Lawyer: Teenager arrested for murder of Plinner 'needs help'

Peers describe suspect as "intimidating," say he had violent tendencies yet are surprised he could kill.

Anat Pliner 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Anat Pliner 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The 17-year-old arrested last week for the murder of lawyer Anat Plinner in 2006 suffers from a psychiatric problem and "needs help," his lawyer, Moshe Maroz, said on Monday. The suspect confessed to stabbing Plinner twice on her doorstep in Ramat Hasharon, after demanding that she hand over all of her money, police said. Police linked him to the murder after recently arresting him for stealing a moped. Forensic officers matched his DNA to a sample taken from the murder scene two years ago. "He [the suspect] is not short on money. He didn't set out to harm Plinner. In recent months, the family had taken him to a psychiatrist to receive treatment," Maroz said. "I spoke with him for an hour, and my feeling is that he was not aware of what he was doing. There is a problem here, which will be discussed further as the case reaches court." The suspect, who was 15 at the time of the killing, will likely be indicted next week, Maroz said. Students at the prestigious Ramat Hasharon school attended by the suspect described him as having an intimidating presence, adding that he was no stranger to violence and fights. "Everyone was scared of him," said one female student. "During a school trip, one of my friends accidentally fell back on him. She felt the need to apologize profusely." The student added, "When he threatened to bring gangs with knives, he would make good on his threat. He was the mafia leader of Ramat Hasharon at our school. But everyone was surprised by the news; no one thought he could actually kill." The student described how the suspect "tried to dance with the girls during parties, but they were scared of him. He's short, and aggressive. He looked like a kid with problems." The suspected attended a class for students with learning difficulties in the school. "I knew him," said another student. "He was a criminal, a kid who caused problems. But I didn't believe he was capable of murder. He used to steal bikes and things like that," she said. "There was something threatening about his walk. The whole neighborhood knew him," she added. "I met his family a few times. They're really good people. They live in a fancy villa - they're a well-off family. His siblings are very nice," the girl continued. But a youth's socioeconomic background is largely irrelevant when it comes to factors that cause teenagers to become murderers, a veteran police youth officer said. "There are people who are born criminals - it's in their genes," the officer said. "But this is not the main issue. I'm talking about a population that can be either rich or poor, youths who have parents with lots of money, their own rooms, and computers - but they don't have the basic things like love and warmth," she added. "When a child doesn't receive what he needs, he gets bored. He needs to be noticed, and then the mess begins. Criminal activities start. And it doesn't matter whether the youth's family is rich or not," the officer said. "That boy did not decide to kill. This wasn't premeditated murder. It's much like [the 1994] murder of taxi driver Derek Roth, who was shot by two Herzliya teenagers [aged 14]. That was the first time that police found themselves dealing with a murder carried out 'out of boredom.' The teenagers were ignored by their parents. Boredom can kill," the officer added. "The children will send distress signals. You always need to look at what's happening in the home. Thirty years ago, the mother would stay at home, and she was always around. Today, the parents are absent, replaced by TV and computers. Kids grow up before their time, and are much less innocent," the youth officer said. The suspect's tearful mother said at a press conference Monday that "Suddenly, a bombshell is dropped on you, you learn that the son you raised and nurtured is a murderer." Addressing the victim's family, she added, "I'm sorry for the family and the injustice that was caused them. [The children] didn't deserve to lose their mother. I am sorry. If I meet them, I'll apologize for what my son did, for what he should not have done." The mother said her son had come home on the night of the murder in a panic, claiming he was being pursued by drug addicts. "He's a good boy, a lovely boy. He would do what I asked him, he helped out at home... no one could know that he murdered, and I find it hard to believe to this day," she said. Meanwhile, the Israel Police report that youths are being arrested more often for carrying knives. "There has been a 23 percent increase in arrests for possession of knife," a police spokeswoman noted. In the past year, 908 youths were caught carrying knives, compared to 739 in the year before that. Police arrested 14 teenagers for murder in 2005, 12 of them for killing adults. 2006 saw five teen murderers arrested, while in 2007, 15 youths were arrested for murder, three for killing other teenagers, and 12 for killing adults. So far this year, six youths have been arrested for murder - half of them for killing other youths.