The Nazareth District Court on Sunday indicted a college professor who resides in a Galilee-area kibbutz for allegedly murdering his mother and stealing her credit cards.
Chen Ayalti, 50, was charged with the murder of his mother, Miriam Ayalti, credit card fraud and obstruction of justice. His wife, Felicia Ayalti Vana, a South African national, was charged with credit card fraud and obstruction of justice.
According to the indictment, the couple had been experiencing financial trouble and were renting a small apartment over the mother’s home in Kibbutz Mahanaim.
The couple were allegedly also using the mother’s credit cards for various expenses and shopping trips in the nearby town of Rosh Pina without her knowledge or permission.
On April 13, Ayalti had an argument with his mother over money. She had discovered the charges on her credit cards, and confronted her son about it, the indictment said. During the argument, Ayalti asked his mother for a loan, which she declined, citing her own financial difficulties, prosecutors said.
The argument ended with his mother demanding that Ayalti and his wife move off her property.
Ayalti then attacked his mother, tearing her frenulum, the membrane that anchors the tongue to the jaw, according to the indictment. The torn membrane caused her tongue to block her trachea, and she choked to death.
Hearing the commotion from another room, his wife was said to rush to the scene. The couple allegedly decided to make it appear as though Ayalti’s mother had died of natural causes by moving her into bed before calling the authorities.
Initially, authorities believed the claim that the elder Ayalti’s death resulted from natural causes. However, her daughter Roni suspected foul play and took her concerns to police, demanding an autopsy.
Police at first were hesitant to order the autopsy, but decided to proceed with the exam after Ayalti acted suspiciously while discussing the circumstances of his mother’s death.
Forensics revealed the 66-year-old was in fact killed violently.
According to the indictment, the couple attempted to withdraw money using the mother’s credit card on the day she died.
Israel Police Superintendent Eyal Hariri told reporters Sunday that after Ayalti’s arrest, he tried to pin the murder of his mother on his wife.
Ayalti and Vana were remanded into custody during Sunday’s hearing. Both have denied the charges against them.
Outside the courtroom, friends of Miriam Ayalti said news of her murder was met with “shock” in the small Galilee community.
“We’re all just in shock. She [Miriam] grew up, married and raised her children and grandchildren here,” Dina Rappaport said. “We had no idea what was going on with her son and daughter-in-law. I knew that they were having some financial problems, but it’s just difficult to understand how he [Chen] was connected to this violence.”