Police arrest alleged arsonist who killed philanthropist in Fort Greene

murder suspect
Police arrested a 33-year-old for the murder of Antonio Litman in Fort Greene.
Photo by Todd Maisel

Police arrested an alleged arsonist who set a massive fire and killed a local philanthropist in Fort Greene earlier this month. 

The 33-year-old suspect allegedly set the inferno at a three-story Adelphi Street building between Willoughby and Dekalb avenues at around 3:20 am, before fleeing the scene, according to police.

Firefighters eventually quashed the blaze and found 55-year-old Antonio Litman dead in the building’s vestibule, according to authorities. 

Emergency medical personnel quickly discovered multiple puncture wounds to the deceased victim’s neck and chest, according to officials, who said that the medical examiner will determine whether Litman died from the fire or from stab wounds. 

Litman, who made a living buying and selling cargo ships, was the founder of Virginia’s House of Hope — a non-profit responsible for distributing food, clothing and school supplies to more than 10,000 families, according to friends and family, who said that Litman was also very active in his community. 

“He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Litman’s cousin, Felicia Geddis. “He was the beacon in our family who cared about everyone…Antonio, was every bit of happiness to our lives.”

Geddis claimed that, while they were technically cousins, her and Litman were raised together almost like brother and sister.

“[The suspect] took one of the best people you can ever know, my brother, and there’s no reason for it,” she said. 

Officers cuffed the victim on Jan. 29 and took his to the 88th police precinct in Fort Greene, where they charged him with second-degree murder and second-degree arson, according to police. 

The distressed suspect, whose listed residence is a homeless shelter on Wards Island, yelled at gathered reporters as he was led out of the station house in handcuffs. 

 “I was his friend!” said the man. 

But Litman’s family remained unsympathetic to the suspect’s claims. 

“He did the devil’s business – what can you say about a person like that,” said Geddis.

It’s unclear what the relationship was between the suspect and the victim, though police sources say the two may have been residing together in the three-story Fort Greene home — where Litman was the only listed resident. 

Police have not publicly released a motive, and the investigation remains ongoing. 

In the meantime, Litman’s family and friends were left grieving the loss of their selfless acquaintance.  

“Giving was his passion, he cared about the homeless, children, for his foundation, his neighbors, he would give bags of groceries,” Geddis said. “He was such a caring person, it’s just too much.”