Investigators have uncovered DNA evidence linking slain Brooklyn businessman Menachem Stark to a van that police seized earlier this month in the investigation of his abduction, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the case.
The light-colored van was grabbed by police about two weeks ago after they spotted it on a street in Brooklyn, officials said at the time. A person who was about to enter the vehicle when police approached willingly surrendered it to investigators and was not arrested. Police found the new evidence after examining the vehicle's interior, said the source, who didn't want to be named.
The new evidence appears to be a significant development for police, who have been using a variety of forensic and technological advances to try to piece together what happened to Stark, 39, after he was accosted and forced into a van outside his Williamsburg office late on the evening of Jan. 2. Stark's partially burned body was found the next day by police in a trash bin at a Getty station on Cutter Mill Road in Great Neck.
Surveillance cameras photographed Stark being forced into a white van during a snowstorm. Other cameras recorded the van driving on the streets of Brooklyn. Police also have examined license plate readers working that night but apparently have not come up with anything on that particular van, said the source.
A married father of seven who was well known in Williamsburg's Hasidic community, Stark was besieged by business troubles and mortgage defaults, and had been branded by some critics as a slumlord, a characterization his family and friends have denied. Investigators have been going over his business records, information about former employees he fired and looking into the possibility he borrowed money from criminals, said a law enforcement official briefed on the case.
South Side House LLC, a real estate company Stark co-owned, has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since 2009. A bankruptcy trustee said in court papers that about $1.7 million had been improperly taken from a company bank account in the weeks before Stark died.