NBC New York
Maksim Gelman was arrested in February after the spree that included stabbing his stepfather and acquaintances to death, running over a pedestrian, carjacking and other violence.
A man accused of killing four people and wounding four others in a 28-hour rampage across Brooklyn and Manhattan earlier this year suddenly pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder and other charges.
Maksim Gelman was arrested in February after the spree that included stabbing his stepfather and acquaintances to death, running over a pedestrian, carjacking and other violence. Gelman had previously pleaded not guilty to the murder charges brought by Brooklyn prosecutors. At the time, he was under medical supervision, and his attorney, Edward Friedman, described his mental state as "fragile."
But, given the evidence in the case and a doctor's opinion that Gelman couldn't argue he was not guilty by reason of insanity, Gelman decided he wanted to get out of his holding cell — and start serving his time in a permanent facility, his lawyer said.
The 24-year-old Ukraine-born man answered "yes" when asked if he understood what it meant to change his plea. Wearing a baggy orange jumpsuit, his hands cuffed behind his back and his hair closely cropped, Gelman answered the judge at a clip, saying "yes," ''yep" and "It sure is," as the 13-count indictment was read aloud.
The courtroom was empty except for reporters and the boyfriend of one of the victims who cried silently in the second row. Earlier court hearings had been packed.
Gelman faces life in prison, but a sentencing date hasn't yet been set. Friedman has asked for another psychiatric evaluation to show Gelman needs treatment. The Brooklyn district attorney's office said it would seek life in prison. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 11.
"It's quite likely, almost guaranteed, that any sentence I give means you'd never be released from a penal institution while you are alive," Judge Vincent DelGiudice said.
Gelman said he understood. "Have a good one," he said to his lawyer after he was led away.
Gelman's deadly spree started with a family argument over whether he could use his mother's car, authorities said.
After stabbing to death his stepfather in the family's Brooklyn apartment, Gelman went to the home of a female acquaintance, Yelena Bulchenko, prosecutors said. Bulchenko's friends have said he was obsessed with the 20-year-old woman and imagined a romantic relationship with her.
Gelman killed Bulchenko's 56-year-old mother, then waited hours for the daughter to return and stabbed her 11 times, authorities said. He then left the Bulchenkos' home, rear-ended a car and stabbed its driver, they said. The driver survived.
Stealing the wounded man's car, Gelman drove off and plowed into a pedestrian who died from his injuries, police said. After abandoning the car, Gelman later hailed a livery cab and attacked its driver, then approached another car, attacked a man inside and seized the car, police said. Both men survived.
All those attacks happened in Brooklyn. Gelman was next spotted on a subway in Manhattan, where passengers recognized him from newspaper photographs and notified police, authorities said. He dashed across the tracks, switched trains and attacked a final passenger before he was grabbed by police who were in the subway car looking for him on the tracks. The Manhattan case is still pending.
Police later recovered a bloody knife, three straight razor blades, a paring knife and $932.
According to court documents filed by prosecutors, Gelman told a police officer, "I'll beat this. I'll go to a mental hospital for a few years, and I'll get out on the street again, you'll see."
When asked by police why the four victims had to die, Gelman said, "Because I said so," according to the documents.
Outside court, Bulchenko's boyfriend, Gerard Honig, said he was just happy that Gelman was guilty.
"I just want him to get as much time as he can, that's it," he said.
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