Police crack Galilee teen murder case

Beduin youth indicted for allegedly killing Ma'ayan Ben-Horin, 18, in Jan.

maayan be horin (photo credit: Courtesy)
maayan be horin
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An indictment was served Wednesday morning against the alleged murderer of 18-year-old Ma'ayan Ben-Horin less than two months after the high school student's death shook the Northern District. The suspect, a 17-year-old Beduin farmer from the Lower Galilee, allegedly tried to rape Ben-Horin, then killed her after she fought back. On Tuesday evening, Northern District police chalked up what they believe to be an investigative success as the Ben-Horin file was transferred to the District Attorney's Office to prepare for the prosecution of the teenager who police suspect murdered Ben-Horin. "From an investigation that began without intelligence, without the beginnings of a lead, without anything, this has become a victory of creative investigation methods," said one Northern District officer Tuesday night, adding "our hearts are, of course, with the Ben-Horin family at this moment." Ben-Horin, a twelfth grade student from the small northern community of Yuvalim, was found brutally murdered in early January in the hilly area near Yodefat two days after her family reported her missing. Police said Tuesday that Ben-Horin's mother contacted them for the first time shortly before midnight on the Monday that her daughter disappeared. Police began combing the mountainous area where the teen was last seen at sunrise the next morning, but only found Ben-Horin's body a day later. When the body was found, the Northern District's Central Investigative Unit quickly closed off the scene of the crime, and began to gather forensics evidence. A mobile forensics lab was brought to the scene in order to help process the data, including particles found under the fingernails of the murdered girl. While the lab technicians did their work, detectives began to unravel a difficult case in which, they said, they started out with no leads whatsoever. "We began with the circle closest to the incident," an officer in the Northern District explained. "We began questioning Beduin shepherds who frequent the area, passers-by." Ultimately, police brought in over a hundred people for questioning, and took DNA samples from 64 of them. To their surprise, one of those turned out to be what police said was the closest thing possible to a perfect match, based on cellular DNA gathered from Ben-Horin's fingernails. Investigators said Tuesday night that the chances of two people sharing the DNA of the teenage suspect were 1 in 19 billion. From that point on, following repeated interrogations involving both police and the Shin Bet, detectives were able to recreate a picture of Ben-Horin's last moments. After getting a ride with a teacher to a gas station at the entrance to the village of Kaukab, Ben-Horin managed to get a second ride in the direction of a farm where she was supposed to have a job interview. After the second driver left her off at the entrance to a dirt road, the teenager managed to walk approximately 700 meters down the path before she ran into her attacker. Police said they believed that the assailant tried to perform a sexual act, and when Ben-Horin protested, he hit her on the head repeatedly with a rock, and then dragged her body approximately 20 meters to a bush, where it lay concealed for the next two days. By the time her mother reported her missing, police said, the girl had been dead for approximately nine hours. In the days following his arrest, the teenage suspect reenacted the murder before police, and confessed to the attack, although he offered an alternate version of the events - that Ben-Horin had frightened his dog, and that an altercation led to the murder. Police dismissed the story as "not credible." The suspect also wrote letters to both the court and the Ben-Horin family in which he apologized for the murder. Police informed Ben-Horin's parents that they planned to deliver the indictment, and updated them Tuesday night as to all of the case details. The Nazareth Magistrate's Court lifted the gag order on the case early Wednesday morning, in advance of the hearing that will be held on Wednesday morning during which the suspect will be indicted and have his remand extended for a third time. Police said that the district attorneys at the Haifa District Court planned to request that the suspect be held until the end of the proceedings against him.