Man convicted of rape, premeditated murder of ex-wife’s 12-year-old daughter

Sylvana Tsegai said to have fought back as Tesfebarhan Tesfasion assaulted, then strangled her in 2018; in separate cases, 2 men remanded on suspicion of killing partners

Sylvana Tsegai, who was found dead in Tel Aviv, November 26, 2018.
Sylvana Tsegai, who was found dead in Tel Aviv, November 26, 2018.

A man was convicted on Tuesday at the Tel Aviv District Court of the rape and premeditated murder almost two years ago of his former wife’s 12-year-old daughter.

As part of the plea deal, Eritrean migrant Tesfebarhan Tesfasion admitted to the violent rape of Sylvana Tsegai before killing her.

He is expected to be sentenced in December, the Haaretz daily reported.

According to court papers, victim Sylvana Tsegai, 12, fought back against Tesfasion in the 2018 attack, scratching at his face and trying to push him off, as he raped her and then strangled her to death.

Tesfasion spent two days on the run after the killing before he was arrested in Tel Aviv.

Eritrean national Tesfebarhan Tesfasion arrives for a court hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court on December 27, 2018. (Flash90)

Court papers showed that Tesfasion was married to Tsegai’s mother between April 2016 and June 2018 and carried out serious physical assaults on her during that time.

After the pair divorced, Tesfasion’s ex-wife rejected his attempts at reconciliation, even changing the locks on her apartment and the building’s entrance to prevent him from gaining access.

In the days before the killing Tesfasion followed his ex-wife, and at one point gained entry to the apartment and took some documents away while Tsegai was there.

At the time, Tsegai called police to complain, but did not report any violence by her mother’s ex-husband.

According to prosecutors, hours before the killing Tesfasion approached Tsegai’s mother outside the apartment building but she refused to speak to him. He then called her from a public phone and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll show you, don’t worry.”

Around noon on November 26, knowing that Tsegai would return from school and would be alone in apartment, Tesfasion climbed onto the roof of an adjacent building and waited for her to arrive. At around 3 p.m. he saw that the apartment door was open, jumped across from the neighboring roof and entered the apartment.

Police and medical personnel outside the home of Sylvana Tsegai, after she was found dead on November 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Inside he assaulted Tsegai, threw her on a bed and raped her, prosecutors said.

“The defendant throttled the deceased with both hands for a long time until the deceased ceased to resist,” it said. “Then, in order to ensure her death, the defendant took her phone and her key chain, locked the apartment and the entrance to the building while the deceased lay covered in blood, and left the building.”

That evening, Tsegai’s mother, who was working, became concerned that she had not heard from her daughter. After making frantic phone calls to find anyone who may know where she was, she asked to leave work and return home, fearing that Tesfasion may have harmed her daughter. Her employer escorted her to the building, where they found Tsegai’s body.

Tesfasion entered Israel in 2010 through the Egyptian border and was known to authorities for previous offenses.

Tsegai’s death, coming hours after the discovery of the body of another murdered teen, 16-year-old Yara Ayoub, prompted a wave of protests opposing violence against women and demands that the government do more to tackle the problem.

In 2018, 25 women were murdered by someone known to them, the highest number in years. Many of those women had filed police complaints prior to their deaths out of concern for their safety.

Remands extended

In a separate case, the Beersheba District Court on Tuesday extended the remand of a man suspected of killing his wife a day earlier.

Police were called to an apartment building in the southern city on Monday afternoon after receiving reports of a man on the roof apparently attempting to jump to his death.

After bringing Vladimir Spitlanikov down from the roof and treating him, police found his wife dead with a head wound in their apartment.

Medical sources quoted by the Haaretz daily said Irina Grivnev, 67, was likely struck with a blunt object and there were no gunshot or stab wounds on her body.

The scene where a woman was found dead at her home in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood in Haifa. Her partner was arrested on suspicion of murder, October 19, 2020 (Magen David Adom)

Hours earlier, 35-year-old Najah Mansour, a mother of four, was found dead in her home in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood of Haifa with signs of violence to her body. Police said they arrested the victim’s partner, 28, on suspicion of murder.

The suspect was named as Marwan Samri after a judge rejected a request by police that he remain anonymous. At a hearing on Tuesday, Samri’s remand was extended for eight days.

Hagit Pe’er, head of the Na’amat women’s advocacy group, said on Monday that the government was continuing in its failure to take action on the issue of violence against women.

“The wave of terrorism against women continues, the writing is on the wall and the government simply does not care. The best evidence of this is the plan to combat violence that was already approved in 2017 by the government, and to date has not been implemented,” Pe’er told Channel 12.

“Around 200,000 women in Israel live with violence — the coronavirus has turned their homes into prisons, the economic and psychological pressures are turning it into a life-threatening situation. We are tired of the lip service of elected officials after every such murder — what are you doing to prevent the next murder?” Pe’er said.

Police and social services organizations have reported a major rise in domestic violence complaints since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

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