A Florida professor killed his three-year-old daughter then himself in a gruesome murder-suicide case as he was in the middle of a bitter custody battle over the child with his estranged wife, police say.
Heartbroken mother Laurel Friedman, 38, said she was having custody problems with her estranged husband Ayhan Aytes, 48 over their three-year-old daughter Ela.
The couple filed for divorce in January and decided to share custody of Ela, but Friedman grew increasingly worried he would take the child to his native country of Turkey after he failed to bring her back after his scheduled visits, according to her divorce filings.
Florida communications professor Ayhan Aytes, 48, (left) is suspected of killing his three-year-old daughter Ela then himself in a gruesome murder-suicide case. He was in the middle of a bitter custody battle over Ela with his estranged wife Laurel Friedman, 38 (right with Ela)
Their bodies were discovered in his Temple Terrace home (above) on Monday by police conducting a welfare check
On Monday she asked police to visit his condominium in Temple Terrace in Hillsborough County after being unable to reach them for several days.
It was there officers made the shocking discovery of the father dead along with his young daughter at 4.11pm.
Police believe Aytes killed his daughter then took his own life.
The cause of death will be determined by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Tensions between Aytes and Friedman escalated over the past couple of weeks in regards to Ela.
Last Wednesday when Aytes didn’t return the little girl to Friedman after his scheduled visiting day, she filed an emergency motion in court asking a judge to issue an order to allow her to pick up the girl immediately.
‘The Father is only refusing to return the minor child for a warped sense of satisfaction that he has disrupted the Mother’s life,’ the motion said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The couple filed for divorce in January and decided to share custody of Ela, but Friedman grew increasingly worried Aytes would take the child to his native country of Turkey after he failed to bring her back after his scheduled visits, according to divorce filings
Aytes was a media and communication scholar who worked as an assistant visiting professor at the University of South Florida. His estranged wife was also a communications instructor there
‘Father’s mental health is declining, and his behavior is becoming increasingly unpredictable and erratic,’ the filing said.
But Judge Wesley Tibbals instead issued a directive demanding Aytes abide by the parenting plan.
The suspected murder-suicide took place just five days later.
Police records show that officers responded to his address eight times in the past couple of years.
‘The system failed Ela in the most tragic of ways, even as my lawyer and I did everything in our power to ensure her safety,’ Friedman said to the Florida paper.
Her family released a statement on Monday afternoon to local news media following the gruesome discovery.
‘Our family is devastated at the loss of our beloved Ela. At this point we need time to grieve together and we ask for privacy. We hope to have a statement as we begin to comprehend this horrific event. Thank you for your consideration,’ the statement said.
Cops made the horrific discovery of the father and daughter’s dead bodies at his Temple Terrace home on Monday at 4.11pm
The Friedman family released a statement in light of the deaths saying: ‘Our family is devastated at the loss of our beloved Ela. At this point we need time to grieve together and we ask for privacy.’ Friedman’s father Barry pictured above with baby Ela
‘Anytime a child is involved in a crime, it’s heartbreaking,’ police spokeswoman Laurie Hayes said to WFLA.
Aytes, who was born in Turkey, married Friedman in 2012. They both previously studied at the University of California San Diego.
Friedman is a photographer and an instructor at the University of South Florida’s School of Communication.
Aytes was a media and communication scholar working as an assistant visiting professor at the University of Florida. His last contract with the school expired in May, according to USF officials.
The two previously lived in Istanbul but moved to Tampa Bay following a failed coup d’état in Turkey, according to Friedman’s father Barry Friedman.
‘Laurel was able to find them both employment through some contacts she had” at USF. We were glad they got back to the states,’ he said to The Ledger.
The couple filed for divorce in January.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Temple Terrace Police Department at (813) 989-7110.