Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Russian Police Make an Arrest in ‘Free Pussy Riot’ Double Murder

Update: Police have arrested university professor Igor Danilevsky, 38, for the murders of his girlfriend, 38, and her mother, 76. According to Russian police he wrote “Free Pussy Riot” on the wall in blood and mutilated the women’s faces to make the murders seem like ritual killings, but that the true motive had to do with not wanting to pay back a loan from his girlfriend, who had paid off his debts. Police say they have the murder weapon, a knife that was used to kill as well as mutilate the women.

Graffiti found scrawled in blood at murder scene.

Graffiti found scrawled in blood at murder scene.


What started as an ill-advised bit of performance art in a Russian church on February 12, 2012, is being blamed by some for a double murder. It seems that one of Pussy Riot’s fan has taken the protest to a whole new level by killing two women in Kazan, where police found the bodies of an elderly woman and her daughter in a room, with the words “Free Pussy Riot” scrawled in blood¬†on the wall above them. The jailed band members’ attorney, Nikolai Polozov, tweeted, “what happened in Kazan is horrible,” calling the act “either a horrendous provocation or a psychopathic” case.

The band’s detractors view the murders as in some way caused by the band, and blame them for the actions of their unidentified supporter. The Interfax news agency reported that Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, the Russian church’s liaison to law enforcement said, “This blood is on the conscience of the so-called public, which supported the participants in the action in Christ the Savior Cathedral, because the result is that people with unstable mentality got carte-blanche.” Others say the blood is on the conscience of the convicted band members. Police are cautious to ascribe political motivation to what may turn out to be a garden-variety murder. Russian investigators believe the killer is trying to obscure the murders’ motive in an attempt to make it seem random.

For those who have not followed the case from the beginning, the writing refers to the Russian feminist band Pussy Riot, which has only been around about a year and, until three members were incarcerated, was composed of about 11 members, most of them anonymous. Pussy Riot was known for its impromptu performances in unauthorized locations, like Red Square and the Moscow’s metro. Their most famous such performance, and the one that got them into the most trouble, garnering world-wide attention, was performed in front of the sanctuary in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Five of the band’s members entered the church, donned colorful balaclavas and videotaped themselves for about a minute, dancing and jumping around, throwing punches and kicking, and making religious gestures in front of the sanctuary. They were quickly stopped and removed from the building by the church’s security.

Their footage became a music video, that went out on the Internet, a purported prayer to the Virgin Mary asking her help to remove Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. It also condemned Moscow’s Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill I for his support of Putin. On March 3, three of the five band members were arrested for hooliganism, or rowdy, violent, destructive behavior. Such behavior is so frowned upon in Russia that the charge still carries a prison sentence.

In what became an international media frenzy, the three arrested band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were tried and in August each sentenced to two years in prison for their church stunt. Celebrities have also chimed in, stating their disapproval of incarceration and demanding the women’s release. There is even a website, freepussyriot.org, dedicated to their cause.

The investigation is ongoing.

 

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