The man accused of entering the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York, on Dec. 28 and stabbing five people with a machete has pleaded not guilty.
Grafton E. Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, New York, faces five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. The motive for the attack remains unclear, although his family has attributed his actions to mental illness.
Around 10 p.m. on Dec. 28, Thomas allegedly entered Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home, where around 100 people were gathered to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah.
Josef Gluck, manager of Congregation Netzach Yisroel—the synagogue next to the rabbi’s home—said Thomas barged into the house, wearing a hoodie and scarf covering his entire face except his eyes. Gluck said the suspect then began indifferently hacking people in the dining room before moving on to the kitchen.
“He was just swinging his sword, knife—I don’t know what it was—back and forth hitting people. He didn’t say anything.”
According to police, a witness saw the suspect flee the scene in a car and alerted law enforcement to the vehicle’s license plate number.
Thomas was arrested in Harlem covered in blood, authorities said. Bail has been set at $5 million, and Thomas is expected back in court on Jan. 3.
Of the five wounded, one man is still in critical condition with a skull fracture. Among those injured was the rabbi’s son, who is being treated at an area hospital along with the other victims.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the attack, referring to it as “an act of domestic terrorism” and “an American cancer in the body politic.”
Franklin Graham said on Facebook that he agrees with Gov. Cuomo that such violence is a cancer. But Franklin then elaborated that only God has the cure. “He can change hearts and remove hate when people repent, turn to Him, and put their faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. These horrific acts of violence aren’t caused by guns or knives, they are caused by evil in the human heart. God can forgive us, cleanse us, and give us a new heart.”
Sources say that immediately following the attack, Rottenberg and his parishioners gathered at the synagogue to sing and pray.
The rabbi said that his community will be more safety-cautious in the future by locking the synagogue and school doors while in session, but ultimately, he trusts God to take care of him and his people.
“We will forge forward in faith and thanks that we continue to live under God’s protection,” Rottenberg said.
Above: Community members stand in front of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home in Monsey, New York, Sunday, Dec. 29, following a stabbing Saturday night during a Hanukkah celebration.
Photo: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle