US & Canada

Man suspected of killing four appears in New York court

Maksim Gelman, escorted by police in Brooklyn, NY 13 February 2011
Image caption Gelman was taken to court in shackles

A man accused of killing four people in a 28-hour rampage in New York City has made a brief court appearance.

Ukrainian-born Maksim Gelman, 23, was charged in Brooklyn with stabbing his stepfather, ex-girlfriend and her mother to death, before fatally running over a pedestrian.

As he was led into court, Gelman shouted that it "was a set-up".

His lawyer said there were "many things he wants to discuss about what happened".

Public defender Michael Baum said Mr Gelman was now "calm" and "rational", but added he could not say anything about his mental state on Friday, when he is alleged to have committed the crimes.

Mr Gelman appeared in court wearing a white tracksuit, after his bloodstained clothing was kept by police as evidence. His wrists and ankles were in shackles.

Mr Gelman is now being held without bail.

'Stabbed 11 times'

The attacks are said to have begun around 0500 local time (1000 GMT) on Friday when Mr Gelman allegedly killed his stepfather, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, in Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay neighbourhood.

Image caption Police say the first attack took place at the Brooklyn house where Gelman lived

The suspect had had a fight with his mother after she refused to allow him to use her car, a Lexus, and 54-year-old Mr Kuznetsov had intervened, police said.

Less than six hours later, at about 1030 local time, Mr Gelman went to his ex-girlfriend's home where he killed her 56-year-old mother, Anna Bulchenko.

Yelena Bulchenko, 20, is said to have discovered her mother and called police.

The attacker, who was still in the house, then chased her outside and stabbed her 11 times.

Police said he drove away in the Lexus, hitting another car in Brooklyn's Midwood neighbourhood.

When the driver confronted him, Mr Gelman allegedly stabbed him three times in the chest. The victim survived and is in a stable condition.

The suspect then allegedly hit a pedestrian, 62-year-old Stephen Tanenbaum, who died of his injuries.

'Knife in hand'

At about 0100 local time on Saturday, the suspect confronted a cab driver in the Crown Heights area, stabbing him. He then approached a couple in a Nissan and stabbed the man in the hand several times before taking their car. Both men survived.

Later that morning, according to Commissioner Kelly's account, a passengers on an upper Manhattan train got off and told police officers a man fitting Mr Gelman's description had knocked a newspaper out of her hand and said: "Do you believe what they're writing about me?"

Police say Mr Gelman then got off the train, crossed the tracks and boarded a different train where he stabbed a passenger, Joseph Lozito.

"He's two or three feet away from me, and he pulls this knife out, looks me in the eye and says, 'You're gonna die'," Mr Lozito told the New York Post.

Mr Gelman then made his way up to the driver's compartment and knocked on it, claiming to be police, Commissioner Kelly said.

A police officer in the driver's cab opened the door and wrestled Mr Gelman to the ground, knocking a knife from his hand before he was taken into custody.

Police described Mr Gelman as an unemployed drug user with 10 previous arrests, mostly linked to graffiti and drugs.

He was born in Ukraine, and he and his mother became US citizens about five years ago, Commissioner Kelly said.

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