Zadorov Trial: Expert Opinion Boosts Alternative Theory in Teen’s Murder

New forensic test of a hair found on the victim's body may end up raising more questions than it answers

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Adir Habani, in court in Nazereth, in March.
Adir Habani, in court in Nazereth, in March.Credit: Gil Eliahu

A new expert opinion in the Ta'ir Rada murder trial strengthens the suspicion that Adir Habani, a key figure in the case, may have been present in the scene of the 2006 murder.

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Mitochondrial DNA test conducted on a hair found on the victim's body finds that it belongs to Habani, who told police in 2012 that his former partner Ola Kravchenko had confessed to him that she committed the murder while wearing his pants.

The new opinion, written by Dr. Nurit Bublil of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir), appears to strengthen the assumption that the hair belongs to Habani because it determines that the hair’s mitochondrial DNA, which matches samples from Habani, is not in Israel’s database of 1,978 mitochondrial DNA profiles constituting a representative sample of the Jewish population.

This means the genetic profile associated with the hair is more rare in the Jewish population than had been previously thought, increasing the likeliness that it came from Habani.

Back in 2018 it was reported that a hair found on Rada’s body contains mitochondrial DNA partially matching Habani's, but the results of the new test found a full match.

The new opinion was drafted at the request of the lawyer of Roman Zadorov, the first main suspect in the case. Zadorov, who was working at the school at the time, was ultimately convicted, but much of the evidence has been hotly disputed. Zadorov was convicted unanimously by a panel of judges in September 2010 and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in March 2013 the Supreme Court, in a rare step, ordered a retrial after an appeal. In June 2020 Zadorov submitted a fourth appeal leading to the current trial.

Dr. Shai Carmi, a genetics researcher at the Hebrew University, previously told Haaretz that a mitochondrial DNA test "cannot be taken as conclusive evidence." He explained that a mitochondrial DNA test is very different from a DNA test, since "while DNA has 3 billion letters, mitochondrial DNA only has 16 thousand letters"

Adir Habani told police in 2012 that Ola Kravchenko confessed to the murder to him, but prosecutors concluded at the time that Habani was lying.

Kravchenko, who was Habani's partner for nine years, said in her police interrogation that Habani falsely accused her of committing the murder as revenge after she broke up with him, saying also that Habani abused and raped her for years.

After concluding that Habani lied in his testimony, the prosecution shelved the case against Kravchenko. In 2016, the hugely popular television show “Shadow of Truth” pointed to Kravchenko as Rada's murderer, which she said made her life a "nightmare" and caused her to eventually leave the country.

The legal implication of the new expert opinion is not yet known.

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