What seems to be a grisly Jerusalem murder was apparently solved yesterday when the victim's body was found after the suspected perpetrator confessed. Police investigators say that Sarit Zikri-Benit was murdered on Thursday by her live-in partner, who hid her body in the home's balcony.
Zikri-Benit, 40, who was divorced, lived with her four children, ranging in age from 19 to eight, and the suspect in the Gilo neighborhood. The oldest daughter did not contact the police until Sunday though her mother had not been seen since Thursday. The delay apparently related to text messages the children received from their mother's cellular phone. They indicated that their mother was in the north, with the suspect, at a bed and breakfast place. One such message said, "Don't worry, we're fine and at a B&B," a friend of Zikri-Benit said yesterday.
On Monday night, police used special equipment to track down the suspect in the woman's car, in Beit Shemesh. After a few hours of questioning, the suspect confessed and directed investigators to the hidden body, which was found early yesterday under various items in the apartment's rear service balcony. So, for several days, the children lived in the apartment without knowing their mother's body was also there.
Police investigators are trying to determine whether the suspect sent a text message to the woman's daughter from the woman's phone after she died. Shortly, after her body was found, police issued a gag order banning disclosure of the suspect's name and some of the investigation's details.
The suspect was brought for remand yesterday to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court. Police wanted him held for another 15 days; the judge ordered an eight-day remand.
Hanan Rubinstein, the suspect's attorney, said at the hearing that the case does not involve a murder, but a complicated sequence of events. "Not every incident that ends in tragic death necessarily involves murder," said Rubinstein. He said the police have witnesses who will testify that the suspect suffered from violence meted by his partner.
Messages posted on the suspect's Facebook page included the following comments: "Shabbat is in the offing and we are preparing for the holy day. Wishing all of Israel and my dear family, my partner Sarit and her special children, 'Shabbat shalom." I love and miss you, and have a great time." Another message stated: "Good afternoon to all my friends; we had a great meal, thanks to my amazing, wonderful girlfriend and her children; thanks to all of you for the great evening."
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