Re: Irina "Ira" Yarmolenko / Another Student Murder / North Carolina

"E/C Annie" <blake_swann1965@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
On May 12, 9:24 pm, "tiny dancer" <tinydancer...@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Student's death puzzles police

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Deborah Hirsch, The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE -- Irina "Ira"Yarmolenkoof Chapel Hill had just turned 20 years
old when she died Monday of asphyxiation, the victim of a mysterious
outside Charlotte.

Any local updates on this murder? Broad daylight ... someone was all
too willing to take a chance.

e/c annie

What we know so far in the mystery surrounding death of Ira Yarmolenko
Daniel Jackson
May 13, 2008 - 9:24PM
Irina Yarmolenko, 20, was found dead shortly after 1 p.m. May 5 next to her
car which was crashed into a stump on the banks of the Catawba River in
Mount Holly.

Ira (pronounced EE-rah) was murdered and the cause of her death was
asphyxiation, according to police.
Mount Holly Police, the SBI, the UNC Charlotte Police and others continued
to search for Ira's killer Tuesday.

Here's the latest from Mount Holly Police Chief David Belk:

Detectives have interviewed Ira's former boyfriends, but none of them have
been identified as suspects.

When her body was discovered by jet skiers, both the driver's door and the
passenger-side door on the backseat of Ira's blue Saturn were open.

Her body was lying parallel to the driver side of the vehicle with her feet
toward the edge of water.

Ira did not have chest injuries from the impact of her car crashing. Her car
crashed into a stump at the bottom of a steep hill near the river's edge.
But, Belk said, that doesn't mean she wasn't sitting behind the wheel.

The air bags did not deploy when her car crashed and there was no damage to
the windshield.

Evidence suggests that the front wheels of the car remained in motion after
it crashed, indicating that the car was on and the transmission was in gear.

Mount Holly police have requested additional assistance from the SBI to
conduct more interviews at the UNC Charlotte campus and in the Chapel Hill
area, where Ira was originally from.

Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and
Charlotte are discussing a possible reward for information leading to the
arrest of Ira's killer.


The Crime Scene and the search for the suspect

To get to the crime scene, Ira's car traveled from N.C. 273, through a
housing development to a bumpy dirt road running into the woods. From there,
her car traveled down a steep embankment where it crashed.

Police officers have not made any arrests or identified any possible
suspects in their investigation. And they have not discussed any likely
motives for her murder. They said there is no evidence showing that robbery
was a motive.

At this time, police have not said whether they think someone acquainted
with Ira or a random stranger killed her.


On the day of her murder, Ira was seen on campus at 9:45 a.m., after taking
an exam.

She stopped at a credit union near campus to make a deposit and small
withdrawal at 10:17 a.m.

At about 10:35 a.m., she stopped at Goodwill to donate items.

Ira was last seen at 10:50 a.m., when she left Jackson's Java, a café near
campus where she worked and often hung out.

Ira's body was discovered shortly after 1 p.m. in Mount Holly, which is
about a 30-minute drive from Jackson's Java.


Two jet skiers - Dennis Lovelace and Brenda Pierce - found Ira's body after
they saw her car crashed on the riverbank.

According to Lovelace, Ira's clothing had not been removed. The tall grass
had been knocked down in an area about 8 feet in diameter surrounding her
body, which gave the appearance that she struggled with the killer there,
Lovelace said.


Ira was born May 2, 1988. She was killed three days after her 20th birthday.
Her family moved to the U.S. from Ukraine in 1996, according to her brother
Pavel Yarmolenko. At the time, young Ira did not speak English.

She grew up in Chapel Hill, where her family lives. Her parents are
scientists; her father works in Greensboro and her mother in the Research
Triangle. Her brother is a graduate student at Duke University, studying
biomedical engineering.

Ira has been described as an artist, a poet and a gifted student. She was a
photographer and reporter for the UNC Charlotte campus newspaper University
Times. And she worked at Jackson's Java, a café close to campus.

She had been accepted to UNC Chapel Hill and had plans to transfer there,
where she was hoping to major in public health.

Jet skiers who found college student's body want killer found
Comments 3 | Recommend 7

May 12, 2008 - 5:06PM
By Daniel Jackson
At first, Dennis Lovelace and his girlfriend Brenda Pierce thought they'd
found a stolen blue Saturn wrecked on the banks of the Catawba River in
Mount Holly.

But as they pulled their jet skis closer, they realized in horror that
they'd discovered a dead body.

The Belmont residents could see through tall grass the body of 20-year-old
Irina Yarmolenko, lying on the ground next to her car a few feet from the
water. The couple found the slain UNC-Charlotte student about 1 p.m. May 5.

