'John Doe Duffel Bag' in Custody in Connection With Brooklyn Murders

Videotape appears to place man near two Brooklyn murders.

ByABC News
November 20, 2012, 10:32 AM

Nov. 20, 2012 — -- A Staten Island man in his 60s, dubbed "John Doe Duffel Bag," was picked up by police for questioning in connection with a series of shopkeeper slayings, ABC News has learned, following tips to police from Brooklyn residents who recognized him in video recorded near two of three shopkeeper slayings in Brooklyn.

He had been sought in connection with the murders of three Brooklyn, N.Y., shopkeepers -- all of whom were of Middle Eastern descent, senior police officials said.

Officials stressed that the man was not under arrest and was not being called a suspect.

However, he had connections with the clothing business -- and possibly once had a clothing store -- and reportedly carried merchandise in his duffel bag, law enforcement sources said.

Clothing was used to cover the bodies of the murder victims, police have said.

Police picked up the man earlier this evening near 80th Street and Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, following a tip, according to ABC News sources.

Earlier today, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that he had hoped the man dubbed Duffel Bag Man would come forward.

"So we can talk about the circumstances going on in the immediate area at that time," Kelly said, referring to the most recent slaying.

New York police had said they wanted to question the man after surveillance tape appeared to place him in the vicinity of two of the murders.

The middle-aged white man with a receding hairline was spotted on cameras around 6 p.m. near the She She boutique in the Flatbush neighborhood, where 78-year-old Rahmatollah Vahidipour was found dead at 7:11 p.m. Friday. Police said he is likely the person captured on fuzzier video from near the site of the second of the three slayings.

The second video, from Aug. 2, appeared to show "John Doe Duffel Bag" near the Bensonhurst shop where Isaac Kadare was murdered with the same .22 caliber gun that was used to kill Vahidipour, sources told ABC News.

The trio of killings took place within a five-mile radius, each occurred at a small shop that lacked security cameras, and each victim was over 50, police said. It was not clear whether the victims were robbed.

Shell casings from the gun used in Vahidipour's murder match the casings found at two other murders scenes this summer.

Kelly said is that in each murder, the killer partially cnvered the victims with cardboard or clothing.

The FBI has complied with a NYPD request for a profiler to help identify who might have killed these three people.

Vahidipour, an Iranian Jew, was killed with three gunshot wounds to the head and torso. His body was dragged to the back of the store and covered with merchandise, WABC reported. The body was discovered at 7:11 p.m.

Surveillance cameras caught footage of "John Doe Duffel Bag," along with three other potential witnesses to the killing, within the area between 6 p.m. and 6:52 p.m.

On July 6, clothing store owner Mohamed Gebeli, an Egyptian Muslim, was killed inside Valentino Fashion in Bay Ridge. Gebeli was shot in the neck and was found with several pieces of clothing on top of him. Police said $383 in receipts was missing, but $1,500 was found inside a cabinet.

On Aug. 2, Kadare, a Jewish man of Egyptian descent, was found dead at the Amazing 99 Cents Deal store that he owned in Bensonhurst. Kadare had been shot in the temple and had three stab wounds to the neck. His face was covered with an aluminum tray and bleach had been splashed on his pants. It wasn't clear if anything had been taken from Kadare's store.

Police said they are not sure if the homicides were racially motivated.

Rewards of $22,000 in each of the homicides are being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the crimes.