A relative of the father who stabbed his 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter told Ynetnews that in the past he threatened his ex-wife saying, "If you won't let me see the kids, you won't see them ever again".
The organization that represented the mother during the divorce process said she was afraid he would hurt the children.
Despite the fact the he turned himself in, the suspect refused to cooperate with the investigators. The police seized files documenting the divorce process in the suspect's home. The Ramle Magistrate Court extended his arrest. The police claimed that "the motive for the murders is the ongoing dispute the suspect had with his ex-wife regarding the custody agreement."
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A public defense attorney who was appointed to represent the suspect said he appeared disturbed. "I talked with the suspect and felt that despite the quietness he projected, inside he was upset," said the attorney. The suspect refused his attorney and the judge's suggestion to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Judge Rivka Glatt ordered the Israel Prison Service to keep a close watch on the suspect.
Yesterday the children arrived in Israel for a visit and few hours later they were murdered by their father. The mother, who lives in the US, received the devastating news and is making her way to Israel. According to a family relative, in recent years the visitation arrangements between the divorced couple had changed.
"At first it was agreed that the children will visit three times a year, but after a while it was reduced to twice a year. He kept telling us that his soul is empty when the kids are not around. He kept saying that she was purposely making it hard for him to see them, so we believe that he thought he was getting back at her."
Up until the divorce, the couple lived in Yashresh community south of Ramle in central Israel. During that time, the wife made several complaints to the police regarding domestic violence. In one of the incidents the suspect was sentenced to community service and in another incident the wife moved to a women's shelter.
After the divorce the wife and children moved to the US and in an agreement authorized by the court it was determined that the father could see his kids twice a year. In Israel, the wife was represented by Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Woman.
The head of the center, Director of the Center: Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, said that the ex-wife was a new immigrant who suffered financial difficulties as a result of her ex-husband's refusal to pay child support. "She returned to her family in the United States, who supported her financially and helped her rebuild the children's lives.
"During the divorce legal proceeding the mother warned that her soon-to-be ex-husband might hurt the kids and raised her concerns regarding their visits to their father's house. I want to stress that the move to the US was conducted with the father's agreement and despite the complicated situation between the two she made sure to maintain the relationship between him and the kids," said Halperin-Kaddari.
Another family relative of the suspect said that he talked about the children's visit and was very excited about it. "The kids arrived yesterday and the joy here was great. The kids played with their cousins and afterwards we all ate dinner together and as far as I could see there wasn't anything unusual or any sign of distress. We went home at about 9:30 pm and after two hours we learned of the horrific news".
The relative insisted that the suspect appeared to be a normative person and a model father, but after the divorce he was different. "He talked about how the distance from the kids was depressing him, but he was optimistic and believed that things would change for the better. Gradually his joy of living had disappeared."
An 11-year-old girl from the community, whose family lives next to the suspect, was playing with the suspect's children yesterday. The girl told Ynetnews: "we met in their backyard and played until sundown. We haven't seen each other for six months and they said school was boring in the US and that they missed their friends in Israel. In the evening they were still playing water war with their cousins. They were good friends".
The morning after the murder Yashresh residents had a hard time dealing with the tragedy. The suspect was born and raised in the community and everybody knew him. Today he lives in a structure near his parents' house. Neighbors and acquaintances told Ynetnews that in the last few days he seemed depressed. Danny, one of the neighbors said "a few days ago I met him at the synagogue and he seemed off, I asked what was wrong, but he wouldn’t say, but it was clear that he was going through something".
Chairman of the regional council Elad Levi paints a slightly different picture. "The writing wasn't on the wall; an hour before the tragic event, the father was attending a party in the community with songs and guitars and seemed very happy."
Eli Senyor and Omri Ephraim contributed to this report