Supported by

A troubled man with a history of crimes and mental illness was convicted on Tuesday of killing one young child and leaving another fighting for her life in a brutal stabbing four years ago in an elevator at a Brooklyn public housing project.
After one full day of deliberations, a jury in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn returned a guilty verdict against the man, Daniel St. Hubert, on charges of murder and attempted murder. Even though the conviction brought an end to a two-week trial in which prosecutors introduced testimony from police detectives, medical experts, grieving relatives and one of the victims — Mikayla Capers, now 11 — the question of why Mr. St. Hubert attacked the children with an eight-inch knife largely remained a mystery.
From the start, it seemed like an inexplicable crime. On a sunny Sunday in June 2014, someone followed Mikayla, then 7, and her best friend, P.J. Avitto, 6, from a playground at the Boulevard Houses in East New York into the elevator in P.J.’s building as the two were headed upstairs to fetch some Icees. On the witness stand, Mikayla said the person who had stepped in behind them — “the bad man,” as she called him — told her and P.J. to shut up. When they did not, he pulled out the knife and started stabbing them.
After the attacker escaped, the police launched a four-day hunt using a sketch drawn from the accounts of eyewitnesses who had seen the man flee and interrogated dozens of potential suspects. Investigators began to track Mr. St. Hubert, 31, and arrested him after a DNA sample on the knife, which he had left behind, matched his DNA in a state criminal database.
Because there was no surveillance footage of the stabbings, the case led to calls for security cameras to be installed in elevators in the city’s public housing projects. And because Mr. St. Hubert had a history of psychiatric problems and was living in a homeless shelter after serving a prison term for assaulting his mother, it also led to a debate about how the city treated prisoners with mental illness.
When Mr. St. Hubert was initially questioned, he told the police, “Satan has powers and controls things.” And it seemed at first that he might mount an insanity defense. But he discarded the strategy after two psychiatric evaluations determined he was fit to stand trial.
At the trial, Mr. St. Hubert’s lawyer, Howard Greenberg, attacked both the DNA evidence — calling it “junk science” — and Mikayla, whom he called “delusional” and “a pathological liar.” (The girl’s testimony had not been completely accurate: She said she had identified Mr. St. Hubert in a photo while still in the hospital, when in fact the first time she identified him was in court.)
In an unusual move, the judge in the case, Justice Vincent Del Giudice, had permitted Mr. St. Hubert to make a statement in the trial’s early stages, without the jury present, in which he proclaimed his innocence. But those were the only words he spoke throughout the proceeding, during which he largely sat at the defense table, silent.
In a text message after the verdict, Anabelle Alston, P.J.’s godmother, said: “Finally justice. Four years, four months, nine days. It’s finally over. The day of the sentencing is coming up April 15th and we will celebrate then. To God be the glory. I never gave up hope and he didn’t give up on us.”
Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, whose office prosecuted the case, said: “I know that nothing will bring solace to the family of little P.J. and that Mikayla, who bravely took the stand at trial, will carry the scars of that day forever. It is my hope, however, that today’s verdict will still afford them a small measure of closure.”