Prosecutors Block Early Release of Israeli Woman Jailed for Killing Abusive Roommate

Immigrant with no family in Israel was convicted of killing man who beat her for years

Neve Tirtza Women's Prison in the central Israeli city of Ramle, 2018
Meged Gozani

Prosecutors have objected to paroling a woman who was convicted of killing her roommate, a man who beat her for years.

Two weeks ago, the parole board decided Margarita Khomenko was not dangerous and recommended her for early release. She has also received the support of the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority, who supports her transfer to a rehab hostel, taking into account her good behavior in prison and the harsh circumstances of her life.

The State Prosecutor’s Office appealed the parole board’s decision to the district court, and her early release was postponed. A hearing will be held on the appeal next week.

In September 2015, 60-year-old Khomenko was convicted of manslaughter for killing Genady Drozovsky, after he choked her until she was unconscious. She received nine years in prison, but the Supreme Court reduced her sentence to eight years because of the circumstances of the crime, and the harsh reality of her life.

Drozovsky regularly beat her, cursed her and threatened her when the two lived together, the indictment said. She filed a number of complaints with the police, but poverty forced her to continue living with him.

Simona Mori and her children after her release, Neve Tirtza prison, Ramle, September 25, 2019
Meged Gozani

Criminal responsibility has recently been reduced for women who have killed an abusive partner, commuting the maximum sentence in such cases to 15 years in prison. Dalal Daoud and Simona Mori, who were both convicted of murdering their abusive partners, won early release on parole – accompanied by broad public support and protests on their behalf.

Although Khomenko was not “romantically involved” with Drozovsky, as the parole board put it, they shared an apartment and she was financially dependent on him – and she remained in their shared apartment in spite of habitual violence, said Ariella Gueta, the attorney from the Public Defender’s office who is representing Khomenko.

Alone in Israel

In the hearing held two weeks ago, Khomenko told the parole board that she is having a very difficult time in prison because she has no family in Israel, and no help from outside the prison. In the hostel she would able to receive support from the National Insurance Institute, have more time to attend group therapy sessions, “study, and learn how to live in Israel.”

Khomenko is unable to participate in group for treatment of violent offenders because of her financial state, according to the parole board decision, which was released on Wednesday at the request of the Public Defender’s Office. “The prisoner explained to us that her refusal stemmed from her being alone in Israel without any support, neither psychological nor financial, which forced her to work in prison and did not allow her to participate intensively in group [therapy].”

The parole board said Komenko’s behavior in prison was impeccable, calling her killing of Drozovsky “an exceptional and lone incident in the life of the prisoner,” insisting that she does not represent a danger to the public.

But in the appeal filed against her parole, the attorney general’s office said Khomenko was still dangerous, as some of the reports filed on the matter showed. The parole board gave too much weight to the rehabilitation program prepared for her by the Rehabilitation Authority, prosecutors argued, while other professional staff members thought she still needed further help on the issue of violence – but she has refused to undergo the relevant treatment.

“As opposed to the [parole] request, treatment officials in the prison think the prisoner is still a danger to the public, in light of her refusal to undergo treatment for violence,” said prosecutors. “Every case is examined in its own right, and the legal changes concerning women who killed their abusive partners does not eliminate the need to examine the prisoner’s dangerousness at this time. The appeal is pending and the court will decide on the matter.”

Dalal Daoud talks to the press on her release from Neve Tirtza prison, Ramle, Israel, June 20, 2019
Meged Gozani

‘I’m going home... and choking her’

Khomenko was born in northern Russia in 1959. She studied at university, married at a young age, had a daughter who died at 7 months, and a son who was born two years later. The couple divorced a few years later because he was violent and she later remarried. In 1996, she made Aliya to Israel along with her parents, sister and husband. The family found it difficult to adapt, and about half a year after arriving in Israel her father died. Later, her mother and sister returned to Russia.

Khomenko remained in Israel with her husband, who died suddenly in 2008. After his death, her emotional, medical and financial condition deteriorated. She stopped working, ran up debts – until she lost her ability to rent a home. That is when she met Drozovsky, who was homeless, addicted to alcohol and over 10 years younger than her. “Her harsh financial situation forced her to share a residence with a partner with whom she was not romantically involved,” states the parole board decision. Over the years, the pair moved from one rented apartment to another, sometimes living in public parks.

In April 2014, about four and a half months before Drozovsky’s death, Khomenko filed a complaint with the police against him – and as a result he was indicted for assault, making threats and damaging property. Drozovsky told a police officer about the indictment during his interrogation that he “was now under arrest because of her, I’m definitely going back home after my release and choking her.”

“For a number of years, her roommate acted violently, time after time,” the parole board decision explains. “The prisoner filed a number of complaints, he was removed from the home several times, but returned, and this repeated itself time after time.”

In September 2014, the two had an argument, after Drozovsky came home drunk. During the fight, he pushed her down on the bed, sat on her and choked her until she lost consciousness. She fought back, and at one point she managed to free herself. “In response, and after drinking alcohol, she stabbed the victim, causing his death,” the decision adds. “The special circumstances of this event were taken into account in the verdict, and we are also of the opinion that the circumstances of the incident must have implications for our decision.”