NYC: Thug Gets Maximum Sentence In Brutal Murder Of Frum Man


Washington Heights, NY – A 6-foot-6 career mugger who bludgeoned an 81-year-old Orthodox Jew to death while robbing him in his Washington Heights elevator was slammed today with a maximum sentence of 25 years to life for the brutal murder.

Victim Jacob Gerstle had been coming home from his synagogue in 2006 when William Hill, 28, punched him in the head so hard, Gerstle lapsed into a coma and died two days later, (as was reported here on YWN).

“Had Mr. Hill just gone into the elevator and said ‘I’m down on my luck,’ he probably would have invited him up to the apartment and given him something to eat,” Gerstle’s son, Leon, told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Bruce Allen during the crowded sentencing.

Gerstle ran a food pantry and helped neighbors find funds, schools and jobs. His last words may well have been to his murderer, to whom he said, “Hi, how are you?” according to Hill’s own admissions.

“I’ve tried dozens of murder cases in my career,” the judge said in throwing the book at the hulking murderer. “This is one of the most brutal crimes I’ve had to face.

“To attack a frail, elderly man in an elevator is every citizen’s nightmare.”

Hill was linked to the heinous crime by his confessions to a friend and cops, as well as surveillance video from his Bennett Avenue lobby showing someone of the Hill’s size, age and race following Gerstle into the elevator.

Still, the veteran robber denied it was him, claiming his confession was coerced by threatening cops. “It’s as if he was in a hotel getting room service,” defense lawyer Daniel Gotlin had scoffed of prosecutors” insistence that Hill was fed and well cared for in custody.

Hill’s 2008 trial on the same murder case ended in a hung jury.

(Source:  NY Post)


  1. May this be a bit of nechama to the family. Jack z”l was a gem among men.I was privileged to know him since I was an infant. He is sorely missed.

  2. There are no coincidences in our world, but it is unbelievable how on Shushan Purim 5770 that just punishment has been handed down to a person who snuffed out the life of an elderly frum yid who did not have a enemy in the world. May we hope that the whole entire Gerstle mispocha and the Washington Heights Kehilla may come to some sort of closure to this barbaric act down by Mr Hill.
    May Reb Yaakov Gerstle be a maylitz yoshir to not only the Breuer kehilla and his immediate family but to ganz klal yisroel.

  3. Ok 25 years in prison is good but why did Martin grossman get 25 years and death while this guy didn’t? Didn’t he murder someone? Doesn’t make any sense.

  4. Alizakk28. Location, location, location. He did not commit a federal crime in which case, federal law is applied the same way in all states. He killed someone in the state of NY, not Florida or Texas, 2 states where he would likely find himself on death row for this crime. NY may have a death penalty on the books but it is almost impossible to get such a verdict, or even charged with a crime that would merit the death penalty.

  5. Chushuva yid, the legal definition of bludgeoned means that they beat him in the head until he was dead. I apologize for the graphic explanation.

    hanavon, until a death penalty is reinstituted in New York State, there is no justice. Because this case does warrant capital punishment. That is why Alizak28 there was no capital punishment because the wimpy democrats in Albany don’t want a death penalty in New York State. It is too harsh a punishment for monsters like this one.

  6. flat. bubby,

    i’m not too sure that it’s the democrats in albany who are stopping the death penalty in new york state. you need to spend alittle more time studying law.
    i don’t think that this case inherently warrants the death penalty, as you say…there’s a big difference between someone killing a person and someone hitting a person, which eventually leads to their death. of course both are terrible crimes, but even in halacha this would not be a capital offense, it is called a ‘grama’, because he did something which caused someones death some time later.

  7. Although I think most YWN readers probably favor, at least in theory, the death penalty, we must keep in mind that the secular justice system here in the U.S. is NOT the same as the Torah Justice system.
    One BIG difference… We have a concept of kasher aydim. In the secular system any drug pusher or murderer can be a witness in court and it is up to a jury of incompetent “peers” (not dayanim) to determine if they want to believe their testimony, and use it convict the accused.

  8. hanavon, it is none of your business nor anybody else’s business how I know the law.

    Moose613, there is no death penalty because the New York State Appeals Court threw out the death penalty law that was instituted under George Pataki because it was unconstitutional. It was a poorly written law.

    Hanavon, this was especially a heinous crime as can be evidenced by the comments of the presiding judge.

    AinOhdMilvado, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Zatzal, used to always comment that the downfall of New York State and the current economic problems is caused by the elimination of the death penalty. Even in halacha the death penalty is there for the express purpose of PREVENTING MURDER because it does.