A jury in the Russian Federation Court for the Moscow Region found Yuri Solovyev, 44, guilty of the July 2002 murders of his roommates Vladimir Yemelyanov and Sufiya Arslanova in Gatlinburg, Tn., where all three worked on seasonal tourist visas. Solovyev is expected to be sentenced within the coming weeks.
Shortly after the murders, Sevier County and Gatlinburg authorities brought homicide charges against Solovyev for the grisly crime based upon a strong circumstantial case. The proof showed Solovyev acquired the murder weapon and purchased cleaning solutions to attempt to clean the apartment, while giving conflicting statements about the whereabouts of his missing roommates.
Solovyev fled before the bloody crime scene was discovered, but the blood of the victims was found in his abandoned automobile, and, thereafter, video-surveillance identified him using the victims’ credit cards.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation traced Solovyev to Moscow where he admitted to the Russian authorities in 2010 that he stole more than $19,000 in cash from the victims and buried their bodies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but he claimed an unidentified man named “Alex”, unknown to the U.S. investigation, committed the murders.
Based upon Solovyev’s statements to the Russian authorities, Gatlinburg authorities found the remains of the victims almost a decade after the murders, along with the murder weapon and other evidence which officials said served to support the evidence that Solovyev acted alone. Solovyev is scheduled to be sentenced later in January.
Extradition of Russian nationals to the United States is not possible. However, Russian law allows for Russian nationals to be prosecuted under Russian law for crimes committed outside of the Russian Federation. This is the first time in which the Russians have prosecuted a Russian national on U.S. murder charges in response to a request for transfer of prosecution. In conjunction with bringing their own murder charges, Russian authorities spent a week in Gatlinburg, interviewing the witnesses and the local detective, after considering the investigative materials and lab reports transmitted under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian commended the verdict and stated, “I am very pleased the Department of Justice has been able to assist the authorities in Sevier County with bringing this man to justice. It sends an important message that fleeing to a foreign country – even if extradition is not possible – does not necessarily preclude a successful prosecution. This is a case of excellent law enforcement effort, diligence and persistence in bringing this defendant to justice for this gruesome crime. I especially applaud the work of Gatlinburg Detective Tim Williams, FBI Special Agent Buddy Early and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chuck Atchley. We hope that the sentence imposed in Russia will reflect the seriousness of the offense.”
“This case is an example of how criminal justice is not constrained by geographical boundaries. Local, state, federal, and international law enforcement partners all have a common interest in ensuring that there are no safe havens for fugitives from justice. The FBI commends the cooperative efforts of everyone involved," said Kenneth L. Moore, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Knoxville Division.
This case was prosecuted as a result of the efforts by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chuck Atchley, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, City of Gatlinburg Detective Tim Williams, and FBI Special Agent Buddy Early and Legal Attaché Bryan Earl.