Newton resident Xiu Fang Ke pleaded not guilty to murder in Newton District Court Wednesday after a 65-year-old man was found dead in his Newtonville home Tuesday, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.
Police found Leonard Garber wrapped in a curtain and pressed under construction materials and other heavy items at his Mt. Vernon Terrace home at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Ryan said at a press conference.
Ke, charged with the murder of Garber, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Wednesday according to The Boston Globe. She is due for her next court appearance on Oct. 31.
Police determined that 43-year-old Ke, a former tenant of Garber, had allegedly stolen over $40,000 from Garber through forged checks and had allegedly been spending time with Garber in the days before his body was found, Ryan said.
Garber confronted Ke about the theft sometime between last Thursday and Sunday, according to the district attorney. Ke then allegedly struck and killed Garber, Ryan said.
Family reported Garber missing on Monday evening.
Officials saw an individual identified as Ke enter and exit Garber’s home multiple times in the days prior to Tuesday in surveillance camera footage, according to Ryan.
Police had previously visited the home on Monday when Garber was first reported missing but did not locate him. They visited again early Tuesday before finding Garber’s body in the afternoon, the district attorney said.
Based on preliminary investigation, the body appeared to be hidden and left in the front hallway of the home for several days, Ryan said.
Police arrested Ke Wednesday morning without incident, according to Ryan.
Mt. Vernon Terrace is a no-through street with only a handful of houses. Patrick Hamilton has lived across the street from Garber’s home for nearly 25 years.
Hamilton said Garber had been a good neighbor. He also said that before Garber moved in, college students and other random groups rented the property.
“When he came in here, the house across the street was kind of run down,” he said. “He bought it, fixed it up a lot.”
The Mt. Vernon Terrace home sits in the Newtonville Historic District and was built in 1880. It is nearly 4,000 square feet, and the city assessed its value at $1.22 million in 2022. Garber bought the home in 1999.
When Hamilton heard Garber was missing, he said he hoped the neighbor had taken an unannounced trip. He felt shocked when he found out Garber had died, he said.
“You don’t think it’s going to happen to someone across the street,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the police became less communicative with neighbors as time went on after Garber had been reported missing.
“The police didn’t tell us much of what was going on,” Hamilton said. “The first officers that came here we talked to, and they were looking for him as a missing person, but as it went on, they would say less and less. But I don’t blame them for that.”
The Globe reported this is the first homicide in the City of Newton since 2009.
“To say that just says a lot about Newton as, you know, a pretty calm place to live,” Hamilton said. “And we’re lucky with that.”
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said the hearts and prayers of the people of Newton are with Garber’s family.
“Mr. Garber was a member of our community,” Fuller said at the Wednesday press conference. “He attended synagogue here. He had friends and neighbors who knew him and cared about him.”
The Heights requested the Newton Police Department for an incident report on Garber’s death and Ke’s arrest report via email.
Update (9/29/22, 5:35 p.m.): This article was updated to include information about Ke’s plea.
Update (10/2/22, 2:50 p.m.): This article was updated to include contributions from Garber’s former neighbors.
Images by Nicole Vagra / Heights Editor