Families of alleged serial killer’s victims blame NYCHA for poor security

Brooklyn

BROWNSVILLE, Brooklyn — Three families were reeling Thursday at the news that the man accused of murdering their elderly relatives had been identified and arrested, even with the reality that their loved ones would never return.

The suspect, Kevin Gavin, 66, lived in the same building as his three victims, would get paid to run errands for them, and allegedly murdered them over money.

NYPD officials said detectives spent years looking at him, but didn’t have enough to charge him. This time, they did: forensic evidence from his most recent alleged victim.

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NYPD detectives walked Kevin Gavin out of the 73rd Precinct station in Brownsville Thursday evening in handcuffs.

Gavin was silent, ignoring questions about his alleged crimes: murdering three elderly residents, each of whom were neighbors of his at the Woodson Houses, over the last several years.

Steven Caballero’s mother, 78-year old Juanita Caballero, was found murdered last Friday, found in the hallway of her building strangled with a telephone cord. Her death is what ultimately led police to Gavin.

“I’m heartbroken,” he said. “My mother was brutally murdered. Brutally murdered. I can never get the vision of seeing my mother out of my eyes. NYCHA failed our families.”

Steven Caballero blames NYCHA for not having the appropriate security protocols in place, specifically more vigilant guards and surveillance cameras.

To understand why the Caballero family is zeroing in on the failure to install security cameras in the hallways, you have to go back to 2015, when Gavin’s first alleged victim, 82-year old Myrtle McKinney, was found murdered inside her own apartment.

Then in 2019, police discovered the body 83-year old Jacolia James, also inside her own apartment.

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McKinney was found with stab wounds; James suffered head trauma.

“We need 24-hour security,” Travis James, Jacolia James’ grandson, said. “No 9-to-5 people who don’t want to [or are] afraid to do something because they only make $8 an hour, so why risk their lives for it?

NYPD Chief of Housing Dave Barrere said the coronavirus pandemic is to blame for the Woodson Houses’ lack of security cameras.

“They were slated to have 65 additional cameras put into the building, and unfortunately, COVID hit, and the budget, and the capital budget, was taken away,” he said.

City Council member Inez Barron, joined by other community leaders, argued Thursday hallway security cameras may have saved lives.

“When people understand that, at the outset, there are cameras, and they know that they are in the building, they know that they can be recorded,” Barron said.

A spokesperson for NYCHA would not disclose what security company provides guards for the Woodson Houses, but did tell PIX11, “This building currently has a lobby camera, security doors and locks, and a security guard, and we are also working diligently with our City partners to expedite the installation of CCTV cameras.”

Barron also accused the NYPD of negligence. She pointed to missteps in the NYPD’s investigation into the death of the first victim — McKinney — in 2015, adding it became a criminal case only after the family’s funeral director, not detectives, found stab wounds in the back of the victim’s neck.

One of the three victim’s families has already filed a lawsuit against the city.

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