A murder case that has captivated the attention of many Israelis for over a decade could soon be reopened following new evidence allegedly implicating a suspect who had been exonerated by authorities.
Roman Zadorov, a Ukrainian-Israeli handyman, is serving a life sentence for the grisly 2006 murder of 13-year-old Tair Rada, who was found dead in a bathroom stall in her Katzrin school in the Golan Heights, with slashes to her neck, stab wounds across her body, and severe blows to her head.
But his lawyers, along with thousands of vocal members of the public, insist that Zadorov was framed for an act he didn’t commit and that the real murderer was a woman whose name is gagged by a court order and who suffers from mental illness.
A witness arrived Sunday at a police station in Nazareth Illit to testify that the woman had confessed to her that she had killed Rada, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Monday.
The suspect is now claimed to have told three people that she committed the murder.
The report also cited a document written by a psychiatrist who spoke with the suspect in 2014, in which she said she had a strong drive to kill someone. She said she was containing that urge, but only barely, and that she had purchased a knife and gloves with the intention of killing her neighbor.
The psychiatrist had immediately sent her for involuntary commitment in a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.
Shortly after the murder, Zadorov, who worked as a maintenance man at the school at the time, was arrested and charged with the killing. Two weeks after his arrest, police announced Zadorov had confessed to Rada’s murder and reenacted the attack for investigators. But a day later, Zadorov’s defense attorney announced that his client had recanted, claiming his confession and reenactment were coerced and included incorrect information.
In 2010, nearly four years after he was arrested, the Nazareth District Court sentenced him to life in prison.
In 2015, the Supreme Court upheld Zadorov’s conviction in a split 2-1 decision. The dissenting opinion came from Justice Yoram Danziger, who said there was sufficient reasonable doubt to exonerate Zadorov.
Zadorov’s appeals against that ruling were rejected, with Supreme Court President Miriam Naor saying that despite the substantial public interest in the case, there was no “legal justification” to retry Zadorov.
“There must be a distinction between public interest and what the law demands,” Naor wrote in her decision.
Zadorov’s attorney, Yarum Halevy, said Monday that in light of the new evidence he will in the coming few months file a request for retrial.
He said the suspect’s previous police interrogations were “soft” on her and he requests a “real investigation” this time. He also claimed that prosecutors had told him two months ago that they were treating the new evidence seriously.
“Now, when an important witness in the case was questioned for the first time… on the one hand I feel content that maybe the attorney’s office will come to its senses and force police to perform a true investigation; but on the other hand I’m deeply afraid that it will again not rise above its leaders’ egos,” Halevy told Yedioth.
The attorney’s office and the Justice Ministry said in a statement that all the evidence against the woman had been thoroughly checked and found to be unreliable.
“The truthfulness of her version about her involvement in the murder was ruled out, but it was also ruled that there is no way to rule out the possibility that she had told various parties that she is the murderer as a result of a mental illness from which she suffers. To this day, there has been no new evidence verifying her remarks,” the statement said.
The suspect’s lawyers, Daniel Haklai and Tomer Schwartz, said police had “carefully examined” and refuted the suspicions against her, and that she was dealing with her schizophrenia in an “inspiring” manner.
Much of the public debate over Zadorov’s conviction focused on the type of knife used — the murder weapon was never recovered — and a bloody footprint found on Rada’s jeans.
In his confession, Zadorov said he attacked Rada with a box cutter, which has a smooth blade, whereas a forensic expert testified that wounds on the victim’s chin were caused by a serrated knife.
Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.