Ramat Gan man charged with choking girlfriend to death, stabbing his mother

Indictment filed at Tel Aviv court says Amit Almog, 21, filmed himself singing, throwing money on Maya Vishniak’s body, sent footage to his friend; defense cites mental issues

Demonstrators against violence to women hold up a photo of Maya Vishniak, who was choked to death in a domestic violence incident, as they participate in a rally at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, on May 18, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Demonstrators against violence to women hold up a photo of Maya Vishniak, who was choked to death in a domestic violence incident, as they participate in a rally at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, on May 18, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A Ramat Gan man was charged Thursday over the murder of his girlfriend and stabbing of his mother last month, with court documents saying he filmed himself singing and throwing banknotes at the victim’s lifeless body.

The gruesome murder has sparked renewed calls for the government to tackle domestic violence amid a spate of killings.

Amit Almog, 21, was indicted at the Tel Aviv District Court after allegedly strangling 22-year-old Maya Vishniak to death in his Ramat Gan apartment on May 16, having resolved to kill her.

He grabbed her throat and obstructed her mouth, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, some two hours after the murder Almog’s mother arrived at the apartment. Almog asked if she wanted to see Vishniak sleeping, took her to the bedroom, and then grabbed her throat from behind and stabbed her in the face and upper body.

His 50-year-old mother begged for her life, told him several times that she loved him, and he eventually stopped his assault. She suffered mild wounds.

Maya Vishniak (Courtesy)

He then filmed Vishniak’s body and himself while he was singing and dropping banknotes on her, and sent the footage to his friend, the indictment said.

The indictment said the motive for the murder isn’t known to authorities. It stressed that Almog’s actions had been planned ahead of time. He hid the kitchen knife in a bedroom drawer immediately after murdering Vishniak, intending to use it against his mother.

Almog attended Thursday’s court hearing, as did his and Vishniak’s parents. Vishniak’s friends, watching the proceedings outside the courtroom via live feed due to coronavirus social distancing rules, yelled “murderer!” at Almog when he appeared on the screen, wearing a face mask.

Vishniak’s parents were reportedly shocked to see Almog’s parents blowing kisses at their son. “How do you support this despicable murderer? Shame on you! How did you raise such a person?” they told them.

“The indictment gave us goosebumps, it is hard to comprehend what happened there, it’s traumatic,” said Ariel Vishniak, Maya’s father, after the hearing. “But we can understand that this was planned and carefully timed and orchestrated. The murder was deliberate, that should be clear.”

He said the acts described in the indictment showed Almog was fully aware and responsible for his actions, dismissing the defense’s argument that Almog had heard voices telling him what to do.

“He is sane,” he said. “I hope he doesn’t see the light of day, like my daughter will no longer see. He should be jailed until his last day, no less. I trust the court to do that.”

Shira Vishniak, center, whose sister Maya was killed in an incident of domestic violence, addresses a rally against violence towards woman, in Tel Aviv, on June 1, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The judge, Maayan Ben Ari, extended Almog’s remand until further notice. She set another hearing for next Tuesday.

Almog’s lawyers said the main focus of the trial would be the defendant’s mental state while committing his actions. They said he would be sent for psychiatric evaluation, claiming he had “complex mental problems.”

Vishniak, who is survived by her parents and three brothers, returned several months ago from a post-army trip with friends to East Asia.

Hebrew-language media described her as a gifted woman who had been enrolled in a special program at Bar-Ilan University since elementary school. She played many musical instruments and loved drawing.

A protest against violence against women in Tel Aviv. May 6, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Police and social service organizations have reported a major uptick in domestic violence complaints since the start of the coronavirus crisis, which has been blamed for exacerbating tensions as people were confined together by lockdown measures.

There have been several acts of serious violence against women by their partners in late April and early May.

Thirteen Israeli women were murdered in 2019 by someone known to them. In 2018, 25 women were murdered in such incidents, the highest number in years, prompting a string of protests and urgent calls for authorities to take action against the increasing incidence of violence against women in Israel. Many of those women filed police complaints prior to their deaths out of concern for their safety.

Stuart Winer and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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