When Igor Samolyuk was convicted in 2007 of fatally stabbing his young wife, the Kennewick man told his lawyer he would accept the jury’s decision because he believed it was God’s will.
But Samolyuk went on to appeal the second-degree murder verdict, claiming the judge made several errors that should get him a new trial.
On Tuesday, he lost that fight.
The Washington state Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and found no wrongdoing by Judge Carrie Runge of Benton County Superior Court.
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Samolyuk, now 26, is serving a nearly 21-year sentence for cutting Yana 18 times until she bled to death in their parked car.
He is serving his sentence at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.
The couple had what was described as a tumultuous marriage over 13 months, with a pregnant Yana being asked to leave their Kennewick home the month before her death.
Their daughter, Karina, was 21/2 weeks old when Yana was killed.
Yana’s parents, Vera and Viktor Kokadeyeva of Pasco, are raising their granddaughter, who now is 7 and reportedly doing well in school.
After the opinion was released Tuesday, Prosecutor Andy Miller spoke with the victim’s sister, Viktoriya Kokadeyeva. She told him that her parents hadn’t followed Samolyuk’s appeal closely but would be happy with the news.
Benton County sheriff’s deputies found Igor Samolyuk sitting in his Honda the morning of July 9, 2006, on a desolate road in Finley. Next to him in the passenger seat was Yana, dead from six stab wounds to the left side of her neck.
After taunting Yana with 12 “methodical and carefully done” slices across the front of her neck, he killed her with the small Swiss Army knife, Miller said at the time.
Samolyuk called his family and asked them for help, then cut his wrists while he waited for police to arrive. He was 19 at the time.
Yana, 18, recently had graduated from Pasco High, where she was an honor student, and from the Tri-Tech Skills Center, where she studied nursing.
After sitting through eight days of testimony, the jury took a little more than five hours in December 2007 to return the guilty verdict. It included aggravating factors that the crime involved deliberate cruelty and a pattern of ongoing psychological or physical abuse, and would have a destructive and foreseeable impact on the couple’s daughter.
Samolyuk’s attorney, Kevin Holt, had argued at the trial that Samolyuk was impaired by a brain injury from a car crash six months earlier.
At the sentencing two months later, Judge Runge said Samolyuk deserved to spend the time behind bars for tormenting his wife. She questioned the “sheer terror” Yana must have faced as the young woman tried not to struggle and remain quiet while her husband taunted her with a knife.
“What were those last moments like, wondering when you might plunge the knife in?” Runge had said.
Samolyuk’s appeal was filed in 2008 in the required time frame, but the appellate court put it on hold while awaiting decisions by the Washington Supreme Court on public trial cases that could have affected this matter.
In his appeal, Samolyuk claimed that Runge improperly denied his motion for a new jury based on possible media exposure, violated his public trial rights and should not have admitted prior assault evidence.
He took issue with the court’s decision not to call in a new pool of potential jurors after two copies of the Herald, with a news story on Samolyuk’s trial were found in the jury room. Runge questioned each juror individually in the courtroom — Samolyuk argued in his appeal that it was in a closed jury room — and ruled there was no cause to dismiss the jurors.
Miller told the Herald on Tuesday it was good to see the three-judge appeals panel compliment Runge’s findings and thoughtful analysis before admitting the three incidents of prior attacks on Yana. He also was happy that the court recognized the courtroom was not closed to the public.
“I think that in Benton County, the judges and the lawyers have been very careful to not go into chambers without making the appropriate record,” Miller said. “We thought the bailiffs and Judge Runge had made a good record that nobody had seen the Tri-City Herald article. I think it was an example that spending the extra time at trial level pays off when it comes to the appeal.”
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer