Yonatan Heilo, who served time for killing his rapist, found dead on beach

Friend says he didn’t receive the support he needed as victim of sexual assault and former prisoner; police launched search after family reported him missing

Yonatan Heilo in an undated interview (Screen grab/Channel 12 news)
Yonatan Heilo in an undated interview (Screen grab/Channel 12 news)

Yonatan Heilo, who was jailed for killing his rapist and then given early release after public outcry over his case, was found dead on a Netanya beach on Monday.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Heilo, 32, were being investigated.

According to Channel 12 news, his family reported him missing on Sunday afternoon after they were unable to locate him and he didn’t answer his phone. Police launched a search and on Monday morning his body was found.

Heilo’s friend Sapir Sluzkar Amran said that he hadn’t been able to get the help and support he needed as a victim of sexual assault and an ex-convict.

“He went through a very difficult time. We forget that people who come out of prison and have been sexually assaulted need help and rehabilitation and support. The system is not prepared for that — neither organizationally nor budgetarily,” she told the Kan public broadcaster.

Yonatan Heilo on August 21, 2019 (Flash90)

“He has been in distress lately because he has not found a job. [Society] branded him as a released prisoner. From the beginning he should not have gone to jail except for a short time and, even then, in a rehabilitative setting,” she said. “There are people who took pity, but there are also people who have turned their backs and treated him with racism and suspicion and prejudice.”

Heilo’s death came almost half a year after he was released from a second period in prison for violating the terms of his parole.

Heilo was convicted of murdering Yaron Eilin in Netanya after the latter repeatedly raped, robbed and blackmailed him over a period of several months in 2010.

Eilin, a convicted felon, reportedly made comments to Heilo during a 2010 Lag B’Omer celebration suggesting that he intended to rape him again. Later that evening, when Eilin went to urinate in an alley and had his back turned, Heilo jumped him from behind, strangled him and beat his body with a rock.

Yonatan Heilo arrives at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to hear a decision regarding an appeal against his sentence, on May 31, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Heilo was sentenced in 2013 to 20 years in prison.

In the original verdict, the Lod District Court recognized Heilo as a rape victim, but rejected his claim of self-defense on the grounds that he hadn’t reported the previous assaults to police and that several weeks had elapsed between the last assault and Eilin’s murder.

But in its response to Heilo’s appeal, the Supreme Court recognized the “ongoing taunting” that he suffered “over a long period of abuse by the deceased toward the appellant, which included a web of violent incidents, threats of violence, including threats to the appellant’s life, financial extortion and sexual abuse, which included two acts of sodomy.”

The Supreme Court softened Heilo’s murder conviction, instead finding him guilty of manslaughter and reducing his term from 20 years to 12. President Reuven Rivlin then commuted part of the sentence to probation, bringing his jail time down to 10 years and eight months and enabling him to seek parole as he had by then served over half of his reduced sentence. He was freed in July 2018.

Yonatan Heilo is seen leaving the Sharon Prison on July 23, 2018.(Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Last year a parole board ordered Heilo’s return to prison for a year after violating his parole conditions. The decision did not specify what the violations were, although Hebrew media reports said he had begun abusing alcohol while suffering from depression.

At the time, Heilo’s lawyer accused the state of failing his client.

“His story is a legal tragedy,” said Alon Eizenberg, adding that Heilo had been released into an “infinite void, and the authorities did not attempt to rehabilitate him.”

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