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Police are still unsure what motivated Regina Kruchkov, 31, to kill her 4-year-old son Michael on Tuesday night in their apartment in south Tel Aviv.

"I held him in the tub, I submerged him and he resisted," she said Wednesday in tears. "I held him tightly under the water until I felt that he wasn't moving," she added in a whisper.

Kruchkov's brother and father, also arrested Tuesday night, were released Wednesday, apparently because police concluded that they had nothing to do with the boy's death.

Regina Kruchkov was ordered held in custody for nine days Wednesday until the completion of the investigation into Michael's death.

"I am sorry that I did it, sorry I caused him suffering, I deserve punishment," Kruchkov told the police investigators repeatedly.

Kruchkov's attorney, Avi Cohen, said yesterday that "the only thing that needs to be done when a mother does such a thing to her small son is to examine her psychological state."

The judge agreed and ordered Kruchkov to undergo psychiatric evaluation. According to all eyewitnesses, the short life of Michael was a good one and there were no early warnings for what transpired.

Police investigators collected testimony from neighbors, friends, family and day-care employees, all suggesting that Regina was a single mother who cared for and loved her only child.

Michael's kindergarten teacher, Rina Ben-Hemo, was shocked when she heard of the killing. "Michael was a lovely child, happy and very social, with some speech problems, but nothing suggested that he was in danger. He was well kept, clean and orderly. It was obvious that they [mother and son] had a close, warm relationship. Every day she carried him into the kindergarten. Michael was very spoiled and wanted to be carried, even though he was a little heavy for Regina, who was small and fragile - she carried him the whole length of the street," Ben-Hemo said Wednesday.

Police learned of the incident when Regina Kruchkov called at about 10:15 Tuesday night and whispered: "I killed my child."

The police located the address of the family using the phone number, and a patrol car was sent to the apartment, along with emergency services. Waiting for them was Regina, who repeated that she had killed her son.

The policemen entered the small apartment on Hezkiyahu Street in south Tel Aviv, and found the boy, lying naked on his bed. There were no signs of violence on his body, and all efforts by the emergency crews to revive him failed.

A pathologist examining the body concluded that Michael had been killed several hours earlier.

Also at the home was Regina's mother, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, and breathes with assistance. Her father, 60, lives nearby, and her brother, who used to live in the apartment with her, had moved out recently.

"I was visiting a friend and I received a call from the police. I was sure that it had to do with my mother but at the police station I learned what had happened. I am stunned and shocked by this. There were no warning signs of this, even though after she split up from the child's father, about a year ago, she had been depressed," Vitaly Kruchkov, the brother, told reporters after his release from custody Wednesday.

"The child was a happy kid and energetic. I am in shock," he added.

Although she has confessed to the crime, Kruchkov did not offer investigators any reason for her action. She told them she had thought about it for a long time, and that she had read of other cases of murders of children - but she did not say that she had been encouraged to act by several recent high-profile killings of children.

Kruchkov immigrated to Israel from Russia in 1997, and gave birth to twins four years ago. Michael's twin sister died a short while after birth.

She worked as a cleaning woman, and social services had known that she was experiencing economic hardship.

"But she took good care of the child, and he played every day nearby during the summer vacation, and she was very caring," a neighbor said.

Kruchkov had no police record, nor was she known to have received psychiatric treatment in the past.

Throughout her questioning Wednesday, she found it hard to respond. "Every question is being asked 30 times," an investigator said.

Police also took testimony from Michael's father, who broke down crying when he heard of the killing.

"To be honest he was the only family member who cried," said the officer leading the investigation.