Their Harlem neighbors saw the perfect couple: The gleeful dad hoisting the little girl onto his shoulders, the costumed mom and their 5-year-old daughter side by side on Halloween, the daily smiles and the small talk.
The cops inside the family’s condo after a 911 call saw something unspeakably different: Wife Jennifer Schlecht lying dead on the bloody bathroom floor, her decapitated head in her lap. Her lifeless daughter Abaynesh, with a gash so deep to her throat that she was left headless, inside a gore-spattered bedroom.
And their killer, deranged dad Yonathan Tedla, hanging from a rope tied to his child’s door on Wednesday night after making good on his threats to end Schlecht’s life before she could end their faltering marriage.
Jennifer Schlecht and Yonathan Tedla are pictured in an undated photo.
Jennifer Schlecht and Yonathan Tedla are pictured in an undated photo. (Obtained by Daily News)
“The last time we talked to our daughter was on Sunday,” the slain woman’s father Kenneth Schlecht told the Daily News Thursday. “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. Which was apparently what he did.”
The devastated father, 75, said the couple’s marital strife began after the birth of their daughter in September 2014.
“His behavior toward her changed pretty dramatically when they had a child,” said the North Carolina dad as he drove north toward Manhattan and the bodies of his daughter and granddaughter. Tedla, 46, who was originally from Ethiopia, had threatened his wife on several occasions when she mentioned divorce, recalled Kenneth Schlecht.
Jennifer Schlecht (Obtained by New York Daily News)
But Jennifer “didn’t want to pull her husband away from the child,” and the couple stayed together even as the relationship continued to sour and the wife struggled with her choice — finally deciding too late that she needed to get away, said Schlecht.
Kenneth Schlecht and his son spent much of Wednesday trying to contact Jennifer, 42, a former Peace Corps member currently working for the United Nations Foundation on international emergency responses. She was determined to obtain an order of protection that day after her effort a day earlier was thwarted by Election Day closings of the city’s courts, according to her dad.
But she never made it before a judge, according to a court spokesman, and never contacted her nervous family. Police, summoned by a 911 call from her worried brother, arrived at the family’s third-floor home at 9:18 p.m. to find the three bodies and put together the gruesome sequence of events inside the unhappy home.
A 4- to 5-inch serrated knife found inside the apartment was identified as the murder weapon, sources told The News. The killer left behind no confession or explanation for the murderous spree, the source added.
A friend of Tedla expressed shock at the violent demise of the family.