Alleged Brownsville serial killer indicted for murder

Brownsville serial killer
Brownsville murder suspect Kevin Gavin, 66, is walked out of the 73rd Precinct by detectives on Jan. 21.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

An accused serial killer faces life behind bars for allegedly murdering three elderly women in a Brownsville public housing complex, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on March 2.

“This defendant is an alleged serial killer who murdered three of his elderly neighbors who trusted him and welcomed him into their homes only to have that trust violated in the worst way imaginable,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. “These victims were beloved mothers, grandmothers, and beloved friends whose violent deaths have had a chilling effect inside their housing complex and on the Brownsville community.”

A grand jury indicted 66-year-old Kevin Gavin, who lives at the Carter G. Woodson Houses on Dumont Avenue, on first- and second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing three of his neighbors in separate incidents between 2015 and 2021.

According to the DA’s investigation, Gavin’s murder streak began in November of 2015, when he allegedly stabbed 82-year-old Myrtle McKinney in the neck with a steak knife inside her apartment. Mckinney’s death was originally thought to be caused by a heart attack, until a funeral director found a small stab wound in her neck, prosecutors said. 

Years later, in April of 2019, Gavin allegedly strangled 83-year-old Jacolia James inside her apartment, according to Gonzalez’s office. 

Earlier this year, on Jan. 14 at around 10 am, Gavin allegedly strangled 78-year-old Juanita Caballero with a phone cord during a home invasion. Shortly after the death of Caballero, Gavin was recorded by surveillance cameras in multiple locations using debit and benefit cards that belonged to the victim, leading to his arrest on Jan 21. 

Following his arrest, Gavin, who did odd jobs as a handyman around the housing complex, told investigators that he argued with each of his victims about money that he claims they owed him, and that he fought with each victim prior to their death. 

The string of killings terrified residents of the Woodson Houses for years, and led to calls for greater security measures in New York City Housing Authority buildings, and accusations that residents’ fears were not taken seriously by the police for years.

“This is an instance of what we feel, once again, is systemic racism where Black lives have not in fact been afforded the resources and the time and attention to investigate complaints of people who live here and know what’s going on,” Councilmember Inez Barron, whose district includes Brownsville, said at a news conference outside the building in January. “We’re saying that we’ve got to have systemic change.”

Gavin was ordered held without bail, and he is set to return to court in July.

Murders throughout the five boroughs have significantly decreased in recent years, with the city averaging around 350 recorded killings each year from 2013 through 2019 — compared with decades past, where the NYPD consistently reported over 500 murders each year