WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT: A man accused of brutally beating his wife to death with a hammer while their children slept in the same apartment has been arrested by police.
Josiah Leitel, 35, is said to have told police that he and his wife, Darya Leitel, 31, got into an argument when he was returning home from work at a nightclub at 5am on March 17 in Haifa , Israel, started drinking.
Then – according to local media – he fumed when his wife challenged him. He is said to have strangled her before hitting her with a hammer. The couple’s three daughters slept in their rooms just meters away.
“I work in a nightclub. I came back around 5 am completely sober. I sat there and drank beer. One of our daughters woke up and my wife woke up too,” Leitel reportedly told officers. “She saw me drinking and got angry with me. She asked, ‘Are you drinking again?’. An argument started. She pushed me and then I pushed her back. I didn’t mean to kill her.”
After the alleged attack, Leitel called police and paramedics, who pronounced Darya dead at the scene. “When they fought, he would leave home and move to another neighborhood,” Darya’s father Antoine reportedly told local media.
“She was with me last week and didn’t tell me there was a problem. She was the most smiling in the world. I don’t understand what happened to my daughter. She didn’t tell me there was violence. She wanted to leave him and for that he murdered her. I no longer have a daughter. It’s terrible.”
Couple previously referred to social services
The couple were referred to social services in 2021 and Leitel had allegedly threatened to kill his wife in the past, according to local media.
“The couple were referred to social services in 2021 due to a relationship crisis,” said welfare director Meira Kiperman. “The couple received multi-level treatment from social services throughout the year.”
Darya had also previously complained that her husband had threatened her in the past, with local media reporting that he is currently being tried over those threats.
Friend saw woman just hours before her death
One of Darya’s friends, named Daniella Mazor, said she “didn’t process” her mother’s death.
“I saw it on the news and came here hoping it wasn’t her. Yesterday she was with me until 7 p.m. There was no concern that anything would happen to her, otherwise I would never have allowed her to leave and I would have told her to stay with me.”
Daniella said that Darya, who reportedly studied psychology and Spanish, is “a wonderful person, a devoted mother to her three daughters and beautiful inside and out.”
Daniella added, “She knew a breakup wasn’t going to be easy, and she said she would soon.”
“She was even looking for a new home. I didn’t know the suspect, the relationship between them was not normal. She didn’t get the things she deserved, but she stayed for the girls. I didn’t like the quality of life she was living with. She knew she had to leave her husband but was looking for the right time.” The investigation is ongoing.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be contacted on 1800 737 732 or 1800 RESPECT. Triple zero for an emergency call.
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