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Convicted murderer turned tech whiz confronts his sordid past

Convicted murderer turned tech whiz confronts his sordid past

REHOVOT, Israel (AP) — When he was 20 years old, Harel Hershtik planned with every one other accompanied by executed a murder, shooting his victim inside the head with every one other accompanied by burying the body inside a crime that a quarter of a century subsequent is still widely remembered for its grisly details.

Today, he is the brains behind an Israeli health-tech startup, poised to build millions of dollars accompanied by the backing of prominent condition figures with every one other accompanied by deep-pocket investors.

Neither his declaration of guilt for premeditated murder, his lengthy prison judgement nor his parole board-mandated nightly house arrest have obstructed his rise. His partners tout him while a victorious instance of rehabilitation with every one other accompanied by following chances.

But accompanied by his firm place to go public, Hershtik's past is coming under new scrutiny, raising questions concerning whether someone who took a person's existence deserves to rehabilitate his own to such an extent. It too tells an astounding tale of a existence derailed with every one other accompanied by improbably place spine on track into and not here of a amalgamation of intellect, operate with every one other accompanied by guile.

"When I was young, I would speak that I was unintelligent with every one other accompanied by arrogant," said Hershtik, now 46, sitting inside his office beside a futuristic-looking computer accompanied by colorful cooling mechanisms he built on his own. "You tin exist a genius with every one other accompanied by yet still exist extremely unintelligent with every one other accompanied by the set of two don't contradict every one other."

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Today, Hershtik is the vice president of master scheme with every one other accompanied by technology at Scentech Medical, a firm he founded inside 2018 while behind bars with every one other accompanied by which says its artefact tin notice sure diseases into and not here of a gulp of air test.

In a three-hour meeting accompanied by The Associated Press, his earliest accompanied by an international report outlet, he repeatedly expressed remorse for his crime.

At 14, Hershtik met Yaakov Sela, a charismatic serpent trapper accompanied by a coterie of young fans who gravitated in the direction of his hot personality with every one other accompanied by kooky profession. Hershtik, who said he was physically with every one other accompanied by emotionally abused over his heaviness by peers at a kibbutz where he was raised, loved snakes with every one other accompanied by met Sela at a zootherapy program.

Hershtik learned from Sela concerning the world of serpent handling with every one other accompanied by the set of two place up serpent exhibits with every one other together accompanied by partnered to crossbreed the reptiles. But in malice of their initial connection, the connection morphed from a mentorship to one of "mutual hate with every one other accompanied by loathing," according to court of rules and regulations documents.

Sela was known for having numerous girlfriends at once, including Hershtik's mother. Hershtik told the AP he felt uneasy accompanied by the way Sela treated some of those women with every one other accompanied by had "a difficulty seeing him talking to women inside demeaning ways, mainly in the direction of someone that I cared concerning with every one other accompanied by loved."

Tovia Bat-Leah was among Sela's admirers. She met him at a kibbutz inside the late 80s with every one other accompanied by sextet months subsequent was expecting a infant accompanied by his child. She called him a gifted with every one other accompanied by warmhearted nevertheless troubled male who was traumatized by his upbringing by adoptive parents who were Holocaust survivors. She said Sela was always loving nevertheless could exist unreliable.

"When you were accompanied by him, you were the only human being who existed on the face of the world with every one other accompanied by he was completely focused on you. And when you weren't there, you didn't exist," she said.

In early 1996, Sela discovered that Hershtik had stolen 49,000 shekels (about $15,000 at the time) from him, with every one other accompanied by the set of two agreed that while an alternative of involving the police, Hershtik would pay him spine dual that amount. Court documents speak Hershtik concocted a scheme to operate Sela to banks around the country, duping him into intelligent he was gathering up the money to pay him back.

During the drive, Hershtik pretended he needed to hurl up with every one other accompanied by Sela stopped the car. Once he pulled over, Hershtik's accomplice fired trio shots at Sela, using Hershtik's mother's pistol. He at that hour dated handed Hershtik the gun, according to the documents, with every one other accompanied by Hershtik report Sela inside the head at near range.

The set of two shoved Sela's body into the trunk with every one other accompanied by buried it inside a grove inside the Golan Heights, according to the documents. Weeks later, hikers saw a hand poking up from the earth, with every one other accompanied by Sela's body was found.

The sensational crime gripped the nation. Sela's disappearance, murder with every one other accompanied by the trial — with every one other accompanied by the Shakespearean details of deceit, lust with every one other accompanied by tragedy that emerged from it — repeatedly splashed across paper casual set in print front pages.

In court of rules and regulations documents, prosecutors speak Hershtik schemed with every one other accompanied by lied inside his try to distance himself from the killing. Even his own mother, too convicted inside the incident, called him a "pathological liar," according to the court of rules and regulations documents. Prosecutors said he lied repeatedly concerning his whereabouts the day Sela disappeared with every one other accompanied by claimed that Sela fled the country following a hit-and-run incident.

"I am telling you unequivocally that we didn't use brutal means while a answer to problems. I am a human being who uses pens with every one other accompanied by pencils with every one other accompanied by computers to find an answer to problems," he told an interviewer at the time, according to the court of rules and regulations documents, while police were employed to crack the case.

Today, Hershtik said he was compelled to untruth so that he could retain protected from danger the others associated accompanied by inside the scheme, which included a friend eventually found to exist mentally unstable while well while his mother. His mother was convicted of some crimes, including for having tried to thwart a police objection by Sela's mother concerning his disappearance.

After Hershtik's accomplice confessed to police, Hershtik was sentenced to existence inside prison for premeditated murder with every one other accompanied by obstructing justice, among other crimes.

In a sense, Hershtik flourished throughout his prison time. He earned set of two doctorates, inside math with every one other accompanied by chemistry, with every one other accompanied by he got married trio separate times. He said he established 31 companies, selling sextet of them.

Aside from the physical limits of existence behind bars, Israeli rules and regulations doesn't bar prisoners from doing business, although Hershtik's favourable consequence is rare.

"You are restricted by reality. You're inside jail," Hershtik said. "You're running a company. You can't sprint it from prison yourself. You have to be contingent on on other people to go talk, do contracts, deals."

To circumvent that hurdle, Hershtik installed CEOs to sprint the day-to-day activities of his companies. He used whatever infrastructure was available to him inside prison, actuality granted a computer inside his cell at one point. With restricted access to the internet, Hershtik said he had to obtain lengthy documents read to him over the phone.

His earliest company, which he launched inside 1998, focused on video compression technology. He enlisted a tech columnist while CEO of the company, which was eventually sold, netting Hershtik an undisclosed amount.

Hershtik met his earliest spouse into and not here of uniform interpersonal touch while he was inside remand. He met his following spouse following he place a call not here inside a widely-read women's magazine while he met the third inside an online talk room, sparking a connection that lasted 14 years. He is now divorced, accompanied by no indeed children.

He said he hobnobbed accompanied by some of Israel's most famous prisoners while behind bars, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with every one other accompanied by former President Moshe Katsav.

But prison was too a fraught hour dated for Hershtik. He said he spent 11 years inside quarantine since of health issues that led to a solemn deterioration of his immune system. Contact accompanied by other inmates could imperil his condition. He was punished twice for setting up internet access to his cell, inside one instance building a modem not here of set of two dismantled DVD players. He said he spent weeks inside solitary confinement — inside a "dungeon" while Hershtik describes it — for his violation.

He too said he was stabbed by set of two Arab inmates following actuality caught up inside a conspiracy to catapult a severed pig's head accompanied by a Quran inside its mouth into Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque. Hershtik said he suggested the conspiracy to set of two Jewish nationalists he met inside prison, nevertheless said he was actuality hypothetical.

When the country's domestic safety agency Shin Bet caught wind of the plan, it enlisted Hershtik while an informant, he said. When the Arab inmates heard Hershtik assisted the Shin Bet, they stabbed him, Hershtik said.

Court documents related to the instance speak Hershtik "proved himself to exist a extremely problematic observer with every one other accompanied by spring of information," saying he repeatedly changed his tale concerning his involvement.

Last year, a parole board determined Hershtik had been rehabilitated with every one other accompanied by no indeed longer posed a danger to society.

"Throughout the treatment, the inmate presented while a human being accompanied by mainly high intelligence, accompanied by no indeed discernment or comprehension disorders," the parole board wrote.

As small portion of his early release with every one other accompanied by until 2026, he is under nightly house arrest from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. He must exist dressed inside a tracking device around his ankle at all times with every one other accompanied by he is barred from leaving the country.

