Israeli Man Who Decapitated Ex-wife Acquitted, Committed to Mental Institution for 25 Years

Meir Goldshtein found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to psychiatric hospital in first such acquittal in Israel

Meir Goldshtein in court on May 28, 2017
Gil Eliyahu

In a first for the Israeli legal system, a man pleading insanity for killing and decapitating his ex-wife was acquitted of murder by the Nazareth District Court on Sunday and was committed by the courts to 25 years in a mental institution instead.

Until now, indictments have been canceled, but no one found to be mentally insane has ever been acquitted. The ruling effectively means that if Meir Goldshtein is judged to no longer be a threat to the public, he could be released from hospital and he could not be tried again.

Throughout the course of the hearing on Sunday, Goldshtein blocked his ears with his fingers and closed his eyes. Before the hearing, his parents, who came to the court, refused to approach him or speak to him.

The decision of the three judges, Asher Kola, Danny Tsarfati and Renana Galpaz-Mokady, was effectively an acceptance of the defense's insanity plea.

Adel Goldshtein, 30, was murdered in Tiberias two months ago and the apartment she was living in was set on fire. Police arrested her ex-husband, Meir Goldshtein, 34, who was in street with his ex-wife's head.

Attorney Ephraim Demari, representing Goldshtein, stating at the hearing that Goldshtein did commit the crimes he was accused of, but asked that he be acquitted on the grounds of the professional opinions of two psychiatrists, according to which he was mentally ill and was not aware of his actions.

Prosecutor Wiyaam Kablawi requested that the court rule that Goldshtein had committed the murder, but agreed on the acquittal on grounds of mental insanity. He asked that Goldshtein be hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for the maximum time the law allows - 25 years.

The ruling was made possible by a High Court decision from two weeks ago, on May 15, according to which a person may be acquitted for mental insanity and not just have their indictment canceled. 

According to the indictment against Goldshtein, the couple was divorced in February after which Adel lived in their apartment on her own. One month later, the accused pre-meditated her murder and on March 29 he arrived at the apartment in the morning, knocked on the door and asked to come in, saying that he wanted to take several personal items. His ex-wife let him in and left the door open behind him.

When she went to the bathroom, he slammed the apartment door closed so she would think he'd left. He found a 21-centimeter-long knife in the kitchen and waited for her to come out of the bathroom. When she came out he attacked and stabbed her. After she collapsed, he decapitated her and set her body on fire. He left the apartment carrying the head and headed to an adjacent dumpster where he set the head on fire.