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Heartbreaking New Details About The Florida Professor Who Killed Himself And His Daughter Because Of A Custody Battle With His Wife

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Ayhan Aytes Update Florida Professor Killed Himself And Daughter Custody Battle Suicide Note

A Florida man who killed his daughter and himself in an apparent murder-suicide left a note detailing a bitter custody battle with his wife.

Former University of South Florida professor Ayhan Aytes, 48, and his 3-year-old daughter, Ela, were discovered dead in his Tampa condo Dec. 10. 

When the girl's mother, Laurel Friedman, didn't hear from Aytes or Ela in four days, she asked the Temple Terrace police to check on them. Officers arrived and found Aytes' body first, hanging on the patio by a green string around his neck with a plastic back overhead, the Tampa Bay Times reports. He was dressed in a black suit and facing a photo of himself with Ela, who was found dead in a bed, holding a stuffed crescent moon in one hand and pictures of unicorns in the other.

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Following a preliminary review, a medical examiner ruled the girl's death a homicide and her father's a suicide.

Inside, police discovered a 7-page typed letter on Aytes' computer. It was dated Dec. 6, addressed to no one, and went on about "separation, divorce and child custody matters between Laurel and Ayhan," according to newly released court documents.

The very last sentence of the letter reads, "I cannot imagine a life for myself and Ela to go through this nonsense for the rest of our lives." The letter ends with Aytes' typed name.

Aytes and Friedman were separated and going through a nasty custody battle in which Friedman had repeatedly expressed concerns for Ela's safety. When Friedman had filed for divorce in January, they agreed to share custody of the child, but she later became worried he would take her to his home in Turkey and never come back.

When he failed to return Ela to Friedman after a scheduled visiting day, she filed an emergency motion to have the toddler picked up immediately. Instead, Judge Wesley Tibbals  ordered Aytes to follow the parenting plan right away. 

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"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 obtained by the Tampa Bay Times reads. "Father’s mental health is declining, and his behavior is becoming increasingly unpredictable and erratic."

Just days later, both Aytes and Ela were dead. 

"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 in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

In the statement, Friedman explained that she had prior concerns for the safety of her daughter when she was in Aytes' care but police did not take them as serious as she believed they were. 

"These events are painful to recount, but it is tremendously important to make clear that my daughter Ela was failed by multiple entities that had responsibility for protecting her," she said. "I sought help from people in positions of authority over the course of several days, repeatedly voicing escalating concern for Ela’s safety."

Her family has asked for privacy so they can grieve.

"Ela was a kind, empathic, and bright child who should be alive today," the statement concludes. "My family and I are deeply grieving this devastating loss. When I am able, I will join my voice and energy to discussions of domestic violence and systemic failures to protect vulnerable children."

According to Temple Terrace Police Department spokeswoman Laurie Hayes, the department responded to Aytes' address eight times over the years.

"It is sickening to know that Ela’s life was so tragically cut short by someone who was supposed to love and protect her," the Department of Children and Families wrote in a statement. "DCF stands ready to assist the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office during their child death investigation. We will continue to support Ela’s mother during this difficult time."

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Sarah Gangraw writes about all things news, entertainment and crime. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.