A man accused of storming into the home of Rav Chaim Leibush Rottenberg in Forshay, Monsey, and stabbing five people as they celebrated Chanukah was raised to embrace tolerance but has a history of mental illness, his family said.
“Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime,” his family said late Sunday in a statement issued by attorney Michael Sussman. “He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups.”
“We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness,” the statement said.
“Finally, we express our deepest concern and prayers for those injured physically and otherwise deeply affected by the events of Saturday night. … We thank those who rendered medical attention to each of those injured.”
Thomas, 37, was arraigned Sunday and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Bail was set at $5 million, and he remains jailed.
Thomas’s criminal history includes an arrest for assaulting a police horse, according to an official briefed on the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A lawyer representing Thomas at the arraignment said he had no convictions.
The Greenwood Lake street where Thomas lived with his mother, about 20 miles from Monsey, was blocked with police tape Sunday as FBI agents and police officers carried items from their home.
The FBI was seeking a warrant to obtain his online accounts and were scouring digital evidence, the official said.