Roman Zadarov, the suspect who confessed on Tuesday to the murder of 13-year-old Ta'ir Rada earlier this month, retracted his confession on Wednesday, claiming that he had been under extreme pressure. In addition, Army Radio revealed Wednesday that the building worker was in the process of acquiring Israeli citizenship when he was arrested.
Dec. 11: Katzrin fights for its good name
After arriving in Israel from the Ukraine on a tourist visa in 2002, Zadarov extended his visa multiple times, but did not apply for citizenship because he is not counted as Jewish under the Law of Returns.
Zadarov moved to Katzrin in 2003, where he lived with his future wife's parents. In 2004, he was allegedly caught using a forged work permit.
Only after his February 2005 marriage to Olga, an Israeli citizen, could Zadarov apply for citizenship.
After his marriage, Zadarov began the process of applying for citizenship, which takes an estimated four years. In the meantime, Zadarov is considered to be a temporary resident with a work permit.
In a report on Channel 2, Zadarov's attorney, David Spiegel confirmed that his client had retracted his statement, and reiterated the claim that Zadarov was coerced into a confession.
"I would not have run to make a public announcement as the police did," Speigel said, indicating that developing circumstances cast doubt on his client's guilt.
Following the attorney's comments, Olga Zadarov spoke to Channel 2 and repeated an earlier declaration that her husband was innocent.
"He's a man who doesn't blow up over little things. He wouldn't lift a hand. He's a man who wouldn't be able to do the things that are being ascribed to him," she said.
Zadarov's wife also defended her husband Wednesday morning.
"My husband is a very good man," Olga Zadarov told Army Radio. "I have known him for three years. We have a little baby, and he has never raised his hand to me nor to anyone else. He's never even so much as raised his voice."
"We don't even argue," continued Olga. "He would never do a thing like that, especially not over a cigarette. He just went into the toilet to smoke. No way did he do it."
Police announced late Tuesday that Zadarov, 29, who was arrested six days ago, confessed to the murder of 13-year-old Rada, and reenacted it for police detectives earlier in the day.
According to Zadarov, a Katzrin resident, he ran into Rada in or near the bathroom at the city's Nofei Golan High School. Zadarov was employed making structural repairs to the school, and the girl had just left her drama class.
Rada allegedly asked him for a cigarette, and when he refused, she allegedly began to curse at him.
Zadarov told investigators the girl's reaction was the straw that broke the camel's back. He said he had previously had a number of run-ins with students at the school.
Olga said that the police statement surprised her. "I was in shock. At first I panicked, but I know that it is not true, she said, adding that she had no idea why her husband had signed the confession. "It just cannot be, I think someone must have injected him with something."
Meanwhile, Shmuel Rada, father of Ta'ir, said that the details of the investigation filled him with hope, adding, "we will do everything to obtain all the details, and there will not, god forbid, be another media circus."
Shmuel went on to say that it was "inconceivable" that inside the walls of a school, no one knows whom the people working are, adding, "I don't know what his motive was. I hope this revolting man will get his punishment."
"A murderer like this, in other places, would be executed in the city square," he exclaimed.
Zadarov told the officers he simply "lost his mind," chased the girl and attacked the eighth-grader with a sharp knife. Zadarov said the brutal murder was completely unplanned.
Zadarov, who immigrated from Russia eight years ago and lives with his wife and newborn baby, has no previous criminal record.
Nevertheless, he told his interrogators that he had suffered in the past from a similar outburst towards a relative in Russia, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.
Zadarov was called in for questioning shortly after the murder.
"We built a mosaic of testimonies that described the time around the murder," said Ch.-Supt. Shmuel Boker, head of the team that investigated the incident. "In that mosaic, we found that there was one particular person [Zadarov] who was acting strangely."
Then, Zadarov gave his version of events, proclaimed his innocence, and was released. But after police questioned teachers and found that his story and witnesses' accounts conflicted, Zadarov was detained for questioning. This time, under intense interrogation, he gave a version of events that contradicted his previous testimony.
Zadarov then became the third adult who had been present at the school at the time of the murder to be arrested.
With only three days of his eight-day remand remaining, and with Zadarov denying any involvement in the killing, the police resorted to a classic technique. A "talker" was put in Zadarov's detention cell, a "prisoner" who led the suspect into a discussion during which he allegedly admitted to the murder.
Investigators then secured a second, official confession from Zadarov on Tuesday, after which he agreed to reenact the events leading up to the killing. Police said Tuesday night that Zadarov revealed details that only the murderer could have known regarding Rada's dress and the positioning of her body.
"There is a very high likelihood that he committed the murder," said Northern District chief Cmdr. Dan Ronen. "This was one of the most sensitive and complex incidents that the district - maybe even the country - has ever dealt with."
Galilee Subdistrict commander Lt.-Cmdr. Nir Mariash said police had "worked to crack the case with sensitivity and involvement, as if we were investigating the murder of our own child."
In contrast to the festive atmosphere surrounding the rearrest of escaped serial rapist Benny Sela a week and a half ago, police announced Zadarov's confession in a quiet, business-like press conference.
On Tuesday evening, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter asked police chief Insp.-Gen Moshe Karadi to congratulate the Northern District, the Galilee Subdistrict and the investigative team for the "intensive and special work which they invested in cracking this horrifying murder," adding that the police's "work in recent weeks to return the feeling of personal security to both the children of Nofei Golan High School and the residents of Katzrin are deserving of all praise."
Dichter said he planned to meet in the near future with Education Minister Yuli Tamir to discuss adding school security guards throughout the country.
Rada was the first person murdered in Katzrin in the town's 30-year history. For the past two weeks, students, parents and investigators had been worried that the investigation would reveal that the culprits were students at the school.
Police were set to request a remand extension for Zadarov on Wednesday morning.