By REBECCA HARSHBARGER and LARRY CELONA
Last Updated: 5:59 PM, November 23, 2010
Posted: 9:10 AM, November 23, 2010
A hardworking Brooklyn mother was hacked to death early this morning allegedly by her sword-wielding, bit-actor son during a bizarre religious meltdown in which he screamed Bible passages and made obscure references to Freemasonry, police and witnesses said.
Greg Clare, who lives downstairs from victim Yannick Brea, 55, shared with her son Michael Brea, a 31-year-old actor and low-level Freemason who had roles in "Ugly Betty" and the movie "Step Up 3D," said he first heard screams about 1 a.m.
"He kept chanting: ‘Repent! Repent! Repent!’" Clare said, referring to Brea. "He kept asking her if she believed in Jesus Christ, if she believed in God. She was yelling ‘Help me! Help me!’"
Another neighbor said Brea kept calling for the "architect of the universe," a term used by Freemasons to refer to a supreme being. And a police source said the murder weapon was a three-foot ceremonial Masonic sword.
A police official said 911 calls started coming in about 1:12 a.m. reporting a domestic argument in the second floor apartment on Park Place. Cops arrive minutes later and could hear Brea chanting Biblical terms behind the locked door but heard no indication of a fight.
Then a neighbor told them he could see blood on the windowsill from his own apartment so cops followed him, confirmed the blood, and then kicked in the front door.
Once inside they saw Brea brandishing the large sword, and called Emergency Services Unit for backup, which is standard practice according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
"It was a barricaded situation," Kelly said. "When there is a barricade situation responding patrol officers, if possible, wait for Emergency Services Unit to respond, they’re trained psychological technicians, they have additional equipment that enables them to perhaps better protect themselves to go through the door."
Neighbor Clinton Clare, Greg’s father, told a different story.
"I heard moaning and then silence. They just kept standing there for 45 minutes. I think she’d be alive if they hadn’t taken so long," Clare said.
Clare said the police kept asking him if he had a key to the Brea’s apartment, and eventually left to call for backup. When ESU arrived, they knocked down the door about 2:20 a.m. and found a gruesome scene, with Yannick kneeling in the bathroom with multiple stab wounds to her head.
Yannick Brea’s family was furious with the police response.
"When I heard what happened I went crazy," said Yannick’s sister Gina Bumond, a nurse who lives in Flatbush. "I heard police didn’t knock the door down. Are you serious? She could be alive today."
Bumond described her sister as a loving parent devoted to her sons.
Serge Marcel, 53, Yannick’s brother, said Michael had no history of mental illness or substance abuse the family was aware of.
"I never knew this kid could do something like that," he said.
Michael Brea was taken into custody and then to Kings County Hospital, where he is undergoing psychiatric evaluation. Charges are pending against Brea, whom Kelly said had no criminal record.
Two other neighbors, Vernal Bent and his mother Phyllis, said they heard yelling from the floor below.
"I heard a shriek and a woman yelling ‘help me,’¤" Vernal Bent said. "We called 911 and we kept hearing screams and then we didn’t hear them any more. Michael was chanting Biblical phrases and kept calling for Moses, Jerusalem and the ‘architect of the universe,’"
"I think he just snapped," Bent said. Police spent nearly 45 minutes trying to get into the apartment, Bent said
Phyllis, who refused to give her last name, said she was friends with Yannick and that the woman would frequently bring them traditional Haitian food.
Mustafa Nashal, who owns a deli a half block away, said Yannick would make him her special chicken and rice a few times a week.
"She treated me like a son. She’d come in every day for five or ten dollars of Lottery tickets. She was here last night," said Nashal, 33.
She once worked at the Marriott at the World Trade Center but left after the hotel was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, neighbors said.
She currently worked at another Marriott in Brooklyn as a housekeeper, and was also a regular at St. Theresa Avila not far from her Park Place home.
Clare said Michael’s twin brother Marcel, a martial arts instructor, also lived with his mother, who neighbors said was separated from her husband but still on friendly terms.
In addition to his acting, Michael Brea was also an entrepreneur who at one time owned a Subway franchise at 1709 Broadway in Brooklyn. A friend said in 2008 Brea gave out hundreds of free turkey subs on Thanksgiving to feed the less fortunate, a charitable effort inspired by his mother, who was also known to cook for those in need.
But the Subway parent corporation took back the franchise roughly a year ago because of poor performance. Creditors had also placed several liens against the business when Brea owned it, court records show.
Michael talked about his life and goals in an article posted on BelFim.com, a Haitian Internet movie database.
"I remember growing up, and my mother was always feeding people who were less fortunate. My parents raised me to always share and to give charity in the name of GOD!" he wrote.
US President Barack Obama has pledged the US will defend South Korea after what the White House branded an outrageous attack by North Korea on its neighbour.
"South Korea is our ally. It has been since the Korean War," Mr Obama said in his first comments about the North Korean shelling of a South Korean island.
"And we strongly affirm our commitment to defend South Korea as part of that alliance."
The President, speaking to America's ABC News, would not speculate when asked about military options.
He was expected to telephone South Korean President Lee Myung-bak today, and he met into the evening with his top national security advisers to discuss next steps.
Mr Obama joined the meeting at the White House, after returning from a trip to Indiana, and was briefed on the fallout from Pyongyang's artillery assault on a South Korean island, officials said.
"The President reiterated the unshakeable support of the United States for our ally, the Republic of Korea, and discussed ways to advance peace and security on the Korean peninsula going forward," a White House statement said.
The meeting included National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, their deputies and top Asia foreign policy officials.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the vice chairman, General James Cartwright, also took part.
Washington's ambassador to the UN Susan Rice joined the discussion by video conference.
The line-up was similar to the roster of officials often called on by Mr Obama for meetings of his Afghan war cabinet.
- with Agence-France Presse