Michael Sokolov was 72 and lived above Sean’s Irish deli facing Katonah Avenue, from where he apparently often ordered food.
Police found the victim dead in his apartment on Saturday morning with his hands bound behind his back. The apartment had been robbed, police sources said.
Christopher Wheeler, 24, Kenneth Zorns, 20, and Louis Tellone, 45, were arrested later in the day. Wheeler and Zorns were charged with second-degree murder and Tellone was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Police believe Tellone knew Sokolov through plumbing work – Sokolov had worked in the U.S. as a plumber all of his life.
Sean’s deli owner P. J. MacNamara said the neighborhood was shocked.
“I absolutely couldn’t believe it,” he said, adding that he knew the victim well as a customer, as he often came in for breakfast, an egg sandwich and a coffee, or to order dinner.
A master plumber by trade, Sokolov had been in failing health, MacNamara said.
“He had to be terribly sick,” he said. Neighbors believe Sokolov had recently had a stroke although he still tried to continue working.
“For more than a month or two he was ashen, gray in the face,” MacNamara said. “He was walking on a stick, he was very wobbly. Then the landlord would ask me to take some food up to him now and again.”
MacNamara said that he brought food up to Sokolov a few days before he died and “he was practically unable to get out of his chair.”
“The next day he came in on his stick and I asked him if he was feeling better and he said no, he just was getting cabin fever and wanted some fresh air.”
He continued: “the next morning there were cops all over the street. I just assumed he had passed away, but a cop told me there was foul play.”
“There are forty different rumors as to what happened.”
Other locals said they were shocked by the incident. What crime exists is below the city average, according to official New York Police Department statistics.
There were 3 more murders in the 47th precinct compared with last year, up from 15 to 18, but robberies were down by 18.9 percent.
Mostly, crime is associated in people’s minds with occasional incidents arising from weekend drunkenness.
“I think it’s terrible,” resident Arlene Conway told reporters. “It happens everywhere, so I guess eventually it was going to happen around here.”
“This is no reflection of the people in this neighborhood,” said MacNamara. “It’s a good neighborhood to live in, it’s a good neighborhood to have a business in. Everyone works hard up here.”