Brooklyn Philanthropist Known As 'Santa Claus Of The Block' Found Dead In His Brownstone After It Was Set Ablaze
He was also found with multiple stab wounds.
A beloved Brooklyn philanthropist was found dead in his Adelphi Street brownstone when firefighters responded to a fire at the home.
L. Antonio Litman was found on the first floor of the four-story home with multiple stab wounds to his neck and chest on Monday, reports NBC New York. A body of fire surrounded him. Firefighters went to the house just after 3:30 a.m. and declared the 55-year-old was dead before the blaze.
The fire was listed as “suspicious” by authorities, but the death wasn’t ruled a homicide until Tuesday. Fire marshals are investigating the fire, and medical examiners are in the process of determining the official cause of death.
Litman, who was dubbed the “Santa Claus of the block,” lived in New Jersey but spoke to a family member around 11 p.m. saying he was at the Brooklyn home. The Fort Greene brownstone housed his nonprofit, Virginia’s House of Hope. The charity works with local public schools to help families in need get food, clothing and other basic necessities, per the website. Since 2006, they have “distributed school supplies, food, clothing and educational toys to over 10,000 families.”
The humanitarian is a South Carolina native but moved to New York and took up charity work. He opened his nonprofit after being inspired by the work of his boss’ mother, Virginia Maitland Sachs, the organization's namesake.
George Litman, the deceased's brother, told New York Daily News he was “not surprised” his brother’s death is being investigated as a murder. He said detectives recovered surveillance footage from the house.
“It’s someone who was close to him,” he said. “He had stab wounds to his neck. They did what they did and took my brother’s life for no reason."
The philanthropist’s cousin, Kim Litman, is heartbroken over his death.
“He’s loved by everybody so why would someone want to hurt him?" she asked. “Whoever did this, I want them to be locked up and get the death penalty. This is not right.”
Neighbors were concerned that Litman got too close to people who might have wanted his money, according to the New York Post.
“He would mingle with everyone and that was my concern,” said Jayce Bartok, a local filmmaker. “People just assumed things about him like he had a lot of money, but I’m not sure if he had a lot of money.”
Bartok said he was concerned for Litman.
“I don’t think there was any sense of danger, but in the landscape of New York, maybe he was a target,” said Bartok. “If someone had ulterior motives, he was a target.”
One year, Litman gifted the children on his block hoverboards for Christmas.
“He funded my whole Christmas, ” a woman who said she’s Litman’s cousin told the New York Daily News. “I have six children and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to provide a Christmas for them. He bought them bikes, he bought them toys. Everything they wanted.”
Before responding to the Adelphi Street fire, firefighters responded to a fire in a Queens Village home where another person was found dead. The calls were placed minutes apart, but there has been no connection made between the two. No arrests have been made in either case.