A lawyer for an Israeli man convicted of murdering a 13-year-old girl more than a decade ago called Thursday for a retrial after a hair found on the victim’s body was determined not to belong to his client.
Roman Zadorov, a Ukrainian-Israeli handyman, is serving a life sentence for the brutal 2006 murder of 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.
Following a DNA analysis by investigators, the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute announced Thursday that the hair matched that of the former boyfriend of the woman, reigniting speculation on who committed the killing and whether Zadorov could be given a retrial.
The ex-boyfriend, whose name is also under gag order, has been referred to in Hebrew media reports by the initials A.H., while the woman has been named as O.K.
“This is decisive evidence in the sense that it must lead to a retrial and the acquittal of Zadorov,” his lawyer, Yoram Halevi, said in a press conference broadcast live on Israel’s prime-time TV news programs.
Prosecutors, however, were quoted by Hebrew media as downplaying the significance of the DNA findings and saying they did not conclusively prove the hair belonged to A.H., who claims O.K. confessed to him that she had carried out the murder while wearing his clothes.
The development came just days after the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported that a witness arrived Sunday at a police station in Nazareth Illit to testify that O.K. had confessed to her that she had killed Rada.
O.K. 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 O.K. 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.
The state attorney’s office and the Justice Ministry said in a statement that all the evidence against O.K. 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.
Her 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.