New DNA Evidence Found in 2006 Murder of Israeli Schoolgirl

Forensic tests reveal hair matching DNA of man who said his girlfriend confessed to killing Tair Rada while wearing his clothes

Roman Zadorov at the Supreme Court, October 20, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

New forensic tests have yielded evidence that could exonerate Roman Zadorov, jailed for the 2006 murder of a 13-year-old Israeli girl, Tair Rada, the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv said Thursday.

The hairs match the DNA of a man known as A.H., who had previously claimed that his then-girlfriend, A.K., murdered Rada, or the DNA of someone related to him.

Three hairs were found on Rada's clothes that were sent to tests in the U.S. back in 2007. These did not match Rada's or Zadorov's DNA. Zadorov's lawyer demanded over two years ago that these hairs be compared to the DNA of A.K.

In September 2010, Roman Zadorov was found guilty of murdering Rada at her Golan Heights school. He had been doing construction work at the school at the time. He was arrested days later, confessed to and reenacted the murder, then promptly retracted his confession the following day.

>> The brutal murder case that continues to haunt Israel

The state prosecutor initially said that the DNA could match A.H. or other people, but the forensics institute insists that it can only match A.H. or his family members. 

After discussing the issue for the past two years, an agreement was recently reached to conduct new tests and compare the hairs to other people. The forensics institute recently conducted the test, with funding from Zadorov, and the hair was found to be consistent with A.H.'s DNA.

Reproduction

A.H. told police that A.K. murdered Rada while wearing his clothes.

Officials from the State Prosecutor's Office were summoned to the forensics institute Thursday for updates on the new tests. Earlier, the institute's director, Dr. Hen Kugel, also informed the parties in the case of the findings.

According to Dr. Kugel, the new tests compared the hairs found on Rada's body to various genetic profiles. "The tests were conducted several times to ensure their validity and new findings were revealed. We leave the interpretation to the courts," Kugel said. 

A.K., who is currently abroad, gave testimony to the police in 2012 and 2017 but was not questioned under caution and denied that she murdered Rada. She told police that she felt that there was a wolf in her body named Tahav and that this wolf wanted to kill.

Even though the case made it all the way up to the Supreme Court, which upheld Zadorov’s murder conviction, he maintains that he is innocent. 

Retired Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger, who in 2015 issued a minority opinion urging that Roman Zadorov be acquitted on the grounds of reasonable doubt, said on Friday that it is possible that Zadorov would get a retrial on his conviction. Danziger was speaking at Tel Aviv University a day after Thursday's disclosure about the new DNA evidence.

Asked about the new revelations, Danziger said: "Two months ago when I refused to speak about this case, I explained that there was a considerable prospect that it would undergo a new phase and a retrial, and I assume that if it comes to a retrial, all of the [uncertainties], or at least a considerable portion of those still hanging in the air, would be clarified." Danziger was speaking on Friday at a program entitled "The Question of Reasonable Doubt in Criminal Law."

Last year, Danziger said that his minority court opinion in favor of Zadorov's acquittal was a borderline case, but he added that there were aspects of it that kept him up at night. He was critical of the conduct of the police and the reenactment of the murder that was conducted with Zadorov.

Kugel, who is Israel’s chief pathologist, recently asserted that the prosecution hid his professional opinion from the court during the controversial 2006 murder trial.

The forensics professionals at Abu Kabir testified that there was a discrepancy between the murder weapon that the state was arguing Zadarov had used, a box cutter, and the type of cut found on the Rada’s body. Zadarov had confessed to using a box cutter, and later retracted his statement.