Jury hands down guilty verdict in Pakhomov trial

Published: Aug. 18, 2009 at 3:04 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2009 at 10:46 AM CDT
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By Bobby Shuttleworth - bio | email
Posted by Dana Franks - email

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - The jury in UAH professor Andrew Pakhomov's murder trial handed down a guilty verdict in the death of his wife.

It took the jury just 7 1/2 hours to come to its decision. Pakhomov's back in jail after his bond was revoked by the judge after the jury's announcement. He faces up to 99 years in prison.

Palhomov's wife's body was found floating in the Tennessee River in June of 2006. She was strangled and her body was weighted down by rocks.

Investigators said Yelena Zakin and Pakhomov had a rocky marriage and that she suspected him of having an affair, and that led to her murder.

Zakin's daughter smiled, while Pakhomov showed no emotion as the verdict was read. But the defendant had plenty to say as he left the courtroom.

"I did not do it," he said.

But a jury saw it differently, and said he is guilty of murdering Zakin in 2006 and dumping her body in the Tennessee River. That was a victory for the victim's daughter.

"Words can't describe how I feel right now," said Aleksandra Zakin. "It is.....justice has been served. I know my mom would be happy right now."

"We put about as much time and effort into this case as I have in a long, long time," said prosecutor Wes Lavender.

Lavender complimented Investigator Rick Archer and the entire Decatur Police Department, indicating this conviction was a team effort.

Richard Miller is still a professor at UA Huntsville who said he's been watching the trial daily. He worked with both Pakhomov and Zakin, who he described as kind. He said this has been a difficult ordeal.

"Yeah, it's always difficult when you know the people involved," Miller said. "It's not like it's on TV. At least one of them seems to be kind to you."

So how did Pakhomov react to all that has happened?

"I would just like to say first I will be praying for all people that has been wrongly accused and sentenced," he said.

Thursday's happenings

A jury finished deliberations Thursday with no verdict in the murder trial of a University of Alabama at Huntsville professor.

The jury began deliberations after hearing closing arguments Thursday morning in Andrew Pakhomov's murder trial.

Both the prosecution and defense gave closing statements after the defense rested their case without calling Pakhomov to testify in his own defense.

He is accused of murdering his wife, Yelena Zakin, who's nude body was found floating in the Tennessee river in 2006.

The lead prosecutor reminded the jury of injuries observed on Pakhomov's body after his wife's disappearance and said they would be consistant with pathologists' stated cause of death. However, defense attorney Robert Tuten said the prosecution had built a "Trojan horse" of evidence against his client.

Wednesday's Testimony

The prosecution rested Wednesday afternoon in the murder trial of a UA Huntsville professor after testimony by the victim's daughter.

The judge subsequently denied a defense motion to dismiss charges against Dr. Andrew Pakhomov, who is charged with the death of his wife, Yelena Zakin.

Yelena's daughter, Aleksandra Zakin, testified that she was notified about the disappearance of her mother by a voicemail left by Yelena's boss. She said that Pakhomov didn't contact her until she called him, and then asked her if she had contacted police.

Aleksandra Zakin said her mother had expressed the wish to make her daughter her heir, and that she and her stepfather clashed over plans for Yelena's memorial service.

Earlier in the day, DNA expert Robert Bass said that blood was found on the headrest of a Jeep Grand Cherokee found at the Pakhomov home but that it didn't match his DNA. However, DNA found under Yelena Zakin's fingernails matched her husband.

Forensics expert Stephen Budreau also testified, stating that Yelena Zakin was killed by a ligature which broke her neck. He stated that she was attacked from behind.

The defense began calling witnesses late Wednesday afternoon, but the big quesiton was whether Pakhomov would take the stand.

"They're going to discuss that tonight and decide how to proceed from that point on," said defense attorney Robert Tuten.

Late Wednesday afternoon, admitted ex-mistress Melissa Dehollander was also recalled by the defense. She was questioned again about the length of her affair with Pakhomov and the bruises she reported seeing on his thumb and arm.

The defense will begin calling witnesses again first thing Thursday morning.

Tuesday's testimony

A UAH professor's mistress testified for the prosecution in Dr. Andrew Pakhomov's murder trial.

Melissa Dehollander took the stand in the Morgan County courtroom after lunch Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors questioned Dehollander about her working and her sexual relationship with Pakhomov.

Dehollander admitted a nearly yearlong affair with Pakhomov that lasted about a month after his wife, Yelena Zakin, was found dead in the Tennessee River in 2006.

Dehollander also testified about the Pakhomov told her his wife was missing and how he asked questioned about what police told her.

She told the court at one point that Pakhomov started crying and said under his breath, "they know," after she described what one police officer said about her death.

Testimony continued Tuesday afternoon with another UAH researcher answering questions about the day Pakhomov's wife disappeared.

Earlier Tuesday, three Madison police officers and a state trooper were among the first prosecution witnesses in Pakhomov's trial.

They all testified about responding to domestic violence calls at the Pakhomov's home in Madison.

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