Tag Archives: murder

Seven versions of the top model’s death in New York. Part One

KP journalist traveled to New York to find out if Ruslana Korshunova’s death was suicide or murder

You probably want to know why we’re continuing on with this story. Just because an attractive, young girl died? Even as her relatives are coming to grips with what happened and wiping away their tears, deep down there are still many unanswered questions about Ruslana Korshunova’s death. What seemed like a perfect fairytale ended with unexpected tragedy. A Russian girl from Nowhere, Kazakhstan who made the cover of Vogue and charmed the world all the sudden ended up dead on a street in the most prestigious section of Manhattan. It’s a hard story to swallow.

Imagine. They say she didn’t drink or do drugs and was afraid of heights. On Saturday, June 28, four days before her 21st birthday, she planned on going to the sauna with her girlfriend and then to party with her boyfriend. But instead she cut a hole leading from her balcony to a neighboring building, climbed three stories, ran around and then jumped off to her death. She left no note. She left behind her mother who she always was concerned about. And she also had several bank accounts with large sums and a yearly contract with the the largest modelling agency in the world IMG.

Doesn’t this seem a bit strange?

Piecing together the events

We’re sitting in the backyard of a typical two-story house in New York smoking one cigarette after another. The sun is beating down on us and together with the tobacco it feels like we had spent the whole night drinking. Yesterday there was a long, crowded ceremony quietly bidding farewell to the top model.

“Absolutely no one believes that Ruslana could have done this,” said Eduard Perchenok, father of the model’s ex-boyfriend, 24-year-old Artem. The Perchenoks were like a second family to Ruslana. Artem courted her for sometime and she often slept at his parents house.

“There were no adults who were closer to her than us here in New York. We were something like her mother and father in the U.S.,” he added, turning red from the dry tears.

Let’s try to recount the events leading up to Ruslana’s death.

Eduard’s son dated Ruslana over two years. It was her only long-term relationship. The couple broke up sometime in 2007.

“This was really due to how Ruslana was brought up,” said Artem’s mother Nina. “Her mother was supposed to come visit from Almaty. The two lived together in an apartment. But Ruslana was a bit embarrassed because they were living together unmarried. So she asked Artem to move out.”

Then the troubles began. When Ruslana’s mother left, she decided to rent an apartment closer to work — in Manhattan, right in the middle of the modelling and economic heart of the world. This made things a bit more difficult for Artem. His company was in another section of the city and it was too hard to reach her apartment through all the traffic.

“They were anxious when everything started to fall apart,” said Artem’s father. “But there wasn’t any way back. Although they always called and wrote each other, they rarely met. So in short they remained friends.”

Ruslana soon enrolled in psychological classes in Moscow where she met the young teacher, Vladimir Vorobev. The two began dating each other. However, Vladimir turned out to be engaged and his fiancee was pregnant.

One month later, Ruslana met Mark Kaminskiy at a party in New York. The 32-year-old Kaminskiy sold high-end automobiles. Judging from the photographs he published on his Odnoklassniki.ru page, the two hit it off straight away. But strangely enough, Ruslana spent the whole night before her death with Artem.

“The kids watched movies, read love poems,” Artem’s father said. “My son had this tiny book Ruslana had given him once. They read the poems from there. Later he put the book in her coffin — and his cross.”

At 04:00 Artem took her home

At around midday, Mark called Ruslana to agree on when they would meet to go to a party that evening. At 12:19, Ruslana went onto her page on Odnoklassniki.ru, but didn’t write anything. About two hours later she was found dead on the street.

Facts and Guesses

In the days following the model’s death, the Web was abound with versions about what really happened. But they’re only theories. Now we can recount them all taking into consideration the comments we received from Ruslana’s friends and family, who saw her only shortly before her death (as well as people in the Russian scene abroad who are party to information about top models, pimps, drug dealers, athletes and the wealthy.)

Version 1: Ruslana was killed by the mafia that provides top model escort services to the rich.

American papers initially published this version of the story. Ruslana, they wrote, could have learned confidential information from a client and been murdered as a result.

It’s no secret that models “do it.”

“In New York, these escort services pay just as much as working the podium,” a popular New York designer said. “That’s anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. When a girl has no shows, a lot of them earn money this way. Basically so they have pocket cocaine money…”

“I think it’s unlikely Ruslana was involved in something like this,” said a renowned New York photographer. He had previously worked with IMG. “The reason why is Korshunova was brought here omitting the Moscow agencies. Her whole story was like straight out of a movie. Her friend convinced her to do a photo shoot for the cover of a local airline magazine. The magazine wound up in the hands of the director of a leading modelling agency who was just leaving Kazakhstan. And at 15, she was already in New York. Conjectures about a Moscow-New York mafia using girls as escorts is out of place in her case.”

Version 2: She killed herself because of money problems.

The news that Ruslana had money problems was spread by her short-term lover and teacher in Moscow Vorobev, who said she didn’t even have $500 to buy a ticket back to New York.

“That’s nonsense,” said Eduard Perchenok. “Believe me, she was fine in this regard. The apartment she was renting in New York wasn’t cheap. Ruslana had paid rent until the end of the year, something like $40,000.”

Ruslana’s friends in New York who helped her mother with documents said they saw her bank account statements and they had fairly large sums.

Version 3: She was killed for the $500,000 that she was loaned by the modelling agency.

Ruslana’s girlfriends in Kazakhstan told journalists this version. Her agent was stealing her money and she was about to file a lawsuit.

“She did have problems with her agent around one year ago,” said Perchenok. “And Ruslana asked us to help her out. We called her agent and handled the negotiations. But this had nothing to do with money. Ruslana simply wanted to change her agency, but they wouldn’t let her go. But then everything solved itself.”

The Daily News made an official inquiry and learned Kornushova hadn’t filed any lawsuits. READ MORE

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Elderly woman orders own murder

On that sunny summer day, Valentina Tarasovna, a retiree, decided to hang herself. She cleaned up a bit, went to see her relatives and told them to come around in the evening. “Why?” they asked. “Come over and you’ll find out for yourself!” she said.

When Tarasovna got back from the bathhouse, she put on something nice and clean. But on her way home, a black cat crossed her path.

“That’s a bad omen,” she thought. Tarasovna felt worse, but decided against postponing the evening’s event. She pulled out the white noose out from under her mattress and hung it from the ceiling.

Tarasovna was known as a pleasant, talkative woman in her small village of Krasnoborsk in the Arkhangelsaya region. But at the age of 80 or so, she began to feel burdened by the discomforts of aging, and sadness came over her. Her husband had died shortly before. She also lived apart from her daughter and son-in-law.

Tarasovna lived alone in a large, wooden home that had once been confiscated from a priest. There used to be many icons scattered about the home, some in gilded gold frames. But several years earlier, she had gathered them and tossed them into the Northern Dvina River.

“That’s a mortal sin,” her relatives said when they learned what she had done.

“But I want to die,” she said explaining her actions. “What good is living when your health keeps going downhill. I don’t want you to have to waste your time on me. When I get around to ending it all, the money is in my chest. Take it.”

Suicides occur often in Krasnoborsk. Statistics show the Arkhangelsk region is among Russia’s leaders in terms of the crime. Hangings are the most common form of suicide.

Tarasovna’s relatives and neighbors told KP the following stories about recent local suicides.

Shortly before Tarasovna’s death, another local retiree went missing. Her friends and family thought she had gone to the city. But soon after, a soldier found the old woman hanging from a branch in a thicket. One shoe had fallen off and a single black toe protruded from her torn stocking. At the same time, another old woman came home from the hospital after an orderly had told her she likely had cancer. She cried and wrote a note to her daughter: “Eat when you get home from work. There’s soup waiting for you. Then go into the shed.” Her daughter ate and then went into the shed to see her mother hanging there… Sadly, the autopsy showed the woman didn’t even have cancer. And Krasnoborsk has lost count of how many men have hung themselves. One man was transporting apples in his car in the autumn when the vehicle flipped over. So the driver hung himself so he wouldn’t have to pay for the damages.

And so, on that sunny summer day, Tarasovna came back from the bathhouse, hung the noose, stood up on her chair, fixed her hair and started pulling the rope around her neck. But at that moment, her neighbor walked in…

“Thanks to that black cat! Darn omens!” Tarasovna said. “I guess I’ll just have to go and drown myself in the river like Nurka did not long ago.”

But her relatives told her not to drown herself. They wouldn’t find her body in the swamp and couldn’t visit her in her grave.

“But they found Nurka!” she retorted.

For some time, Tarasovna’s relatives didn’t take their eyes off her. They gave her medication and she seemed to calm down.

But the situation ended up unfolding so strangely that KP decided to head out to the region to study the chain of events.

Soldier back from the war

Vasily Buldakov, a native of these gloomy lands, returned from Israel at 40 some-odd years old. He had served in the Israeli special forces and fought the Arabs. His body had been scarred by shrapnel and scalpels. And his soul was so hardened that he even cursed young salesgirls who served him rudely. “They wouldn’t even let you and your cow of a mother work as toilet cleaners in Israel,” he would say.

But Buldakov wound up in Israel by happen chance. His second wife was a Russian Jew with two children and they decided to move to Israel as her whole family had emigrated. But it wasn’t long before the couple began having problems. Buldakov grew tired of fighting for the Jewish people and went back home. His oldest son (from his first marriage) rented a room at a local dormitory. And so, the Israeli soldier moved in with him.

Buldakov was a hired farmhand like many others in the area. He loved to put away the booze and didn’t get on well with his employers or the other villagers. He had been to jail twice for hooliganism and many feared him.

Two lonely people

Tarasovna had trouble getting to the store, but never walked with a cane like her relatives suggested. She didn’t want to look old. And so one fateful day, Tarasovna slipped on wet clay outside her home. And it just so happened Buldakov was nearby. He helped her up and the two soon became friends. Buldakov began visiting her regularly to drink tea and chat. And when his son brought his girlfriend home, Buldakov spent the night at Tarasovna’s apartment.

Tarasovna’s relatives advised her to keep away from him. They said she didn’t “know what to expect from Buldakov,” and she also had a sizable pension and savings. But Tarasovna threw caution to the wind. When Buldakov didn’t visit her for a long time, she went to see him herself.

Tarasovna didn’t care about money. Once she had paid local Roma to remove a curse from her home after she had received her pension. But the Roma went through her things and stole half her money. Her daughter insisted she file a police report. Tarasovna did and shortly after the thieves returned what they had stolen. But it wasn’t long before another Roma visited Tarasovna, pretending to be a girl scout. And she stole everything Tarasovna had. This time, Tarasovna refused to report the incident to the police. She simply told her relatives the Roma needed the money to live. That’s the type of person she was.

When visitors came to see Tarasovna, they often saw Buldakov sitting behind her table drunk, crying and rattling on about his cruel fate and fighting on the Arab-Israeli front. He said life wasn’t worth a damn.

“Did you kill anyone?” she asked her guest.

“Of course!” he said.It’s unclear how Tarasovna convinced Buldakov to help her leave this empty world. But the criminal case shows Buldakov initially refused and begged Auntie Tarasovna (case files say he referred to her as “auntie”) to live longer.

Retiree looked for a killer

When Tarasovna was found dead, no one knew she had been killed. She was lying on the sofa with her arms folded on her chest in a clean shirt (after going to the bathhouse). Only afterwards did the doctor find a small wound nearby her heart.

Baldakov was arrested the same day. According to investigator Pavel Vlasov and lawyer Nikolay Lukyanov, Buldakov confessed immediately. He said he didn’t want to kill Tarasovna, but she had insisted that he help.

Although one might think Buldakov killed Tarasovna for another reason and simply lied about her pleas to lessen his sentence, her relatives — even her daughter — are sure the accused is telling the truth. Her relatives say even before meeting Buldakov she tried to hire someone kill her on numerous occasions. She was told there just “aren’t any killers in these parts.”

When the two finally agreed, Buldakov told Tarasovna he’d have to get drunk before committing the crime. She gave him money for booze and placed 5,980 rubles on the table.

Afterwards, Tarasovna went to the bathhouse and changed into clean clothes. She waited at home, but Buldakov was nowhere to be found. Tarasovna then went to see him at the dormitory. Later she went home and Buldakov followed shortly after. According to investigators, Buldakov used a military hold to help Tarasovna lose consciousness. He then used a kitchen knife to take her life. He carefully placed Tarasovna’s body on the table.

Buldakov didn’t search her apartment as his fingerprints were nowhere to be found. About 80,000 rubles were left in Tarasovna’s jacket pocket for the funeral. Buldakov only took the 5,980 rubles that she had left him on the table as payment, a pack of macaroni, the victim’s comb in memory and a knife. Tarasovna’s neighbors watched as he headed home across the street with the macaroni and knife. READ MORE