State drops appeal after Roman Zadorov acquitted of murdering teen girl

In March ruling, district court said it feared Zadorov was forced into falsely confessing to killing Tair Rada in 2006

File: Roman Zadorov arrives at his home in Katzrin, after being acquitted in a retrial of the murder of Tair Rada at the court in Nazareth, March 30, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
File: Roman Zadorov arrives at his home in Katzrin, after being acquitted in a retrial of the murder of Tair Rada at the court in Nazareth, March 30, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The state prosecution announced on Sunday that it would not appeal a district court ruling in March that acquitted Roman Zadorov of the 2006 murder of a 13-year-old schoolgirl after a previous conviction saw him serve more than a decade behind bars.

The decision not to appeal was made “after a careful in-depth review of the verdict” in the case, the prosecution said.

The gruesome murder of Tair Rada in a school bathroom in the northern town of Katzrin has long been the subject of intense debate online and in the media, with many believing the now 45-year-old Zadorov was not the killer and had been convicted based on insufficient circumstantial evidence, while ignoring evidence that indicates the presence of another person at the scene. Others are convinced the evidence, while incomplete, leaves little room for doubt he was the culprit.

In a 2-1 decision, justices at the Nazareth District Court exonerated Zadorov in March. Judges Asher Kula and Danny Sarfati expressed concern that the defendant had been forced into giving a false confession, while Tammar Nissim Shai, in her minority opinion, said “Zadorov is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.”

Rada’s family — which has long charged that the wrong person was convicted — has waged a years-long public campaign that resulted in new evidence being unearthed and the announcement of the retrial in 2021, after which Zadorov was released to house arrest.

Rada was found dead in a bathroom stall in her Katzrin school in the Golan Heights in December 2006, with slashes to her neck, stab wounds across her body, and severe blows to her head.

Shortly after the murder, Zadorov, a Ukrainian national temporarily employed by the school as a floorer, was arrested and accused of the killing.

Tair Rada. (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Two weeks after his arrest, police announced Zadorov had confessed to Rada’s murder and reenacted the attack for investigators. But a day later, Zadorov’s defense attorney announced that his client had recanted, claiming his confession and reenactment were coerced and included incorrect information.

In 2010, nearly four years after he was arrested, the Nazareth District Court sentenced him to life in prison. The conviction was twice upheld by the Supreme Court following separate appeals.

His lawyers, along with thousands of vocal members of the public, insisted that Zadorov was framed for an act he did not commit and that the real murderer was a woman named Ola Kravchenko, whose boyfriend at the time, Adir Habani, said years later that she’d confessed the murder to him.

Following a DNA analysis by investigators, the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute announced in 2018 that a hair found on Rada’s body did not belong to Zadorov, but instead could match Habani (among thousands of possible matches), reigniting speculation over the killing.

In 2019, Zadorov’s attorney Yarom Halevi filed a request with the Supreme Court for a retrial, claiming the existence of “a lot of new evidence that proves unequivocally that Zadorov did not murder the deceased and could not have murdered the deceased.”

Some two years ago, the court ordered a retrial, leading to Zadorov’s eventual exoneration.

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