The man who attacked dozens of women in Tel Aviv is back on the streets.
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
Calling convicted serial rapist Benny Sela a monster might be the understatement of the year.
The man who attacked dozens of women and instituted a reign of terror across the Tel Aviv metro area in the late '90s is back on the streets, and Tel Aviv women have returned to the nightmares of a decade ago, when they were afraid to walk alone.
Sela, now 34, prowled the streets of Tel Aviv - and particularly south Tel Aviv, his home ground.
He grew up on Rehov Hanoch in a seedy neighborhood near the Hatikva market. When Sela was 13, his alcoholic father committed suicide within view of the family's apartment, jumping from an almost-four-story-high electrical pole.
In 1994, Tel Aviv began to witness a series of terrifying rapes and sexual assaults.
The attacker would ask his victims personal questions and force them to shower afterward to reduce the physical evidence. In three instances, he video taped his victims, threatening to publish the videotape on the Internet or to give them to their friends if they reported the attacks.
The rapist attacked women and girls in their homes, usually late at night or early in the morning, sometimes threatening them with a knife, sometimes beating them and sometimes robbing them.
He tied some of them up with telephone wire or stuck clothes into their mouths. He attacked one woman twice, and threatened another with a knife while her two daughters slept beside her.
In another case, he opened the electricity box and turned off the power for an entire apartment building. When a 12-year-old girl opened her door to see what had happened, Sela attacked her.
In 1995, Sela was arrested for the first time, and sentenced to two years in prison for systematically molesting his cousin from the time she was eight until she was 15 when she would sleep over at his family's apartment. According to court testimony, Sela would assault while his girlfriend of the time was sleeping in his room.
Despite refusing psychological treatment while in prison, and despite at least one psychologist's warning that he was still a danger to the public, Sela was released six months early for good behavior.
The attacks increased in the late 1990s, and under intense public pressure, police admitted that there was a serial rapist at large and launched a massive investigation.
Sela was finally arrested when he molested two teenagers in broad daylight, the he attacked in the open instead of behind closed doors, as far as is known.
The girls called for help, neighbors called the police, and officers who had been staking out the area nabbed the 26-year-old suspect.
After Sela's arrest, police noticed that the number of sexual assaults in Tel Aviv slowed. Police discovered that he had saved press clippings concerning his crimes.
In 1999, while awaiting trial, Sela tried unsuccessfully to escape from detention.
In October 2000, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Sela of raping 13 women after he confessed to the crimes in a plea-arrangement in which the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office agreed to drop seven counts of rape where the evidence was weak.
Two months later, Sela was sentenced to 35 years and nine months imprisonment for sexually assaulting 14 young women in the Tel Aviv area over a three-year period. Police believe Sela committed at least 24, and perhaps as many as 34, rapes, sexual assaults, and sexual molestations of women and girls over the course of five years.
Since then, Sela has been in Eshel Prison in Beersheba. According to fellow prisoners, he has increasingly been "fanatically" exercising and, apparently, waiting for an opportunity to return to the streets of Tel Aviv.
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