The violent deaths of three elderly women allegedly slain by a handyman who performed odd jobs inside their units left a “chilling effect” at the housing complex, say authorities

By KC Baker
March 03, 2021 01:00 PM
Jacolia "Jackie" James, Myrtle McKinney, Juanita “Jenny” Caballero
Jacolia "Jackie" James, Myrtle McKinney, Juanita “Jenny” Caballero
| Credit: Facebook; Family Photo; GoFundMe

For the past five years, residents of a New York City apartment building have lived on edge after three elderly women were slain inside their homes, sparking fear of a serial killer in their midst.

On Tuesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced that a Brooklyn handyman has been indicted and charged with murder for allegedly strangling or stabbing three women who lived in his building in the New York City Housing Authority's Carter G. Woodson houses in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn.

Kevin Gavin, 66, was arrested on Jan. 21, the district attorney says in a statement.

Gavin was indicted and charged with first- and second-degree murder for allegedly killing the three elderly women who lived in his building from 2015 to this past January.

"These victims were mothers, grandmothers and beloved friends whose violent deaths have had a chilling effect inside their housing complex and on the Brownsville community," Gonzalez says in the statement.

As a handyman, Gavin gained the victims' trust after performing odd jobs for them inside their units, authorities say.

Kevin Gavin
Kevin Gavin
| Credit: PIX 11

The first slaying took place on November 8, 2015, at approximately 2 p.m., when Gavin allegedly fatally stabbed Myrtle McKinney, 82, in the neck with a steak knife inside her apartment.

Her home health aide found her body, CBS New York reports.

At first, authorities believed she had died of natural causes, CBS New York reports. But then a funeral director found a stab wound in her neck, The New York Times reports.

Nearly four years later, on April 30, 2019, at approximately 11:45 p.m., Gavin allegedly strangled Jacolia James, 83, inside her apartment. Her grandson was the one who found her, according to CBS New York.

Authorities also allege that on January 14, 2021, at approximately 10 a.m., while robbing Juanita Caballero, 78, inside her apartment, Gavin killed her by wrapping a phone cord around her neck.

Woodson Houses
Woodson Houses
| Credit: Kathy Willens/AP/Shutterstock

One of her sons, Steven Caballero, found his mother's body.

"My mother was brutally murdered, brutally murdered," Steven Caballero said, the Times reports. "I'm sorry this is tough on me, it's still fresh. I can never get the vision of seeing my mother out of my eyes."

It was this slaying that led to Gavin's arrest, say authorities.

A few days after Caballero was killed, Gavin was allegedly recorded on video surveillance in several different locations using stolen debit and benefit cards that belonged to her, the district attorney says in the statement.

Gavin was apprehended by investigators from the New York City Police Department on January 21.

"Mr. Gavin was familiar with many of the residents in the building and ran errands for some of the elderly tenants who resided at that location," NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said at the time of Gavin's arrest, CBS New York reported.

Gavin allegedly told investigators "that he argued with each of the victims over money he said they owed him and that the defendant fought with each victim prior to their death," the district attorney says in the statement.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

DNA evidence recovered from James' body was matched to the defendant, the statement says.

"This defendant is an alleged serial killer who murdered three of his elderly neighbors who trusted him and welcomed him into their homes only to have that trust violated in the worst way imaginable," Gonzalez says in the statement.

"We will do everything we can to seek justice for the victims and the many family members and friends who were left without their loved ones."

Gavin was arraigned on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty.

He was ordered held without bail and will remain in custody until his next court date, which is scheduled for July 6.

He faces a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Gavin's attorney declined comment on the allegations.

Caballero's oldest son, Peter Caballero, told the Times, "I'm happy that they got somebody, but I'm hoping that they can go through the whole process and, you know, make sure he's guilty, make sure it's the right person, and make sure if it is the right person that he pays for what he has done."

Lamarr Crafton, James' oldest grandson, told the Times that residents of the complex had lived in fear for years. He said he hoped police would regularly patrol it.

"These are human beings in there," he told the Times. "We don't know whose grandmother and grandfather could be next."