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Israeli man convicted in Argentina of murdering mother, aunt

Gil Pereg, who had history of mental illness and was dubbed ‘cat man’ for meowing in court, sentenced to life in prison for 2019 homicides

Gil Pereg, the son of one of two missing sisters found dead Saturday, is arrested as a suspect in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, January 26, 2019. (Patricio Caneo/Los Andes via AP)
Gil Pereg, the son of one of two missing sisters found dead Saturday, is arrested as a suspect in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, January 26, 2019. (Patricio Caneo/Los Andes via AP)

A jury in Argentina on Wednesday convicted an Israeli man for murdering his mother and aunt in the South American country over two years ago.

The court handed Gil Pereg, 40, a life sentence for the killings, requiring him to serve at least 35 years in prison.

He was arrested and charged with homicide after the remains of his mother, Pyrhia Sarusi, 63, and her sister Dr. Lily Pereg, 54, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of New England in Australia, were found on his property in the city of Mendoza in January 2019.

The two were traveling in Argentina at the time of their murders. They had been missing for two weeks before their bodies were found under debris in Gilad Pereg’s home.

Pereg’s uncle said at the time that he was mentally ill, in financial dire straits, and lived in squalor with dozens of cats.

“He’s a real genius, he always was an excellent student, and got both his undergraduate and masters degrees from the Technion,” Moshe Pereg told reporters. But Gil’s behavior radically changed in 2006, he said. “I think he suffered a mental breakdown that went undiagnosed.”

Dr. Lily Pereg (left) and her sister Pryhia Sarussy disappeared during a trip to visit Sarusi’s son in Mendoza, Argentina. (GoFundMe photo)

After the breakdown, Moshe Pereg said his nephew turned to online gambling and ended up in significant debt. He left Israel for Argentina a short time later to escape his mounting financial problems.

He said Gil Pereg had little contact with his mother, though she continued to support him financially over the years. Despite the financial help, Moshe Pereg said Gil “lived like a homeless person” in a small house with dozens of cats.

Police work in the lot next to the home of Gil Pereg where the bodies of his mother and aunt were found in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (Gustavo Roge/Los Andes via AP)

“He owns lots of cats, and is very preoccupied with them. He cares about them more than himself.”

Pereg was branded as “cat man” by Argentinian media during the trial, after he was removed from the courtroom for repeatedly meowing in response to prosecutors’ questions.

JTA contributed to this report.

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