"I could see Ira's face sticking out through the weeds," Pierce said. "Her
eyes were open. I knew she wasn't living. I was in shock."

The Saturn was crashed into a stump just shy of the river in a remote wooded
area behind the Stowe Family YMCA and the Water's Edge housing development.

Preliminary autopsy results revealed that Yarmolenko, who went by Ira
(pronounced EE-rah), died of asphyxiation, but police have not said exactly
how she died.

Both Lovelace and Pierce sped away on their Jet Skis, searching for a phone.
Pierce returned to Dale's Boat Landing to make a 911 call. But Pierce was so
frantic, she dropped the key to her Jet Ski in the water and could not
return to the crime scene.

Lovelace said he went upriver to a construction site where he told workers
there to call 911 and then he returned to the scene to wait for police.

Signs of a struggle
While he waited in the water by the riverbank, Lovelace said he was careful
not to disturb the crime scene. He said he couldn't see any injuries on her

The tall grass was knocked down in an area about 8 feet in diameter
surrounding the body, Lovelace said. Judging from the scene, Lovelace and
Pierce said they believe that Yarmolenko fought for her life on the banks of
the Catawba.

Yarmolenko's clothes - a black UNC Pembroke hooded sweatshirt, a black skirt
and athletic shoes -were disheveled, but she had not been undressed,
Lovelace said.

Police are awaiting a complete medical examiners report and have not said if
they found evidence of a sexual assault at the crime scene.

"I hope she had a chance to get a hold of him and scrape his eyeballs out,"
Pierce said. "I hope there is some skin under her fingernails to give them
some leads."

Police maintain that they have promising leads in the investigation, but
detectives are not on the verge of breaking the case in the immediate
future, Mount Holly Police Chief David Belk said Monday.

"We'd certainly like to think that we have some strong leads and they are
following them, but I don't want to mislead you, there is nothing that shows
we'll have an arrest in the next little bit," Belk said.

And at this point, Belk said they still don't know why someone would kill
Yarmolenko, a bright student who was friendly and outgoing.

Unknown motive
"We still don't have anything that indicates any type of motive," Belk said.

One of the biggest challenges for investigators is to piece together a
timeline over more than two hours between 10:50 a.m. when she was last seen
at Jackson's Java near the Charlotte campus and about 1:18 p.m., when police
received the 911 call. Investigators have a lot of ground to cover, he said.

Belk said they still need anyone who might have seen Yarmolenko or have any
information about the last hours of her life to call detectives.

Detectives are now analyzing evidence found in Yarmolenko's car. Her keys
had been removed from the ignition, but were found nearby, Belk said. He
said police also found two pillows in the back seat, but there is no
evidence that they were used to smother her, he said.

After taking an exam Monday morning, Yarmolenko made stops at a credit
union, where she made a deposit and a withdrawal, Belk said, but he did not
know the amount of those transactions. So far, Belk said there is no
evidence specifically pointing to robbery as a motive in the murder.

She also stopped at a Goodwill store before going to the café where she
worked. Apparently, Goodwill doesn't accept used pillows so they were still
in her backseat, Belk said. Police have not said if a weapon was recovered
at the crime scene.

Is the killer close to Mount Holly?
Lovelace said he and his girlfriend think the sound of their Jet Skis might
have chased the killer off. There is about 30 minutes of travel time between
UNC Charlotte and Mount Holly, which leaves roughly 90 minutes for the crime
to take place before Yarmolenko was found. Perhaps, the killer was still
close by when the jet-skiing couple arrived, Lovelace said.

"It had just happened," he said. "She (Pierce) thinks he was still in the
woods and I do too."

Lovelace and Pierce said they have spent many years traveling along the
Catawba River and they never knew that you could get to the location where
Yarmolenko was found by car. Her car traveled behind the YMCA and the
unfinished housing development to a bumpy dirt road that winds back through
the woods to a steep embankment.

Though the search for a suspect has begun near campus where Yarmolenko was
last seen, Lovelace said he believes someone familiar with Mount Holly
killed her because the location is so remote.

"You don't drive down in there accidentally," he said.

Belk has said there is no evidence so far to suggest that people in Gaston
County should be worried about the killer striking again. However, he has
said local residents should always be aware of their surroundings.

Praying for closure
Lovelace said he's told Pierce to check her backseat before she gets in the

Pierce said she is praying for closure in the case - for Yarmolenko's family
and friends and for her-self. This past weekend, Pierce and a friend
returned to the crime scene, where they left flowers on the water for Ira.

"I think the part that hurt the worst is when I started putting the body
with a person," Pierce said. "They started showing her on the news and it
wasn't just a body anymore, it was a person. I wish I knew the answers. I'm
hoping that when all is said and done, most of the questions will be
answered for us.

"I need closure," she said. "I know the family does, too."