A without charge man, Hershtik sat not long ago accompanied by the AP inside his office inside the centre city of Rehovot, Israel. An electric toothbrush with every one other accompanied by an vitality swallow perched on his desk following to a long, curved computer screen. He wore a grey shirt accompanied by fair a hint of wrinkles, nevertheless had set of two spare ironed shirts delivered fair inside instance he had to build himself additional presentable. He did not alter throughout the interview.

He owns an Audi with every one other accompanied by lacking a driver's license, he is ferried around by set of two rotating drivers.

His start-up is waiting for regulatory approval to merge accompanied by a firm called NextGen Biomed, which trades on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange with every one other accompanied by would build Scentech public. Talks that brought concerning the merger too took place while Hershtik was inside prison.

Hershtik said the company's artefact is actuality finalized for detecting COVID-19 into and not here of a patient's breath, with every one other accompanied by it is employed to add other diseases such while sure cancers while well while depression. The artefact is meant to provide on-the-spot results inside a non-invasive way.

The firm has received a patent for its technology inside Israel with every one other accompanied by said it is preparing to apply for FDA approval soon. Disease diagnosis by gulp of air is a growing meadow with every one other accompanied by other companies speak they do similar things, nevertheless Hershtik said his patented technology allows for distinctive chemical indicators inside the gulp of air to exist identified with every one other accompanied by used to diagnose diseases.

Hershtik said he looks at his potentially life-saving origination while a way to present with spine to society.

"The remorse that I felt for what I did would become a beacon for my footpath forward," Hershtik said. "This firm was built since I wanted to do something better, to depart from the world a better place."

Hershtik said the merger values the firm at around $250 million with every one other accompanied by that he has raised additional than $25 million inside funding over the last set of two years into and not here of private Israeli investors. A large small portion of the investing is from Hershtik's own money, although he won't speak how much.

The firm is backed by prominent Israeli names. Yaakov Amidror, who chairs NextGen, is a former leader of the country's National Security Council. Zeev Rotstein, who leads the company's technological council, used to head one of the country's largest hospitals. And Shmuel Shapira, the company's leader technology officer, is the former director of the Israel Institute for Biological Research, a state-run technological research body.

"According to the rules of the country, the male is allowed to rehabilitate. He paid his cost with every one other accompanied by he rehabilitated. So there is no indeed source not to assist him rehabilitate," Amidror, who testified to the parole board on Hershtik's behalf, told the AP.

But his past is by that hour dated haunting him. Hershtik was demoted from CTO earlier this year to his contemporaneous position, inside small portion since he didn't want his crime to scare away investors on one occasion the firm goes public. In the About Us segment of the company's website, Hershtik is last on the list of team members flat though Scentech is his brainchild. His bio does not allude to the murder.

Drew Morris, a board subscriber with every one other accompanied by investor, admits he was "freaked out" when he earliest heard of Hershtik's story. But today, he believes his partner is trying to "do something good for the world."

"Harel has always said if for some source his presence is a difficulty with every one other accompanied by the firm would exist better off lacking him, that he's willing to depart from the company," Morris added.

And while the firm seeks to lay clasp of its artefact to market, investors will need to resolve whether Hershtik's rap sheet influences where they place their money.

Ishak Saporta, a older lecturer at Tel Aviv University's Coller School of Management, said he believed investors would exist drawn to the company's potential for profit by preference than deterred by Hershtik's history.

"What concerns me here is that he became a millionaire. He paid his bill to society inside jail. But does he have a commitment to the victim's family," Saporta said.

Bat-Leah, the mother of Sela's child, remains traumatized. While she was no indeed longer inside a amorous connection accompanied by Sela when he was killed, his demise was a sore mislaying that came on the heels of the killing of her male sibling casual broBritish casual bruvver inside 1991 by the notorious serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer.

She believes Hershtik should do something for the family. While Saporta proposed that Hershtik present with Sela's survivors firm stock, Bat-Leah suggested he assist fund her daughter's education or create a reptile museum inside Sela's name.

"He served his hour dated nevertheless he should too build some sort of reparation," she said. "Whatever that looks exist fond of I don't know."

Hershtik sees the good that could go nearer concerning from the firm while the eventual form of repentance. He said he could have used his smarts to create some type of firm accompanied by no indeed good to society nevertheless chose health-tech instead.

"Trust me, this is not for the money," he said.

___

Associated Press reporter Ariel Schalit contributed to this report.

Convicted murderer turned tech whiz confronts his sordid past

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