Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
The hardware store clerk accused of brutally killing a Brooklyn boy frequented karaoke bars, dreamed of appearing on "American Idol" and wanted kids of his own some day, his ex-wife told WNYC.
Levi Aron, 35, was arraigned on murder and kidnapping charges on Thursday in the grisly slaying of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, whom he allegedly plucked from a Brooklyn sidewalk July 11.
"He wanted to have his own kids, but was also happy to have my two, and he was content with that," Debbie Kivel, Aron’s ex-wife, told WNYC in an interview. Kivel, who lives in Tennessee, has two children — 10 and 13 — from a previous marriage.
Kivel, 34, said she met Aron online at a Jewish dating website and later found him on Friendster in December 2005. They married shortly after, and Aron quit his job at the Brooklyn hardware store where he was working to join Kivel at her home in Memphis, Tennessee.
The mother of two said she last spoke to Aron on July 4, when he was on vacation in Orlando, and there was no indication something was wrong: "He sounded good and in good spirits, making jokes like he always does," Kivel said.
A little over a week later, Aron would be accused of abducting an 8-year-old boy, cutting him into pieces and stashing parts in a suitcase and some in his refrigerator.
"It was inconceivable that he could do anything like this," Kivel said.
When Aron pleaded not guilty to murder and kidnapping charges, his lawyers claimed he heard voices and had hallucinations. But his ex-wife said she never heard him talking of hallucinations and never noticed any signs of mentally unstable behavior.
Kivel said Aron was shy and sometimes slow, but thought it stemmed from a car accident when Aron was 9 or 11. She said he loved watching "American Idol," and fantasized of one day appearing on the show. He liked songs by Lionel Richie, and had a special computer at home for his karaoke songs.
In the morning he liked watching "Saved by the Bell" on TV.
The couple married in February 2006, and divorced in 2008. Kivel said they divorced because of “irreconcilable differences,” and that they had a “clash of character.”
Aron was excitable once he started talking and “when I tried getting a word in edgewise, that kind of upset him," Kivel said.
Aron was briefly engaged to another woman after his divorce, but that ended abruptly, according to Kivel.