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Court nixes early release for child killer

Family of Oron Yarden, who was murdered by Zvi Gur when he was 8 years old, thanks judges for rejecting parole board’s decision

Zvi Gur (c), serving a life sentence for the murder of Oron Yarden, in the Supreme Court on July 6, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Zvi Gur (c), serving a life sentence for the murder of Oron Yarden, in the Supreme Court on July 6, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A court on Tuesday ruled against the early release of Zvi Gur, who was sent to prison in 1980 for kidnapping and murdering 8-year-old boy Oron Yarden.

The Lod District Court’s decision came in response to an appeal by the State Attorney’s Office, filed last month against the parole board’s decision to free Gur, on the grounds that proper weight had not been given to the gravity of the crimes and their unusually cruel circumstances.

The victim’s brother thanked the judges at the end of the hearing and said the decision was a “tremendous relief.”

“[Gur] shattered all of our lives — my mom’s, my dad’s, my sister’s, mine and a whole generation of children and good people in the State of Israel,” Roi Yarden told reporters.

“This is an evil person and a psychopath who has not changed and will not change until the day he dies,” Yarden added. “He did not succeed in fooling me.”

Oron Yarden’s mother said the family was relieved by the decision.

“We had rough days. My son [Roi] doesn’t sleep at night because of the thought the murderer will be released,” Pnina Yarden told the Ynet news site.

Gur’s lawyer said the decision was “disastrous” for his client.

“What was so unreasonable about releasing a man who has served 37 years [in prison]? Eyal Alon asked.

He said he and his client would consider whether to appeal the court’s decision.

In its appeal last month against the original decision to release Gur, the State Attorney’s Office said the massive outcry over the murder of Yarden hadn’t died down even after all those years.

The murderer “showed a cruel, cold-hearted and well-planned kidnapping,” the State Attorney’s Office said. “The kidnapping was planned from the outset with the goal of extorting money from the child’s parents.”

It also cited evidence that Gur had planned the kidnapping in advance and said he had not accepted full responsibility for his actions.

Gur, who was 33 at the time he committed the murder, was originally sentenced to life imprisonment and an additional 34 years for kidnapping and blackmail. His sentence was subsequently commuted to a total of 45 years in 1999 by then-president Ezer Weizman.

Gur, an illustrator of children’s books, demanded and received a ransom of 2 million Israeli shekels ($9,400 at the time, or about NIS 106,000 or $30,000 in today’s money) for Yarden. He was captured two weeks later, when he deposited the money in a bank account and a teller recognized the serial numbers on the bills, which had been marked. After his capture, Gur showed police where he had buried Yarden’s body, in Netanya.

He gave several different explanations for the boy’s death, claiming initially that he had suffocated in the car. He subsequently claimed the abduction was ordered by the head of a crime organization and that she was the one who had killed Yarden.

However, the court found that Gur killed Yarden shortly after the kidnapping, and before the ransom money had been paid.

Due to his model behavior in Ayalon Prison, Gur was allowed to paint unsupervised on the outer walls of the prison, and managed to flee in 1985. He was captured six days later, after a massive manhunt.

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