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The initial investigation into the alleged murder of a teenage girl by Nitzanim Beach Wednesday indicates that her assailant choked her to death when she screamed for help as he raped her.

Police said yesterday that the victim, 15-year-old Leah Drainkin, had been drinking alcohol with a few friends near their car in a public parking lot Wednesday night when they met with the suspect, Nikolai Doroshem, a 26-year-old resident of Ashkelon, whom they had first met a few days earlier.

Doroshem allegedly drove the two of them to a hill near Kibbutz Nitzanim, where he began to grope Leah. Police say they believe she screamed at him to stop, but he continued and choked her to death.

During his remand hearing yesterday in the Ashdod Magistrate's Court, Doroshem said the act happened in the moment.

"I did not mean to; it just happened," he said. "I pressed on her throat and she couldn't breath."

Doroshem's attorney, Gil Bayer, told the court his client, "did not mean to murder the girl. He had intercourse with her against her will, and when she screamed, he didn't want to get caught, so he pressed on her throat, he pressed too hard."

A detective on the case, Sgt. Maj. Roman Feierman, said the suspect had confessed and reconstructed the crime.

"According to the material we have, the suspect raped the girl, then murdered her, and hid her body so we would not identify it. He changed his story a number of times. At first we questioned him as a witness but then we understood he was hiding something and according to evidence at the scene we arrested him. He broke down under questioning and confessed."

A friend of Leah's, Anita Surin, said: "We were at a friend's party in the park. We were drinking a lot and at one point Leah didn't feel good so we put her in the car. An hour later Nikolai took us home - Leah and me and another friend. At first we were driving toward Leah's house, but because she was still asleep, we prefered to get her up first. Meanwhile, he dropped us off and drove with Leah. I was sure he had dropped her off at home. We know Nikolai through a girlfriend, it's hard for us to believe he would do this thing."

According to Feierman, Leah's body was found half-dressed with signs that she had been attacked.

"He's sorry for the murder, he confessed and reconstructed the act. What went wrong there was that she did not want to have intercourse with him," Feierman said.

"There was alcohol here; unfortunately we see it with a lot of cases involving minors," Maj. Gen. Yohanan Danino, commander of the police southern district, said.

"We must all recognize the problem of the link between the partying culture and the connection to alcohol, drugs and serious violence, and realize that there is no simple answer," Danino said.

At the ORT Afridar school in Ashkelon, where Leah was a student, kids appeared shocked at the news.

"We couldn't imagine that a student of ours would fall victim to such an act, certainly not this student," Esther Oron, the school principal, said.

Teachers spent the morning discussing the murder with their students, many of whom were in tears.

"Lately we saw a change in Leah. She started to go out more and have a good time. Usually she didn't talk much, but she was very funny. Last year she was isolated. This year, in the 10th grade, she connected to us a little more," a friend said.

Doroshem, who moved to Israel about 12 years ago from Ukraine, has a daughter, works in a metal factory in Ashkelon and lives with his parents.

"He's a sociable person and caring and I don't believe he did this. He's a good guy and a good father, he's always with his daughter. Something doesn't sit right with us about what they're saying about him. We haven't told his daughter yet; we're hoping for the best," Doroshem's sister said.