Jennifer Schlecht was murdered in her New York home.
Jennifer Schlecht was murdered in her New York home.

Mum and daughter's gruesome murder

WARNING: Graphic

A woman has been decapitated and her five year-old daughter slaughtered at the hands of her estranged husband who went on a bloody rampage in their US home.

Yonathan Tedla, 46, is believed to have butchered his estranged wife Jennifer Schlecht, 42, and their little girl, Abayesh, in an apparent double-murder-suicide at the couple's second-floor apartment in a posh Harlem neighbourhood.

Ms Schlecht - who was decapitated - was found in a bathroom with her head in her lap. Her daughter was discovered partially decapitated in a bedroom.

Tedla, 46, was found dead in a separate bedroom after allegedly taking his own life.

"It is looking like a murder suicide," a police spokesperson told news.com.au.

 

Jennifer Schlecht was a senior adviser for the UN Foundation.
Jennifer Schlecht was a senior adviser for the UN Foundation.

A police source said that the parents were going through a divorce and had been scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. When they didn't show, Ms Schlecht's family members became concerned, and her brother contacted authorities to conduct a wellness check just after 9pm. Awaiting police in what neighbours described as "a once happy family home" was a house of horrors.

"Upon arrival, officers observed three deceased persons inside the apartment," a NYPD spokesperson told news.com.au.

"A 46-year-old male was discovered in a bedroom, unconscious and unresponsive; a 42-year-old female was discovered, in the bathroom, unconscious and unresponsive, with trauma about the neck, and a five-year-old female was discovered, in another bedroom, unconscious and unresponsive, also with severe neck trauma."

 

Jennifer Schlecht was killed along with her five-year-old daughter in their home.
Jennifer Schlecht was killed along with her five-year-old daughter in their home.

A knife was recovered at the gruesome scene, but it has not yet been confirmed to be the murder weapon.

It's unclear how long the three had been dead.

Ms Schlecht was a senior adviser for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the United Nations Foundation. She worked in the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) division, a global partnership to empower women and girls by investing in rights-based family planning.

In a statement to news.com.au, FP2020 executive director Beth Schlachter said Ms Schlecht had been a "vital part" of the organisation's "family".

"(She) devoted her entire career to ensuring that women and girls in crisis situations have access to the best medical care possible including family planning and other reproductive health care," Ms Schlecht said.

"She was 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."

Ms Schlachter said Ms Schlecht "delighted in telling (colleagues) 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," she continued.

"That she should die under such brutal circumstances is beyond understanding.

"But we will all remember her for her life - and the thousands of lives she enriched - rather than the horrible way she died.

"We are utterly devastated."

 

The NYPD says three people, including a child, are dead in what's being investigated as a double homicide and a suicide. Picture: AP/Richard Drew.
The NYPD says three people, including a child, are dead in what's being investigated as a double homicide and a suicide. Picture: AP/Richard Drew.

'SHE WAS IN TEARS'

In 2016, Schlecht was granted a temporary restraining order against her husband because he was threatening and harassing her, the NY Daily News reports, citing sources.

But there were no past domestic incident reports involving the family, according to police.

Ms Schlecht's father Kenneth Schlecht told the New York Times his daughter had expressed fear for her and her child's safety during a telephone call on Sunday.

"She was in tears, a basket case," her father recalled. "She didn't know if he would carry on with the threats."

Mr Schlecht said Tedla had told Ms Schlecht that he "was going to ruin her or take all of them down".

"He said he was not going to lose, that he always wins," he continued.

Shocked neighbour Patricia Brodin, 40, told news.com.au she regularly saw Tedla taking Abayesh to school.

"I don't know why he would snap like this," she said.

"He seemed like a happy father in a happy family home … like such a good guy, really nice … kept to himself, I didn't think he'd be violent."

Another neighbour, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told news.com.au that she saw Tedla regularly and that he came across as "kind and sweet".

"He adored his daughter," she said.

 

A New York City Police officer stands in the doorway of a residential building in New York's Harlem neighbourhood, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Picture: AP/Richard Drew.
A New York City Police officer stands in the doorway of a residential building in New York's Harlem neighbourhood, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Picture: AP/Richard Drew.

 

Jennifer Schlecht on a trip to Africa.
Jennifer Schlecht on a trip to Africa.

One acquaintance who lives nearby also expressed her shock at the vicious crime, which seemed completely at odds with her impression of the family, the New York Post reports.

"I talked to them every day. I just saw them yesterday and he seemed fine, he jogs every morning and I go get my coffee and we start talking," said the woman, who didn't want to be named. "They're adorable, beautiful and their daughter is precious."

She told the New York Post she had never seen any indication of violence coming from the family.

"Never, not once, and I talked to her personally about her life and she never mentioned it. We were together for Halloween, she was dressed up, her daughter was dressed up. Just in this world you never know. This is my first involvement with something this tragic."

The investigation continues.

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin