FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Bedford Stuyvesant Man Sentenced to 25 Years to Life in Prison
For Killing Mount Vernon Man and Setting Body on Fire
Attended Church Service with Victim’s Relatives Before Getting Caught Burning the Remains
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Bedford Stuyvesant man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for killing a Mount Vernon man and attempting to conceal his crime by setting fire to the victim’s corpse in the basement of a Brooklyn apartment building. The two men were romantic rivals and the defendant stalked the victim for months before the murder.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “The depravity of the defendant’s actions cannot be overstated, and the lengthy prison term to which he has been sentenced holds him accountable for killing an innocent man in cold blood and desecrating his remains. While nothing can return Jonathan Blake to his loved ones, I hope this sentence provides them with some measure of solace. Brooklyn is safer with this defendant behind bars.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Derek Whitaker, 58, of Bedford- Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to 25 years to life in prison. The defendant was convicted on June 16, 2023, of second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fourth-degree arson, tampering with physical evidence, and concealment of a human corpse following a jury trial.
The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020, on North Broadway, in Yonkers, the defendant ambushed Jonathan Blake, 55, shooting him in the head and killing him. The defendant later transported the victim’s body to the basement of a building at 494 Jefferson Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant where he worked as a superintendent and where his mother resided.
On March 16, 2020, according to the evidence, the defendant attempted to cover up the killing by setting fire to the victim’s corpse using gasoline. A resident of the building smelled smoke and ventured into the basement where they observed the defendant standing over a metal barrel with the victim’s two legs sticking out. The resident reported the incident to the building’s manager who called 911. Members of the New York City Fire Department and the New York City Police Department arrived at the address and the defendant was arrested shortly thereafter.
Investigators later learned the two men were romantic rivals and that the defendant had been stalking the victim for four to six months.
Furthermore, according to the evidence, in the time between killing the victim and setting fire to his corpse, the defendant attended a service at a church in Westchester County where the victim and his family worshiped. The defendant sat in the victim’s empty seat and embraced the victim’s brother.
The District Attorney thanked Homicide Paralegal Amanda Connolly and Digital Evidence Lab Intelligence Analyst Lexie Giardina for their assistance on the case.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Matthew M. Midey, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Patrick O’Donnell, of the District Attorney’s Grey Zone, under the supervision of Leila Rosini.