A knife-wielding man who jumped out of a freezer and threatened employees at a New York City restaurant before going into cardiac arrest and dying was a suspected cold-case killer, officials said.
Carlton Henderson had only been released from a Boston jail four days earlier when he rushed out of a walk-in freezer toward unsuspecting employees Sunday at the Manhattan eatery Sarabeth’s, police said.
Henderson, 54, reportedly grabbed a kitchen knife and screamed “Away from me, Satan!” as he charged at the workers, who were able to take away the weapon and wrestle him to the ground.
On the floor, Henderson went into cardiac arrest. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Henderson was facing murder charges in the 1988 fatal shootings of 26-year-old William Medina and 22-year-old Antonio Dos Reis, who were killed while sitting in a parked car in Boston.
Investigators suspected the killings were connected to a violent drug-trafficking ring based in San Diego that extended to other parts of the U.S., including Boston, according to court papers obtained by The New York Times.
Henderson apparently made statements to police and prosecutors suggesting his involvement in the killings during an interview in 1993, and was arrested in St. Louis, Missouri in June 2017.
But on July 31, Judge Janet Sanders released Henderson on his own recognizance after ruling the statements were inadmissible because he and investigators had an agreement that they couldn’t be used against him, The Times reported.
Henderson was reportedly intending to trade the information for a reduction in his 15-year prison sentence on gun charges, and as such, was treated as a cooperating witness and not a suspect or target of the investigation.
Though prosecutors argued that such an informal immunity agreement would have been made in writing and no corroborating paperwork had been found, Henderson was released from jail. He promised to return to court Aug. 14.
It was not immediately clear how he wound up in New York.
His attorney told The Times there was nothing to indicate his client struggled with mental health issues.
"That’s very foreign to my experience with the guy, and I represented him for over a year and met with him many times,” John Amabile told the Times. “My impression of him was that he was a very intelligent person who was very engaged as a client. I did not get the sense that he was psychotic or mentally ill or physically ill."