"I was drunk and I am sorry for what I did."
Nicolai Bonner, a.k.a. "The Homeless Murderer" and "The Haifa Serial Killer", is Israel's first serial killer recorded in modern history.
Bonner was born in 1972 and raised in the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, one of the republics belonging to the former Soviet Union. Though he nor his parents were Jewish, he married a Jewish woman, making him eligible to immigrate into Israel under the "Law of Return" legislation. The couple indeed did so in 2000 and became naturalized citizens. Bonner later had a daughter with his wife, and got a job at a pipe factory. At some point, his wife contracted terminal tuberculosis and died in January 2003. Distraught by his loss, Bonner developed a drinking problem and requested a leave of absence on his job a month later. During this time, he racked up a criminal record and began blaming the homeless community for his problems.
Murders, Arrest, and Imprisonment
On February 9, 2005, Bonner fell in love with a Russian immigrant, 52-year-old Rita Wolman, and followed her to her apartment in Haifa. When he tried to make romantic advances towards her, however, she spurned him, prompting him to beat her to death and set her body on fire afterwards. In the next three months, Bonner killed three other Russian immigrants, who were also his drinking buddies: Alexander Levant, 34; Valeri Soznov, 32; and Alexander Kars, 39. Israeli police initially didn't believe there was a serial killer active until Soznov's body was discovered, and similarities were noted between the crime scenes. During the investigation, the police chose not to inform the public, since it was the first time there was a serial killer active in the country and they did not want to create mass hysteria.
Investigators arrested him on May 29 after other homeless people complained to police about him beating them up. Bonner confessed to all of the murders almost immediately, though he would later claim that the confession was coerced, and that he made it because he feared for his family's life. He was charged with murder, burning the victims, destruction of evidence, and interfering with judicial proceedings. His defense attorney argued that Bonner was intoxicated at the time of all of the murders, and that Bonner had an unstable mental state. On May 6, 2007, the Haifa District Court convicted Bonner of all counts and sentenced him to four consecutive life terms, one for each victim. He was also sentenced to an additional seventeen years for the following related crimes: attempted murder (five years); aggravated rape (nine years); and aggravated assault, interfering with judicial proceedings, and other crimes (three years). He currently remains in prison.
Bonner usually targeted homeless immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who were already known to him beforehand. He would kill them by stabbing or beating them to death, allegedly after they insulted him, and set their bodies on fire post-mortem. The victims who were beaten would be brutalized to the point where their entire faces were bruised. During his attack on Rita Wolman, the only victim who wasn't homeless, and whose murder was sexually motivated, Bonner raped her before killing her.
Note: The names of the victims vary depending on the source. The victims will be referred to their names as stated on Wikipedia.
- February 9: Rita Wolman, 52 (raped, beaten to death, and burned her body post-mortem)
- March: Alexander Levant, 34 (stabbed or beaten to death, then burned his body post-mortem)
- Late March: Valeri Soznov, 32 (stabbed or beaten to death, then burned his body post-mortem)
- Early May: Alexander Kars, 39 (stabbed or beaten to death, then burned his body post-mortem)
- In addition to the four murders, Bonnie assaulted an unknown number of other homeless people, which is what led to his capture.
- Haifa police believed that Bonner may have also killed additional victims in 2004; there were eight murders recorded that year. However, they were ultimately unable to link him to any of the cases.
- Serial killers in Israel are a rare and almost unheard-of occurrence, but they exist beyond Bonner, who is considered the most infamous example. In April 2016, 26-year-old Fyodor Beshnery was arrested on suspicion of the rapes and murders of four women in different parts of the country, which occurred starting in 2013. The deaths of one of the victims was initially ruled an accident until further evidence was discovered by investigators. Beshnery confessed to one of the murders to a police informant. As of May 2016, he was charged with two counts of murder and currently awaits trial.
On Criminal Minds
Bonner may have provided an indirect inspiration to Chad Mills, the unsub of The Fallen. Like Bonner, Chad targeted homeless people, killed his victims by stabbing them, and burned his victims post-mortem. Both also were affected by tuberculosis in some way (Chad suffered it himself, while Bonner's wife died from it) and were motivated by their hatred of the homeless community.