On Wednesday night, police discovered three dead bodies—a five-year-old girl and her parents—in a Harlem apartment. Now it's believed that the father killed the mother and daughter because his wife wanted a divorce.
Jennifer Schlecht's father spoke to the Daily News about the fears she had about husband Yonathan Tedla. "She was in tears, said her husband had indicated that if she served him with divorce papers he would ruin her or take them all out," Kenneth Schelch told the tabloid. "Which was apparently what he did."
Police were called to perform a wellness check on Schlecht and Tedla's apartment at 151 West 121st Street on November 6th, after her relative was concerned they hadn't heard from her. The Post reports that Schlecht, 42, was found decapitated in the bathroom, while 5-year-old Abayesh was "nearly decapitated." Tedla's body was found hanging from a rope in a bedroom.
Schlecht's father said that she had tried to get a restraining order on Tuesday, but courts were closed on Election Day. Schlecht had previously gotten a restraining order against Tedla in 2016, allegedly "because he was threatening and harassing her," according to the Daily News's sources. In a conversation with the NY Times, Kenneth Schlecht said that "Mr. Tedla became violent toward Ms. Schlecht and she tried for years to leave him. He refused to go, ripping up the divorce papers each time. 'She could not change the locks as long as he legally lived there,' Mr. Schlecht said. 'She was planning to serve him divorce papers and an order of protection first.'"
The couple had met at Columbia University, where Schlecht had studied social work. Schlecht was working for the United Nations Foundation in New York, while Tedla worked at Columbia University as a computer contractor and also has computer consulting businesses.
Colleagues at Family Planning 2020, a United Nations Foundation initiative that Schlecht was working on, issued a statement calling her "a leader in the field of family planning and humanitarian response, and chose to work from New York so she could have more time with her darling daughter. She delighted in telling us about her daughter’s first day of kindergarten and the clothes she picked out all by herself. In addition to being an adoring mother, her contribution to the lives of women and girls who are living in crisis situations has been extraordinary .... We are utterly devastated."
Neighbors were stunned, describing how the family looked happy and how Tedla would often carry Abayesh on his shoulders. "It’s just unbelievable. They were an adorable family. Absolutely adorable. I never saw them fight — ever," one said to the News.