Hanukkah stabbing suspect indicted on six charges of attempted murder

Grafton Thomas, 37, is also being investigated for another earlier stabbing on Nov. 30, police said.
Image: People gather at the residence of a rabbi where five people were stabbed during a Hannukah celebration in Monsey, N.Y., on Dec. 29, 2019.
People gather at the residence of a rabbi where five people were stabbed during a Hannukah celebration in Monsey, N.Y., on Dec. 29, 2019.Jeenah Moon / Reuters

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By David K. Li

A grand jury on Friday indicted the man accused of slashing at least a half-dozen people at a Hanukkah celebration near New York City on six counts of attempted murder, prosecutors said.

Grafton Thomas, 37, is also facing three counts of assault, three counts of attempted assault and two counts of burglary in connection to the attack at a rabbi's home in the hamlet of Monsey, a little more than 30 miles northwest of Midtown Manhattan, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas E. Walsh announced.

He could face up to 25 years behind bars if convicted on all charges.

In the days immediately after Thomas' alleged machete assault, police said five people were wounded.

But prosecutors changed that number on Friday, saying in their statement that Thomas "attacked numerous people inside the home, slashing at least six individuals, with the intent to cause their deaths."

The grand jury indictments were handed down about 24 hours after police revealed that Thomas had once been questioned in connection with a separate stabbing of an Orthodox Jewish man six weeks ago, police disclosed Thursday.

Thomas also faces federal charges for the Hanukkah attack.

Brad Weidel, police chief in the town of Ramapo, which includes Monsey, revealed that Thomas might have been involved in the Nov. 20 stabbing of the Orthodox Jewish man, who survived critical wounds he suffered while attacked during his walk to a synagogue.

Grainy security video showed that a Honda Pilot might have been involved in the Nov. 20 attack and Thomas' mom drives that make and model, police said. While Thomas was questioned for that assault, he could not be held.

That vehicle has been seized by police since Saturday night's attack. Weidel defended his department's handling of Thomas' possible connection to the Nov. 20 attack.

"We didn't know anything at that time and we had no evidence, and we had no probable cause to do anything other than follow a lead," Weidel told reporters Thursday at Ramapo Town Hall.

The victim of the Nov. 20 attack, whose name has not been released by authorities, is still recovering from his injuries. His wife told NBC News that she's grateful her husband is going to make it.

"He’s doing much better," she said, while declining to comment on Thomas' arrest and indictment.

Saturday night's machete attack left Josef Neumann, 72, in grave condition, with his loved ones struggling to cope with the senseless violence.

"The emotions fluctuate," Neumann's daughter, Nicky Kohen, told NBC New York. "We are sad, we're angry, we are outraged. We don't understand why this happened."

Neumann has been unconscious since Saturday's attack and remains in intensive care at Westchester Medical Center.

Weidel said his investigators also want to find out how Thomas allegedly came to pick his victims.

"We too want to know why this individual went to that location," Weidel said. "What connection, if any, there was to the congregation or the rabbi or that house? That's part of the investigation."

Defense lawyer Michael Sussman insists his client is not anti-Semitic, but suffers from mental illness.

Emily Berk contributed.