Yevgeniy Savinskiys cellmate James Russell testified Wednesday about details of the alleged deal the two men made in jail to kill a police officer and Savinskiys ex-wife and attack Clatsop County Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown.
Savinskiy offered Russell a used vehicle and $10,000 to severely injure Brown, $20,000 for Astoria Police Officer Joe Symonds life, and $5,000 each for the life of Symonds wife and child, Russell testified.
I asked him, How come so little for the cop and he said, Its money, isnt it? Russell said.
Russell, 41, is serving time in the Clatsop County Jail forgery and theft. He told the court he had a long-running methamphetamine addiction and his lengthy criminal record that includes similar charges dating back to the early 1990s was to support that habit. In Clatsop County, he wrote a bad check for items that he was going to resell in order to pay for housing and drugs, he told the jury. He was sentenced to nearly five years.
Savinskiy, 38, of Washougal, Wash., has been in jail awaiting trial since a shooting incident at the Lamplighter Motel on Marine Drive in February 2012.
He is charged with two counts of attempted aggravated murder, two counts of first-degree attempted assault, felony attempt to elude, identity theft, attempted possession of a firearm silencer, and five counts of recklessly endangering another person from the February 2012 shootout and subsequent high-speed chase. Additionally, he is facing charges for his alleged deal with Russell to kill two people and injure a third.
In the Clatsop County Jail, Russell was in a cell originally with now-convicted murderer Marcus Foster of Seaside. Savinskiy was in a single cell next door. But in July, Savinskiy was placed with Russell and the two formed a friendship that later became something more a business partnership, Russell said. Savinskiy wanted his ex-wife and Symonds killed.
He also wanted Brown severely injured.
The requests were written down.
It was two hand-written statements from Mr. Savinskiy stating that if the officer didnt show up to court to testify, the charges would be dismissed and to take the life of that officer, Russell said to Brown. And the other one was to beat you up, and hurt you and take a baseball bat to you ... and take a gun and hold it to your neck and tell you that if hes found guilty, hes going to kill your wife, your daughter, your grandchildren, and then eventually you.
Brown asked if Russell took Savinskiy seriously, to which Russell replied that he did. And that before Russell ever met Brown, he knew who he was and what he looked like just based on Savinskiys descriptions.
He described you to me, he told me what you looked like. He authorized me another $10,000 to hire another man. He said he wanted me to tell you, he said, We took a prosecutor in Washington. Were not afraid to take one in Oregon. He told me that you would check that out, Russell said.
He wanted me and Chuckie to take a wooden baseball bat to you. I asked him wooden or aluminum? He said I want you to use a wooden one. I want you to bust his arms, I want you to bust his legs. I want you to tell him that if Im convicted, hes a dead man.
Savinskiy also allegedly had detailed descriptions of Symonds, too, including who the nurse was at the doctors office he visits. He said his connection a friend named Serge could get Symonds address from a prescription label. He allegedly told Russell to get a dog once he had the address, walk the dog to get familiar with Symonds neighborhood, and then retrieve one of Savinskiys guns, a Parker Hale that can shoot up to a mile away, from a storage locker. He also instructed Russell to get a spray tan before the shooting, and change his hair cut and color, to disguise himself.
I said What if he has kids? And a wife? Hes like, They have to go too, Russell said. Hes like, Kill the dog, kill the cat, because when us Russians do something, we make a statement.
Kill the ex-wife
Savinskiy also instructed Russell to strangle his ex-wife Olga with a cord in her Camas, Wash., home. Then, the details became more gruesome.
He told me that he bought a house for her, he married her when she was 18, he said he got caught cheating on her and she kicked him out of the house and they got a divorce and she took his $500,000 house. He has two daughters with her, Russell said. He said, I brought her to America, shes not loyal. She gave the FBI my computers, the laptop.
Russell said Savinskiy claimed his father told him that.
He said, I want that bitch gone. I bought her a $76,000 bracelet. I also bought her a $100,000 Mercedes, Russell said. He said, Make sure she is completely dead, then added obscene details of how he wanted her body violated.That will teach her to snitch on me.
For the death of Olga, a pediatrics nurse at a hospital in Portland, according to Russell, Savinskiy allegedly offered Russell the bracelet, a Rolex, two bullet proof vests, and $100,000 once Savinskiy was free.
When I was in that cell and he first came to me, wanting me to handle this information for him, I thought nothing of it, people get mad, Russell told the jury. But I gave him every opportunity to change his mind. I said, Are you sure you want to do this?
Brown asked how often Russell posed that question. Russell said four or five times.
And finally, he looked at me in the room and said, If you cant handle it, Ill find somebody else that can. Thats when I took him serious, he said, later adding, My thought process was if I take my plea bargain, and I go back to Washington, and he gets somebody else in this cell besides me, who says that persons not going to follow through with it? Who says that persons going to come forward? He offered me a substantial amount of money, I had no reason to doubt what he said.
Russell is serving time in a different jail, although he did not specify which one. He testified Wednesday in a yellow jumpsuit and handcuffs.
