‘The mind cannot fathom such an act’

Itai Ben-Dror arrested for allegedly killing his three children.

By
July 25, 2010 20:30
FLOWERS COVER the fresh graves of the Ben-Dror children in Netanya yesterday.

netanya murder graves 311. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

The Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Sunday extended by 10 days the remand of a Netanya man arrested for allegedly murdering his three young children, a crime that left the presiding judge shocked and distraught.

After reading the police remand extension request regarding Itai Ben-Dror, 38, Judge Liora Frankel referred to the crime as “a disturbing and extremely painful incident.

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The mind cannot fathom such an act. When I read the content of the [police] investigation, my heart cries out.”

Frankel ordered police to arrange for Ben-Dror to undergo a psychiatric exam by Tuesday to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Ben-Dror was arrested at his Netanya home on Saturday morning after rescue personnel found his children – Omer, 10; Roni, 8; and Or, 5 – stabbed to death underneath a blanket on his blood-soaked mattress. Ben- Dror was found nearby with his wrists slit from a botched suicide attempt.

Police first questioned Ben- Dror on Saturday at his bedside in the city’s Laniado Hospital. He confessed to stabbing his children, a police source said.

The investigation is still in its initial phase as forensics officers review evidence collected from the scene and detectives pore over letters written by the suspect.

On Sunday, Ben-Dror was led into court by four officers from the YAMAR special investigative unit. Ben-Dror covered his face and kept his head down for nearly the entire hearing, and refused to answer questions from the press. He had blood on his left hand and his wrists were wrapped in bandages.

Defense attorney Ran Alon made a case for insanity at the time of the murders, drawing on Ben-Dror’s discharge a month and a half ago from a psychiatric hospital and six recent suicide attempts. Alon said his client had said that voices told him to kill his children and advised him on how to carry out the murders. The attorney said the very nature of the crime indicated that the suspect was probably not sane.

“I think the circumstances demand a psychiatric examination, and I’m shocked that the investigative team did not agree,” he said. “We’re talking about a man who went through several different psychiatric hospitalizations, five or six over the past two years alone, the last of which was for five months, and he was with a psychiatrist just two weeks ago and said he didn’t feel well and had troubling thoughts. I think the action itself cries out to the heavens that this man is in need of a psychiatric examination.”

A representative of the police investigative team repeatedly dismissed Alon’s calls for his client to be given a psychiatric examination, saying that should wait until at least after an indictment.

When asked if Ben-Dror had expressed remorse, Alon said that from what he understood, “he believes that because of this action they [the children] are in a better world and are waiting for him there.”

At the beginning of Sunday’s hearing, Alon described his client’s version of events “After he stabbed the children, he carried them to his bed. Afterward, he drank some whiskey, swallowed some pills, slit his wrists, and went to sleep with his [dead] children, whom he hugged and kissed all through the night,” the lawyer said.

Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issuing a statement: “Yesterday, we were witness to a heinous act, which I am convinced the entire country is in mourning over and is outraged at. As the government, we are called on to do our utmost to prevent such deeds.”

Netanyahu said Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog had set up an inquiry that will include officials from his ministry, as well as mental health, public security and legal officials.

“I am certain that I speak for us all, and for the entire country, when I express our deepest outrage and our solidarity with the family over this awful tragedy,” the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry declined to answer questions about Ben-Dror’s earlier diagnosis at Lev Hasharon Mental Health Center, where he had been found “not to pose a threat” to his children.

Psychiatric services head Dr. Gadi Lubin said he was unable to comment on the matter, which would be addressed by the court after consultations with psychiatric authorities.

In the meantime, Health Ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu asked Welfare and Social Services Ministry director- general Nachum Itzkovitz to add Lubin, along with other relevant representatives, to the investigative committee.

Initial shock at the crime was followed by widespread outrage directed toward the social services. Authorities had permitted Ben-Dror to exercise unsupervised visitation rights with his children despite his history of psychiatric hospitalizations, suicide attempts and threats against his ex-wife and the mother of his children, Lilach Shem-Tov, who had tried to obtain a restraining order against him.

“I have nothing left to live for. My life has been stopped at the age of 38,” Shem-Tov told Ynet on Sunday, recounting the events of the recent months.

"Last July he attacked me and said that the weeds in my house must be removed and laid on my grave. Then there was another incident with a knife, which he tried to bring into my home. I reported it to the authorities, and he promised not to do anything, neither to me nor to the children.

“The authorities said he was back on track, that the children loved him and he loved them, and that I could let him have them. They told me, ‘Don’t engage in a war in front of the children; leave the war for the court.’” “I am tormented as it is. I won’t be abased as well. I trusted the authorities and the professionals; they told me he was okay. I wouldn’t have helped him murder them.

I thought he loved them.”

Yaakov Lappin, Judy Siegel and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.


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