Murder Case Focuses on Victim's Job

A retired defense lawyer was among the victims of a mysterious quadruple murder in Yekaterinburg last week, prosecutors said Friday, and investigators are exploring whether the attacks were related to his professional activities.

Viktor Yuzhakov, 62, was found dead in his apartment Thursday along with three other people, Sverdlovsk regional prosecutors said in a statement on their web site.

The bodies were found after a fire that investigators are now treating as arson.

A murder investigation has been opened into the death of Yuzhakov and the three other people, the statement said. The names of the three other victims were not released, although they were identified as a man and two women.

Yuzhakov had brain injuries and one of the women showed signs of violent death, the statement said.

Investigators found a 5-liter plastic canister filled with gasoline and the melted remains of another gasoline canister at the scene, the statement said. When firefighters arrived, the front door of Yuzhakov's apartment was bolted shut from inside.

Yuzhakov lived in the apartment with his wife, son and daughter, Kommersant reported Friday, citing neighbors.

Vadim Dymkov, a spokesman for the Sverdlovsk regional branch of the Investigative Committee, said Friday that he could not comment beyond what was in the statement, although he conceded that the case was unusual.

"The case has attracted much public attention, the amount of investigative activities is large and the case itself is not ordinary," Vadim Dymkov said by telephone from Yekaterinburg on Friday.

"We have four corpses, but so far we know almost nothing about the circumstances of their deaths," Dymkov said.

The case is being investigated by the department for particularly important cases of the Sverdlovsk regional branch of the Investigative Committee.

One lead being pursued is that the attack was carried out by Yuzhakov's relatives or acquaintances out of personal enmity, the prosecutors' statement said.

A source close to the investigation said Yuzhakov's murder could have been connected to his former professional activities.

"As a rule, such leads are always considered," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the lead.

From 2001 to his retirement in 2007, Yuzhakov worked as a defense lawyer, dealing mostly with criminal cases, including some involving drugs, Georgy Abshilava, head of the Urals Collegium of Lawyers, said Friday.

Yuzhakov had "ordinary" clients and there were no "big names" among them, Abshilava said by telephone.

He said Yuzhakov's death was probably not related to his former professional activities. Yuzhakov "never broke lawyers' ethics," Abshilava said.