Mysterious death of Brooklyn philanthropist ruled a homicide
The mysterious death of a beloved Brooklyn philanthropist who was known as “the Santa Claus of the block” has been ruled a homicide, police said Tuesday.
Antonio Litman’s lifeless body was discovered inside the lobby of his four-story Fort Greene brownstone on Adelphi Street with puncture wounds to his neck and chest after firefighters put out a blaze there early Monday, cops said.
The 55-year-old founder of Virginia’s House of Hope — a nonprofit that says it has distributed food, clothing and school supplies to more than 10,000 families — was apparently dead before the 3:30 a.m. fire started, law enforcement sources have said.
FDNY Fire Marshals are investigating the cause of the blaze and the city Medical Examiner will determine Litman’s cause of death.
Meanwhile, some neighbors on the block between Dekalb and Willoughby avenues feared Tuesday that Litman let people get “too close” to him.
“He would mingle with everyone and that was my concern,” said Jayce Bartok, a local filmmaker. “People just assumed things about him like he had a lot of money, but I’m not sure if he had a lot of money.”
Bartok added that Litman was a “generous” man and that “there were a lot of people he was looking out for.”
“He was a very social person. He had these incredible parties,” Bartok recalled. “His parties would reflect this social and economic mix. He truly embraced all kinds of people. I never met an individual that was that social and outgoing.”
Bartok said that he saw Litman about three days before the do-gooder turned up dead.
“He said he was getting ready for 2020 and wanted to rent out his place,” Bartok remembered. “He seemed like in a very 2020 mood, very lowkey…nothing out of the ordinary.”
Bartok, who called Litman “the mayor of Fort Greene,” noted that Litman installed security cameras on the home in recent years.
“I don’t think there was any sense of danger, but in the landscape of New York maybe he was a target,” said Bartok. “If someone had ulterior motives, he was a target. I was genuinely concerned for him over the last few years.”
Neighbors previously said that Litman was known as the “Santa Claus” of the street due to how he would dole out hover boards and other lavish gifts to local kids.
“He was always sitting on the stoop. He was the type of person to say hello to you if you looked his way,” said one neighbor who added that Litman once offered to help pay for her college tuition.
No arrests have yet been made in the death.
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