It’s been exactly one week since 27-year-old Daniel St. Hubert entered an elevator in East New York’s Boulevard Houses alongside 6-year-old Prince Joshua “P.J.” Avitto and 7-year-old Mikayla Capers. According to reports, St. Hubert turned to the children, told them to “shut up,” and then stabbed them both multiple times, killing P.J. and seriously injuring Mikayla. P.J. was buried this weekend, Mikyala is recovering and Daniel St. Hubert is undergoing a psychiatric review at Bellevue Hospital.
Now that St. Hubert has been apprehended, the news cycle is ramping up. Reports are linking St. Hubert to the killing of 18-year-old nursing student Tanaya Grant Copeland as well as the attempted killing of a homeless man in Chelsea, transforming him from a murderer into a serial killer. Accordingly, tabloids have given St. Hubert a nickname: The Brooklyn Ripper. It’s the kind of sensational name that sells papers. It’s catchy. It’s clever. It’s also absolutely insulting to St. Hubert’s victims.
The story that is now emerging is that Daniel St. Hubert is mentally ill and may not have had control over his recent actions. St. Hubert has a long history of mental health problems and between 2010 and 2011, he was committed and found mentally unfit to stand trial three times. During one of those stints, his sister claims he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, though he refuses to be treated for it. Despite the horrific nature of his crimes, these facts bring nuance to an otherwise black-and-white story and raise questions about the cracks in the system that allowed such a dangerous individual—one who nearly killed his own mother five years ago—back onto the streets.
But even putting those issues aside, dubbing St. Hubert the “Brooklyn Ripper” takes even more away from his victims, and serves as a further violation of them and their stories. This nickname sensationalizes St. Hubert while undermining the depth of his crimes and the lasting impact they will have on the East New York community. It overshadows the lives and deaths of his victims and if Mikayla Capers pulls through, it’s a name that will follow her around for the rest of her life, making her the little girl who was slashed by the Brooklyn Ripper. That’s a heavy burden for anyone—especially a seven-year-old—to bear.
And lest we forget, sensationalizing criminals like St. Hubert could potentially inspire other people to seek fame through crime, and to want to make the cover of the Post. Using a name like the “Brooklyn Ripper” makes St. Hubert into a trend piece, implicitly glorifying what should be a cautionary tale.
Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk