Nadav Sela, 28, was convicted Wednesday morning of murdering his wife, his two young children and his neighbors’ child, and the attempted murder of another child, after judges rejected his claim of diminished responsibility.
“The defendant deliberately took the lives of four people — we do not buy the claim of a psychiatric problem,” ruled the panel of judges at the Nazareth District Court.
They sentenced him to four life terms for the murders and another ten years for the attempted murder.
Sela stabbed his wife, Dor Crasanti-Sela, 23; sons Yosef, just under 2, and Binyamin, 8 months; and neighbor Nachman Atia, 11, in the family’s home in the northern town of Migdal outside of Tiberias in January 2017.
Nachman’s brother Natan, 10, was knifed in the face, neck and hands but managed to survive by playing dead and later escaping out of a ground-floor window.
Sela was also ordered by the court to pay compensation of NIS 256,000 (approximately $70,000) to the heirs of each of the deceased, and NIS 100,000 (approximately $28,000) to the child who survived the attack.
“It’s little consolation, but now their souls can rest,” Crasanti-Sela’s mother, Ravit Sabag, said, according to Ynet. “Thank you to the court. Thank you for accepting what we knew from the outset — that he committed the act with intent and forethought.”
Sela’s attorneys had claimed that he was suffering from mental illness caused by an undetectable brain injury sustained in a car accident a few months prior to the murders.
According to the indictment, Sela sat down for a Shabbat meal on January 28, 2017, before going into the kitchen and stabbing his wife. Neighbors Nachman and Natan, aged 10 and 11, witnessed the attack and tried to escape. Sela knifed Natan, who fell to the floor and pretended to be dead. Nachman begged Sela not to hurt him and tried to defend himself, but was overpowered and then thrown down the staircase to the basement.
Sela then turned his knife on Yosef, aged 20 months, stabbing him to death before heading upstairs and taking 8-month-old Binyamin from his crib and also stabbing him to death.
While Sela was changing his clothes, Natan Atia managed to jump out of a bedroom window and run for help. When police arrested Sela at a nearby grove of olive trees, he confessed to the murders and mumbled, “They’re Amalekites, they’re Amalekites.”
In biblical Jewish tradition, the nomadic Amalekite tribe came to be viewed as the essence of evil. Of the 613 commandments followed by Orthodox Jews, one orders the destruction of all Amalekites, including women and children.
Ofer Osta, head of the Israel Police northern district’s homicide unit, revealed that after questioning dozens of family acquaintances as well as rabbis with whom Sela had studied, in an attempt to discover the motive for the crime, “We found a piece of correspondence in one of his religious books that said something about the Amalekites. There’s a verse like that in the book he was reading but he didn’t know how to explain it or to quote any spiritual authority.”
However, prosecutors from the Northern District said Sela was of sound mind at the time of the murders and had carried them out in a rational manner by waiting for his father-in-law to leave the house, killing his wife first as she was the one most likely to effectively fight back, and changing his bloodstained clothes and shoes after the crime.