FBI aids suspect hunt
Second man in Singh beating goes to court, posts bail
By Crystal Carreon and Dorothy Korber, The Sacramento Bee, August 9, 2007
The man accused of throwing the punch that killed Satender Singh remained at large Wednesday, while FBI agents pursued him in eastern Europe and his mother insisted he will return to Sacramento on his own.
The fugitive is 29-year-old Andrey Vusik of West Sacramento, who faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and committing a hate crime. The hate crime charge stems from allegations Vusik taunted Singh with homosexual and ethnic slurs on July 1, during an altercation on the shore of Lake Natoma.
Another suspect in the case appeared in Sacramento Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon, only to have his arraignment postponed. By Wednesday evening Aleksandr Shevchenko, 21, posted bail, was released and ordered to return for another court appearance on Aug. 22.
Shevchenko is charged with intimidation -- also a hate crime -- in the incident that has ignited outrage from gay and anti-hate activists.
On Wednesday, Vusik's mother told The Bee that she last spoke with her son on Tuesday -- the day his name become public in the case.
Ludmila Vusik said through a Russian translator that her son called her, and that she emphasized the seriousness of the allegations against him and urged him to come home. The mother said Vusik assured her that he would return, once a business transaction was completed involving his export car business.
"I really love my son -- he has never been involved in any fights, as far as I know, since childhood," Ludmila Vusik said. "What happened was a tragic accident."
"This tragedy touches upon both of us," the mother said of Singh's family. "We both lost our sons.
Authorities say Vusik punched Singh, knocking him backward. Singh fell and struck his head. He died four days later. Homicide investigators say Vusik left the country after Singh's death and believe he is now in Russia.
The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department is handling the case, with overseas help from the FBI.
"We've turned everything over to the FBI as far as Vusik's location and contact information," said Sgt. Connie Merkins of the sheriff's homicide bureau. "That's in their hands."
Special Agent Steven D. Dupre of the FBI's Sacramento Division said the bureau serves as a liaison between local law enforcement and foreign governments. He would not speak specifically about the Vusik case, but talked generally of the extradition process.
"Our role is just to find the fugitive and bring him back," Dupre said.
He said FBI legal attachés stationed in foreign cities work with their police agencies. The attachés are unarmed -- local police officers make the arrest and FBI agents help process the extradition.
"The process can get a little involved," Dupre said. "It gets more complicated if the person is a citizen of that country -- then it can take longer."
Dupre said he did not know Vusik's immigration status. Family members in Sacramento said he had been in the United States for 14 years, and has been married to Tatyana Vusik for four years. They have three children.
Shevchenko, a construction worker, is dating Vusik's sister-in-law Dasha Yakovchuk. Yakovchuk, who was also at the park that day, defended her boyfriend's character and said he is a hard worker and a quiet man.
At the Shevchenko family home Wednesday, the suspect's sister said the allegations against her brother are exaggerated and unfounded.
"He's a good guy, a good brother," said Angel Shevchenko. "He didn't have any intentions to hurt anybody."
The sister supported an account given to The Bee earlier by Vusik's wife, Tatyana, who said Singh and his party were acting inappropriately that day at the park. Vusik's three small children were near, Tatyana said, and when the father asked the other group to calm down, the trouble began.
On Wednesday, Tatyana Vusik added that she had not spoken with her husband, but continued to support his innocence. Through a translator, she said Vusik acted in self-defense -- not out of hate -- when Singh had lifted a bottle to strike her husband, after a daylong confrontation in which she said Singh's party had cursed at her and shouted sexual epithets at her.
Sheriff's investigators have uncovered no witness accounts supporting Tatyana Vusik's contention that her husband acted in self-defense, and a witness who was with Singh that July day said she was "shocked" to hear of Vusik's version.
The witness, who is a longtime friend of Singh's, requested that her name not be used because she said she feared retaliation.
"I remember what happened -- that's absolutely not true," she said of the contention that Vusik acted in self-defense. "We were just casual people. We were not provocative, we were not obnoxious."
She said the verbal harangue -- with slurs against their ethnicity and homophobic expletives -- continued for hours before Singh was punched.
Another witness, Folsom resident Wolfgang Chargin, earlier spoke with The Bee about the incident. He said he had watched an increasingly angry interaction that day at Lake Natoma, in which two groups were shouting.
Chargin said the Russian-speaking group seemed especially offended by Singh, 26, who was dancing with both men and women.
At one point, Chargin said, Singh's party went into the water and a man from the other group walked over and spit on their blankets. The man then went to the lake's edge and shouted something at Singh's group that they seemed to find especially shocking, Chargin said.
Chargin said he did not hear the anti-gay and racial slurs Singh's group later reported to authorities.
Sheriff's officials have said that both Singh's party and Vusik's group exchanged verbal jabs for several hours that day.
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