Police Step Up Efforts to Bring Fugitive Driver Back From France to Face Justice

Claude Isaac, the presumed driver fled Israel for Paris about six hours after the incident, together with Eric Roubi, the car's owner, who was with him in the vehicle car at the time of the accident.

As more than 1,000 friends, relatives, kibbutz members and public figures gathered at Kibbutz Neve Ur on Sunday to pay their final respects to Lee Zeitouni, a 25-year-old Pilates instructor, Israeli law enforcement officials continued their efforts to bring the alleged driver of the car that mowed her down at a Tel Aviv intersection early Friday morning to justice.

Claude Isaac, the presumed driver in the hit-and-run accident, fled Israel for Paris about six hours after the incident, together with Eric Roubi, the car's owner, who was with him in the vehicle car at the time of the accident.

Lee Zeitouni - Gil Eliyahu - 19092011
Gil Eliyahu

Both men are French nationals who were staying with their families in the central Tel Aviv luxury apartment complex where the car was found by police on Friday night. Israeli authorities tracked the men to Paris over the weekend and have been in contact with them.

The international division of the State Attorney's Office also entered the picture Sunday, after being briefed by accident investigators and other law enforcement officials, and has asked France to assist in the investigation.

"The Israeli authorities in France are in contact with French authorities," the State Attorney's Office said in a statement Sunday. "The Israel Police's investigation is continuing full-force, and the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and on which charges after the investigation is completed and the findings are submitted to the prosecution.

"A decision to prosecute is a condition for submitting an extradition request to the French government. France, like the majority of European Union member states, doesn't extradite its citizens and instead tries them on its territory for crimes committed, in the presence of sufficient evidence," the statement said.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino also commented Sunday on the situation vis-a-vis France. "We are doing everything possible; we issued an international arrest warrant and are doing everything we can to bring them to Israel for trial. I'm never happy when criminals succeed in fleeing from Israel before we can get to them, but the investigations team acted properly, to the best of my knowledge.

"We'll try to return them to Israel but there's a possibility that they will be tried in France," Danino said.

"I don't know how to hate," Lee Zeitouni's father, Itzik Zeitouni, said Sunday shortly after his daughter's funeral. "Maybe a measure of hate would help me. I support everything Ro'i, Lee's boyfriend is doing [to apprehend the driver]."

Lee's brother, Yaniv, echoed his father: "We don't have a message of hatred and revenge; we have a message that Lee would have wanted to convey, a message of justice and of loving life. In many ways, Lee was very different from our family; she reinvented herself, and that means not being afraid of life. In her 25 short years of life, she taught us not to fear, whatever the next challenge, the next peak is. To do and not to fear," Yaniv said.

Lee's family related that although she had excelled in her physical therapy program at a college in Phoenix, Arizona, she had returned to complete her studies in Israel because she felt that her home was here. It was only after her death that her family discovered that Lee had turned down a full scholarship to a three-year program at a Phoenix medical school in order to return to Israel.

MK Sofa Landver and artists Yair Garbuz and Ya'acov Dorchin were among those who attended the funeral.

"A despicable driver with a death machine hit you," Lee's mother, Kate, said as she stood over her daughter's grave.

"He took our beautiful daughter. We will always love you, our darling. You had plans for the future and worked hard to realize them; you had a great future ahead of you," her mother said.

In his eulogy, Yaniv Zeitouni said: "I phoned you Thursday, you were on the bus to Tel Aviv. We laughed because when you drove you managed to get to all sorts of God-forsaken places. We're lost here, and looking for something to hold onto. We need you more than ever. Lead us through this darkness," Yaniv said