While Savinskiys attorney Ben Eder questioned Russell on his record of dishonesty with the law, Russell said he still considers himself an honest man and offered to work with police because it was the right thing to do. Eder also made a point that the two men, while in jail together, joked around a lot to pass the time. Russell however stated he did not believe the conversations about harming the officer, his ex-wife and Brown were a joke.
Russells motive was also brought into question. For his help in the past he has reaped benefits, including lesser jail time. This time, however, he is requesting drug treatment.
Russell offered to work for detectives while in jail, something he had previously offered and accepted in other counties in Washington where he has served time. In those cases he received concurrent sentences rather than consecutive meaning if Russell was sentenced for two crimes and received two years for each, he would only serve two years in jail rather than four.
In Clatsop County however, in exchange for serving as a jail informant, Brown has agreed to write a letter to a court in Washington state recommending Russell receive a drug offenders sentence (called a DOSA) which means after jail he will be put into a drug treatment facility, rather than back out on the streets.
Ill be released next year, regardless, Russell said. Hed rather go to in-patient drug treatment than be homeless after jail, he said.
The statements from Savinskiy were tucked into a Bible, with a passage Savinskiy had allegedly written to his father. Savinskiys father was supposed to pick Russell and the Bible up last August from McDonalds on Marine Drive.
A recording of that phone call between Russell and the father was played for the jury. When Russell asks the father if he has Russells money $5,000 was allegedly agreed upon between Savinskiy and Russell as a start-up fund the father states he doesnt know about any money. But he did show up at McDonalds to give the man a ride.
Savinskiys father was again in the courtroom Wednesday.
Russell also claims to have received a money order from Savinskiys friend, Serge, and that Savinskiys father had put some money on my books although Russell did not elaborate.
Detective Jama Hulton also testified Wednesday about the creative ways in which she and another detective worked with Russell to record conversations with Savinskiy. A pocket was sewn in the inside of Russells jumpsuit to hold a six-hour recorder. The two were recorded four times, because it was difficult to continually pull an inmate out of his cell without seeming suspicious, she said.
Feb. 12, 2012
Russell also shared with the court what he knew about the night of Feb. 12, when Savinskiy was confronted and shot by Astoria Police at the hotel, before leading them on a high speed chase that ended on U.S. Highway 26.
He said he came back (to the hotel) and left some things in his room, and he said that when he came back, it was later than what he expected it to be and the office was acting very funny, Russell recalled. He said, When I pulled in to the driveway of the Lamplighter, I knew something was up because there was only one truck in the whole parking lot and the people in the office were all acting very funny.
He said he gave a fake name, he used his ex-wifes best friends husbands name at the motel. But, however, he left his passport in the room. So he knew something was up. So they put him up in another room ... and he kept wanting to get his stuff. He paid cash and used the same fake name at the motel.
Russell said what Savinskiy didnt know was that the hotel staff had already called police. He also, Russell claims, spoke of what his defense would be.
When Astoria Police Officer Symonds knocked on the door of the hotel room, Savinskiy allegedly told Russell he thought the officer was there for something else.
He didnt know what the officer wanted. He told me it was an Astoria Police officer. As a matter of fact, he said, Im from Russia and our police officers look different. And he said, Im going to say I didnt know he was a cop. But I asked him if he did know and he said, Yeah I saw the badge. He was wearing a black vest.
Russell said Savinskiy also told him that he had considered shooting the officer, because he is a sniper and had training in Russia. But because of his wounds, he got in his van and felt woozy.
Former medical examiner Joann Giuliani (formerly Stefanelli) testified Wednesday his two wounds were consistant with one bullet going through his left wrist, and injuring his right arm, although she said she could never be 100 percent sure it was the same bullet.
She said the wound would have been very painful to Savinskiys wrist, but would not have paralyzed his hand, stopping him from pulling the trigger.
She estimated he lost two pints of blood.
A tactical vest was in Savinskiys possession in the hotel room, as well as a mesh mask, a police scanner and ammunition, among other things, Former Oregon State Police trooper Jim Pierce testified Wednesday, as photos of the items from the room and vehicle were shown to jurors.
Pierce said the clip and handgun found in Savinskiy's rented van after the high speed chase were covered in blood except for two essential parts. His theory, he said, was that both parts had been in someones hand, as if Savinskiy was trying to load the gun while in police pursuit.
Astoria Police Officer Chris McNeary recalled the evening of the shooting. He said he saw the AR15 shown to the jury with former Astoria Police Officer John Decker demonstrating how easy it is to connect the two pieces of the gun together aimed right at him. He had Savinskiy in his sights through the van in the parking lot, but decided he would wait to be fired upon first. Savinskiy never fired a round.
McNeary shot once and believes he shot Savinskiy, as he sought cover in an alley way between the hotel and the Pig N Pancake restaurant. He believed at the time he had been shot when he felt something on his back. It was later determined that something was a shell casing.
He told the court it was one of the most stressful situations he has encountered. He said he second guesses himself and the way he reacted that day, but now uses it as real-life experience when training other officers.
Eders cross-examination questions included clarifying that both McNeary and Savinskiy had the opportunity to shoot but did not.
The trial continues today.