Bushwick Houses residents worry about killer on the loose, as they mourn neighbors who were slain

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BUSHWICK, Brooklyn — As police search for whoever tied up and fatally shot a grandmother at the Bushwick Houses, and also killed the man who lived next door to her, they're also tasked with reassuring residents that they're safe, while the killer is on the loose.

In addition, the community is in mourning, especially since one of the victims, Ana Devalle, 62, was very involved in the life of this public housing community.

"You had to know her," said Devalle's friend Dolores Byrd. "I'd ask her, 'Do you ever frown?' She was just a happy person."

Byrd reminisced about her friend outside of the community center at the Bushwick Houses. Byrd, who is a minister, gave out hugs to other neighbors and friends of Devalle, who were in tears.

They'd all spend days at the community center working on crafts and catching up on the latest gossip. On Monday afternoon, however, everybody was up to date on the goings on in this north Brooklyn public housing development, and the result of their knowledge was sadness.

"I don't know how to explain it," said resident Marlene Santana. "I was just in shock."

In Santana's building last Friday, Devalle was found by Devalle's adult daughter, according to witnesses. The grandmother's hands were bound, and she was dead from a gunshot wound.

Then, around 4:40 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Devalle's next-door neighbor, Basil Gray, 54, was found dead, after relatives who hadn't heard from him for a few days asked someone to check up on him.

"A homicide In that housing development is unusual," said NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea on Monday afternoon. "But to have two in a row, both by gunshots, on the same floor, we're exploring the possibility at this time of a link."

It still has not been proven. So detectives continue to probe every possible motive, lead and clue, while they also try to calm residents' nerves.

As part of the effort to reassure, the commander of all of NYPD Brooklyn North was on hand Monday afternoon at the scene, 140 Moore Street, inspecting the area, and trying to put fears to rest.

The commander, Asst. Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, also held a community meeting on Monday afternoon and recorded a Facebook video  to try to ensure people that police have their back.

The department increased around-the-clock patrols throughout the 10-building complex, and deployed a mobile command center. PIX11 News observed a constant presence of foot patrol officers, marked and unmarked police cruisers, detectives and community service officers walking throughout the complex and ascending to the fifth floor of the Devalle's and Gray's building.

The two victims had lived next to each other, in Apartments 5B and 5C. They were each found in their separate apartments.

Many questions remain regarding the double murder mystery. One of those questions was spelled out by the chief of detectives.

"Not at this time, as we stand here today," Chief Shea said, can police "determine if [the bullets] came from the same gun."

Both victims were shot by .38 caliber weapons, he said, and were shot sometime last Friday morning.

Nobody seems to have heard gunshots, and there was no apparent forced entry. A small amount of money was taken from Ana Devalle's apartment, according to police.

The biggest unanswered question, though, was asked by a friend of the older of the two victims.

"Nice person," said a member of Devalle's crocheting group, describing her. "She don't have a problem with no one. I don't know why someone would do this."

The NYPD has offered a $2500 reward for anyone with information leading to the killer or killers. Tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at 800.577.TIPS (8477) or online here. All contacts and information are kept confidential.

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