg was found inside Starks’ office.
Shomrim officially notified police around 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. On Friday, family members offered a $100,000 reward for Starks’ safe return with “no questions asked.”
There were initial reports that Starks may have been carrying some $4,000 in cash when he was abducted, but his brother Yitzy Stark later denied them. Police released a grainy video of the abduction in asking for the public’s help. NYPD officials said only that the case is being investigated by the major case squad as a homicide.
The funeral will be held 8:30 tonight at 251 Marcy Ave at the Lodiner Shul.