State probing new lead that could spur retrial for convicted murderer of teen

Outgoing State Attorney Shai Nitzan says his office has received a legal opinion from Roman Zadorov’s lawyer that he believes is worth examining

Convicted murderer Roman Zadorov in the courtroom of the Supreme Court, Jerusalem, December 23, 2015. (Gili Yohanan/POOL)
Convicted murderer Roman Zadorov in the courtroom of the Supreme Court, Jerusalem, December 23, 2015. (Gili Yohanan/POOL)

Outgoing State Attorney Shai Nitzan acknowledged Wednesday that his office has received new evidence that could lead to the opening of a retrial for a man who has been in prison for nearly a decade over the murder of a teenage girl.

In October, Attorney Yoram Halevi filed an official retrial request to the Supreme Court on behalf of Roman Zadorov, a Ukrainian-Israeli handyman serving a life sentence for the brutal 2006 murder of 13-year-old Tair Rada.

Halevi claimed there is fresh evidence proving someone else carried out the murder.

In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Nitzan declined to comment on the details of the case but said that his office had received a legal opinion from Zadorov’s defense team, which “comes from a completely different direction and we have to examine it thoroughly.”

State Attorney Shai Nitzan speaks at the Makor Rishon Conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

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

Zadorov’s lawyers, along with thousands of vocal members of the public, insist that Zadorov was framed for an act he didn’t commit and that the real murderer was a woman whose name is gagged by a court order and who suffers from mental illness.

Following a DNA analysis by investigators, the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute announced last October that a hair found on the victim’s body was not Zadorov’s but matched that of the former boyfriend of the woman, reigniting speculation about who committed the killing and whether Zadorov could be given a retrial. At the time, Zadorov’s lawyers had also requested that 50 other hairs discovered also be tested.

Those developments caused the state prosecution to hold consultations with Justice Ministry and police officials about the case.

Tair Rada (YouTube screenshot)

“There is a lot of new evidence that proves unequivocally that Roman did not murder the deceased and could not have murdered the deceased, and that points to O.K. as having murdered her,” Halevi told the Supreme Court in October.

The ex-boyfriend, whose name is also under gag order, has been referred to in Hebrew media reports by the initials A.H., while the woman has been identified as O.K.

Days before the new forensic evidence was announced last year, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported that a witness had recently arrived at a police station in Nazareth Illit to testify that O.K. had confessed to her that she had killed Rada.

O.K. is now claimed to have told three people she committed the murder.

The State Attorney’s Office and the Justice Ministry have previously said that all the evidence against O.K. had been thoroughly checked and found to be unreliable.

The Supreme Court previously rejected A.H.’s testimony about the woman while police concluded his version was unreliable and an attempt to frame his former lover, the Ynet news site reported in 2018.

Roman Zadorov’s lawyer Yoram Halevi at a press conference in Tel Aviv on October 25, 2018. (Flash90)

Shortly after the murder, Zadorov, who was employed at the school at the time as a maintenance worker, was arrested and charged with the killing. 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.

In 2015, the Supreme Court upheld Zadorov’s conviction in a split 2-1 decision. The dissenting opinion came from Justice Yoram Danziger, who said there was sufficient reasonable doubt to exonerate Zadorov.

Zadorov’s appeals against that ruling were rejected, with Supreme Court President Miriam Naor saying that despite the substantial public interest in the case, there was no “legal justification” to retry Zadorov.

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