Suspect Emerges in 2003 Murder of Israeli-American Teen

By Eli Ashkenazi and Jack Khoury (Haaretz)

Published May 26, 2009.
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The mother of murdered Israeli-American teenager Dana Bennett said Tuesday that she doesn’t want the death penalty for the killer, preferring to see him rot in prison.

“In my eyes he is not a human, he is an animal, and what can be said about an animal?” Vicky Bennett said.

“I don’t want the death penalty, I want the murder to sit in prison, so that he will rot inside and suffer each day.”

Police lifted a gag order on the six-year-old murder case Tuesday, confirming that a resident of northern Israel is suspected of killing Dana Bennett, who disappeared in Tiberias in 2003, and at least three others.

Northern police told a press conference that Adwan Yahiya Farhan has confessed to murdering at leas

The 34-year-old suspect, of the Arab village of Wadi Hamam, is currently serving a jail sentence for violent crimes. Police said he had confessed and reenacted Bennett’s murder

Bennett’s remains were found last week; the teenager disappeared on July 31, 2003 after a shift at a restaurant on the Tiberias boardwalk.

“Dana Bennett was kidnapped, was murdered - but was not raped,” said Chief Superintendent Avi Algarissi during a press conference Tuesday.

Algarissi said Farhan “killed for the sake of killing,” and had voiced regret for the crime.

New “exceptional and valuable” information reached the Valleys Police last month, which police led to a 22-year-old Tiberias woman, a former girlfriend of Farhan who had already been questioned in connection with Bennett’s disappearance.

To the detectives’ surprise, she accused Farhan in another unsolved murder case, that of Sylvia Molrowa, a 27-year-old Czech tourist. Molrowa’s beaten body was found near Tzalmon River in July 2003, less than a month before Bennett’s disappearance.

It appears that Farhan and the new witness ran into Molrova while hiking along the Tzalmon River in northern Israel. Farhan allegedly brutally battered the tourist and threw her body in the water.

The witness also described in detail the alleged events leading to Bennett’s murder. On August 1, 2003, just after midnight, Farhan and the witness were driving in Tiberias when they spotted Bennett, who had just disembarked from a minibus near her uncle’s house.

After much persuasion, the two convinced Bennett to get in the car, and Farhan allegedly battered her to death shortly afterwards.

His defense lawyer Attorney Tami Ullmann asked the court to give the suspect a psychiatric evaluation.

“This is a person who could be described as bizarre,” she said. “He tried to kill himself many times in the past.”

She said her client was very critical of police interrogation techniques, and that he confessed to protect his sister, who has been under arrest for a few days after she saw the defendant and his accomplice with blood-stained clothes after Bennett’s murder.

Vicky Bennett and her relatives met late Monday night with the head of the police team assigned to the Bennett case, Chief Superintendent Avi Algarissi, who gave them details on Dana’s murder.

“It was very hard for us to hear these things, but we wanted to know everything and asked many questions,” Bennett said.

“It relieved me to hear that the murderer did not rape Dana and that she did not suffer,” Bennett said. “For the whole six years it was difficult for me, because Dana, before she disappeared, underwent long and difficult head surgery, and I hoped the whole time that they did not strike her in the head, and that was the case. I wanted to know that she did not suffer.”

Earlier, Zayid Farhan, the brother of the suspected serial killer, telephoned Dana Bennett’s father Benjamin Ben Yitzhak and asked for his forgiveness.

“I told him that if he wants, that he can come and look me in the eyes, and then I would feel that his message is strong and real,” Ben Yitzhak said.

Dana Bennett was born in Chicago in 1985. Her parents divorced when she was five years old and her mother returned to Tiberias. Bennett was raised by her father in Los Angeles. Later, however, her father sent her to high school at Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in Israel.

Suspected serial killer’s family insists ‘it’s all rumors’

The villagers of Wadi Hamam, home of Farhan, hd been wondering about “peculiar” activity in the olive grove just north of the village.

Rumors ran high. “People said they were looking for a body of someone, we didn’t know who,” a villager said. “All we knew was that police were overlooking the activity, and they didn’t let anyone come near.”

When journalists started flooding to the site last weekend, looking for the Farhan family, rumors about suspicions against a fellow villager spread fast in the tight-knit community.

“Whom are you looking for?” I was asked by a suspicious woman walking along the main road. “For the Farhan family,” I replied. “All the houses here are Farhan,” she said as she moved away. “Ask there, I don’t know.”

Disheartened and perplexed, the Farhan family gathered at their home Friday. Adwan’s two brothers refused in the name of the family to answer any questions.

“We don’t know anything, it’s all rumors,” the defendant’s elder brother Zayd said angrily. “This story has been blown out of proportion by the press.”

One of Zayd’s sons, a former police officer, said that during his service he helped search for Bennett’s body.

“We feel that they’re trying to lay the blame on my uncle for every murder case, as well as other offenses, in the area,” he said.

Wadi Hamam, a village of 1500 inhabitants, is north of Tiberias and relies heavily on the city’s services.

“We don’t know what implications this story will have for us,” Zayd Farhan said.

“All our life is in Tiberias - whether it’s banks, shops or leisure. Our family is hardworking and leads a quiet life. All this talk about our Islamic radicalization is rubbish. Our father was a soldier in the mandate years and worked with the Palmach [pre-state Jewish militia]. It’s just stupid to stigmatize us.”

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