Exclusive: Prosecution asks High Court to close American hiker death case

New witness gives police mixed testimony.

MARK AND ELLEN NEWMAN with Ariel at his high-school graduation a few months before his death. (photo credit: Courtesy)
MARK AND ELLEN NEWMAN with Ariel at his high-school graduation a few months before his death.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The state prosecution has asked the High Court of Justice to re-close the probe into the 2014 death of an American hiker, after receiving testimony which the court said it will collect from one of the witnesses.
According to the police interrogation, Mayer Horowitz reiterated some statements which support bringing the case to trial, but then appeared to retract significant portions of his testimony.
The homicide investigation related to the unexplained death of Ariel Newman, 18, a student from Great Neck, New York, during a hike in the Judean Desert on September 10, 2014 was noted as negligent. It centered on former officials at the now-defunct Mechinat Yeud program for Diaspora youth.
Following previous reports in The Jerusalem Post, Deputy Chief Prosecutor for Criminal Affairs Shlomo (Mumi) Lemberger ordered police to reopen their investigation twice to address new evidence brought forward in reports.
However, Lemberger still stuck to the same final decision to close the case in December, leading the hiker’s family to file a petition to the High Court.
On October 7, the High Court told the prosecution to reopen the case a third time to check new testimony by Horowitz.
In his October 18 testimony, he initially reiterated statements he made in a June affidavit that Mechinat Yeud’s hiking guide had rejected Newman’s plea to stop hiking and get into a vehicle. Newman was concerned that he might not be able to finish the hike.
However, Horowitz backed off when police asked him about contradictory details between his recent accusations, and initial testimony he made to police in 2015 where he made no allegations against the guide. He was unsure which recollection was better, and he said it was possible that he had been influenced by narratives others had told him. He also claims that police in 2015 had failed to ask him important questions.
The Newman family alleged since that the police were slow and negligent in probing the incident.
Furthermore, the prosecution said that even if Horowitz had not retracted his 2018 allegations, there would be problems with proving a case of negligent homicide.
Newman family lawyer, Amos Fried, responded to the prosecution’s latest request to the High Court to close the case, saying they had, “wished to believe” that the High Court’s order to reopen the case “would serve as a springboard for further investigations, including a thorough interrogation” of the driver whose vehicle Newman wanted to enter so he could rest.
Fried said the driver “to this day has never been summoned for questioning by the police, whether as a witness or a suspect” and that the need for his “involvement in the investigation is crucial,” since Mayer also described in detail the critical moment when Ariel demanded to end the hike and return” to the car.
The Newman family’s lawyer said that the revelation left no room for doubt that the driver had heard “Ariel’s desperate pleas and in fact found them compelling enough to express his consent to oblige.”
Fried said that the contradictions between Horowitz’s statements were “inconsequential,” accused the state prosecution of bias against the case and said he hoped the High Court would force it to question the driver.
The High Court is expected to accept the prosecution’s request to close the case as even when it ordered the case reopened, it had pushed the Newman’s hard about why it should not just defer to the prosecution’s discretion. The High Court appeared ready to accept whatever final decision the prosecution would come back with after reviewing the new evidence on October 7.
At the time of the reopening of the case, Ariel’s father, Mark, told the Post, “We hope and pray that the indifferent Israeli prosecutors do not yet once again summarily dismiss the case after hearing Mayer Horowitz’s explosive testimony” that the driver of the car accompanying the hike heard Ariel cry out for his life and agreed to take him back to safety, but was overruled by the hiking guide.