Mother ‘acted strangely’ before alleged murder

Judges hear testimony in trial of Michal Aloni, accused of slaying daughters Roni and Natalie.

Justice gavel court law book judge 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Justice gavel court law book judge 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The trial of Michal Aloni, the Ra’anana woman accused of murdering her two young daughters, continued on Thursday in the Central District Court in Petah Tikva.
According to the indictment filed against Aloni, in November 2010 she strangled her youngest daughter, four-year-old Roni, with a sock and immediately afterwards strangled her six-year-old daughter, Natalie.
In Thursday’s hearing, the court heard testimony from two witnesses, Adv.-St.-Sgt.- Maj. Ronen Golan, the police investigator who interrogated Aloni after she was remanded in custody; and her neighbor, Avraham Belinson.
Even though a psychiatric evaluation submitted in April 2011 found that Aloni was fit to stand trial, in her cross examination of the witnesses, Aloni’s defense attorney Orit Hayoun attempted to establish that Aloni had mental problems and that the police investigators knew this.
First on the witness stand was police investigator Golan, who testified that he interrogated Aloni after she was remanded in custody, and told her that she was suspected of murder.
Under direct questioning by prosecuting attorney Rakefet Mohar, Golan testified that Aloni answered initial questions about her marriage and daily life clearly but “made a kind of switch” when questioned about the investigation and merely repeated that she could not remember.
“She understood what she did to her children,” Golan testified. “She was not in a poor mental condition so that she did not understand my questions.”
Golan also testified that on December 2, 2010, less than a month after her children were found dead, Aloni was taken back to her apartment at her own request to help stage a reconstruction of what happened.
“Throughout the entire reconstruction, [Aloni] did not faint once,” Golan testified, adding that Aloni had laid flat on the bed in her daughters’ room. “I suppose that’s when the memory of what she did came back to her,” Golan added.
Golan was then cross-examined by Aloni’s defense attorney, Hayoun, who asked him why he did not take into account during the investigation that Aloni suffered from mental problems.
Hayoun put it to Golan that he was aware that Aloni had mental problems, and that by interrogating and investigating her, he had knowingly deprived her of her rights.
However, Golan testified that he had never believed Aloni suffered from a mental disability.
During the cross-examination, Hayoun cited testimony given to police by Aloni’s neighbors and relatives, including her husband, Amos Aloni, who said that in the past Aloni had showed signs of behaving strangely, such as screaming.
“Unfortunately, people always say that ‘the writing was on the wall’ when something like this [crime] happens,” Golan told the court.
“That does not mean a defendant has mental or cognitive difficulties.”
Attorney Hayoun also asked Golan why he later said to his colleagues that he was concerned Aloni was unfit to stand trial, saying this indicated he knew she had a mental disability.
However, Golan said he did not believe Aloni had mental problems.
“After I investigated her and knew her better, I got the feeling from her that she is rather manipulative, and that she preferred to repress what had happened rather than cooperate,” Golan told the court, explaining that he had wondered why Aloni had initially admitted strangling her daughters, but later refused to tell police how she did it.
“I believe that maybe she did not remember how she did it,” Golan continued. “I stress that later that day [during his interrogation with Aloni] I understood what she was about, and I realized that she did not want to remember, not that she did not remember.”
Hayoun also asked Golan why he had prevented Aloni during her interrogation from talking with her sister Mira, who is a lawyer.
“We do not allow any suspect, especially in a case such as this, to talk with his family members,” Golan told the court. “I know that [Aloni] did not want to talk with her sister as a lawyer, she wanted to talk to her as a sister.”
Next on the witness stand was Aloni’s neighbor, Belinson, who testified that on the day of the murders he had told police that Aloni’s family had “mental problems.”
However, Belinson said that he was not aware Aloni had ever been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
“I knew that her home had all kinds of problems, it was like a sort of ‘pressure cooker’ in there,” said Belinson. Aloni once told him that her mother did not want her, her husband and children to live in the apartment, and tried to throw them out, Belinson testified.
Several months before the stranglings he had gone to Aloni’s apartment after hearing shouting, Belinson said.
Belinson testified that on that particular occasion, he arrived at the same time as police and security personnel from the apartment block.
At first, Aloni refused to open the door, but later let him and the police in. He said he saw Aloni’s two daughters sitting quietly on a sofa as Aloni ran up and down the hall, Belinson said, screaming and muttering to herself that her brother had attacked her, although her brother was not present.
Belinson said he told the police officer present at the scene that Aloni had mental problems.
Later, two social workers arrived at the scene, and told Belinson he could leave, he testified.
Belinson told police that Aloni had been “hysterical and out of control,” but told the court that he had not meant that in the “psychiatric sense.” He said he later realized Aloni had not been “out of control.”
Belinson also testified that Aloni had behaved strangely a short time before the day of the killings. He said he and his wife would regularly give Aloni second-hand children’s clothing for her daughters, but on that particular occasion, days before the killings, Aloni refused to come and take the package he offered, he testified.
Belinson also testified that the family had economic difficulties, which was why he and his wife had offered them the second-hand children’s clothing.
Aloni’s parents had also insisted on a “strict regime” inside the house, Belinson said.
“It was not like any Israeli home I know,” he told the court. “Everything had to be within fixed boundaries, and I don’t know what happened to those who deviated from those boundaries.”
Aloni’s mother was the only neighbor who had ever complained about the children playing in the apartment block, Belinson said. “I figured [Aloni’s mother] just lived in her own world,” he testified.
The panel of judges, Ruth Lorch, Tzvi Dotan and Irit Weinberg-Nutovitz, ruled the trial will continue on March 27.