Grieving mother tells how the 'Brooklyn Ripper' stabbed her six-year-old son to death
At 6pm on June 1, 2014, two children walked into an elevator. Prince Joshua Avitto and his friend Mikayla Capers were excited and chattering loudly. It was a hot summer day, and they were returning home after a day of fun and games at a nearby playground in Brooklyn, NYC. A large, burly man followed them inside the building and got into the elevator with them. His name was Daniel St Hubert and he was living on the streets. As the little boy and girl talked, St Hubert asked them to be quiet repeatedly, but the children paid the strange grown-up no heed. Only one of them would leave the elevator alive.
St Hubert drew out an eight-inch-long blade and brutally stabbed both children multiple times. The Brooklyn Ripper then dropped the knife and fled the scene, spotted by dozens of eyewitnesses as he made his escape. Young Mikayla suffered a collapsed lung as a result of her injuries, and spent nine days recovering in the hospital. Her friend PJ died at the scene. He was only 16 days away from celebrating his seventh birthday.
The vagrant who killed PJ was arrested four days later; matching a DNA sample on the knife to his DNA obtained from a state criminal database. He was delusional, and insisted that Satan had compelled him to carry out the homicide. In May 2018 he was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, despite the fact that St Hubert continually maintained his innocence. Now PJ Avitto's mother, Aricka McClinton, has opened up about her grief, and spoken about her son's tragic death.
Commenting on the loss of her son, McClinton stated: "He was murdered by some deranged man, who had nothing better to do than walk into our home and stab two innocent children. St Hubert still gets to live his life, even if it is in jail – but PJ is never coming back. I hate to feel so angry, but it’s unfair. We had so many plans together. This has taught me to live for the day, and not put anything on hold, as you never know what’s around the corner;
"I would never have left PJ by himself. I’d take him right outside myself and keep a close eye on him, but it was common for all the kids to play together. There was a stoop outside and they’d all gather round there and call it their office. I’ve moved elsewhere in New York now, although I still go back to Brooklyn, but it’s very sullen and sad to see that neighbourhood."
On the day of the fatal stabbing, McClinton had left PJ in the care of his godmother, and assumed that her son would be safe in the apartment block lift of their own neighbourhood. It wasn't until after PJ had been stabbed that she was made aware what had happened. "The first I knew that something was wrong, a neighbour was banging on my door saying, ‘PJ has been hurt,’" she stated, "I was frantic, trying to get outside, but there were so many people there. I heard somebody scream that there had been a stabbing. The whole street was frantic. I kept shouting, ‘Where is my son?’ Then I saw PJ and Mikayla being loaded into an ambulance."
She added: "When they said he didn’t make it, I passed out. I came to and everybody was screaming and crying. A nurse came over and told me they’d wash my baby up and bring me to see him ... This should never have happened. We need far more protection, but I can’t change this all by myself, and sadly not many people these days want to help. I will continue to fight, though, and continue to remember PJ for the sweet, funny, gentle child that he was."
Since PJ's death, a local community centre has been opened in his name in Brooklyn, and Aricka is determined to set up a scholarship to help children from the area make it to college, and to form a neighbourhood watch to keep the area safe. His school also includes him in their graduation ceremonies - moving him up along with his classmates, as if he were still alive. His family and friends will never forget him, and despite mourning his loss, his mother is determined to keep fighting.