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Murder, abuse charges filed after one child dies, another found starving

Published March 14, 2008 1:35 am
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TOOELE - Prosecutors say one child was malnourished. Another, they allege, died from a skull fracture that couldn't have been caused by a fall.

But neighbors Thursday expressed shock and dismay that Kimberly K. Emelyantsev is now charged with first-degree felony murder for the death of her 14-month-old adopted son.

The 33-year-old woman and her husband, 31-year-old Fyodor Emelyantsev, also are charged with child abuse for allegedly starving an adopted 4-year-old son. Both children were adopted in Russia, where Fyodor Emelyantsev is a citizen.

"We don't believe this is true because we all know how much they loved those kids," neighbor Celeste Hansen said of the allegations on Thursday.

The couple have three biological children, but neighbors said they wanted to adopt so badly that they took out a second mortgage on their home to finance two recent trips to Russia.

Machelle Lowry, also a neighbor, characterized the Emelyantsevs as loving, kind and patient - the more so because both of the adopted children were born with Down syndrome.

"They couldn't have done anything like this," Lowry said. "Their hearts are so sweet and tender. It's tearing up everybody here to see them go through this."

But court documents indicate that the baby, Nicoli - who was adopted last month - died March 7 from a skull fracture that resulted from blunt-force trauma and not any sort of a fall. In addition, the baby had bruising on his face, head, knee and anus.

Fyodor Emelyantsev told police that on March 6, he was working on a computer in a back bedroom when his wife came in with the baby, who was "nonresponsive and breathing very slowly," according to a police report.

Fyodor Emelyantsev speculated the child had fallen, although he had not heard or been told that occurred, the report said. Kimberly Emelyantsev has declined to speak with police.

The child abuse charges stem from the couple's alleged negligent treatment of a 4-year-old boy they adopted in December.

Taken to Primary Children's Medical Center, the boy was found to be suffering from "extreme dehydration and malnourishment," according to police reports. He had been admitted to the hospital three times in the past three months for the same problem, according to reports. The first time, a feeding tube was installed in the child's stomach to help him gain weight.

Physician Lori Frasier told police there was no reason the child's condition should have declined after installation of the feeding tube if the parents were properly caring for the boy. After his removal from the Emelyantsev's home last week, the boy showed "significant progress" during just 72 hours of hospital care, the police report said.

But Hansen claimed the boy - who weighed only 18 pounds when adopted - had problems from the start. As for Nicoli, she said, he was having seizures in Russia and had "blood on his brain." Hansen added that the parents immediately took each of the boys to the hospital for check-ups upon returning from Russia.

Lowry said Kimberly Emelyantsev's 10-year-old daughter also has Down syndrome, and that Fyodor Emelyantsev - who has been working at a Tooele nursing home - was trained in Russia to work with disabled children.

"She and Fyodor dealt with [their children's disabilities], and they dealt with it graciously," Lowry said.

During a Thursday court hearing, a cash-only bail was set for Kimberly Emelyantsev, who had been charged Wednesday, at $500,000. Judge Mark Kouris said that given the fact that her children had been taken away and the severity of the charges, she was a potential flight risk and a danger to herself.

Defense attorney Edwin Wall argued for a lower bail of $100,000, noting that his client has no history of crime or violence.

Deputy Tooele County Attorney Gary Searle wanted bail set at $1 million, arguing that the safest place for the woman was behind bars.

Fyodor Emelyantsev, who was charged Thursday with third-degree felony child abuse, appeared in court Thursday. Bail was not set, but attorneys agreed that Fyodor Emelyantsev could be transported to and from the graveside service of his dead son.

Both parents are set to appear in court again March 18 for a scheduling hearing.


* JULIA LYON and Pamela Manson contributed to this report.

State response

The Emelyantsev's biological children, ages 10, 5 and 2, as well as their 4-year-old adopted son, were taken into state custody and then placed with relatives.

The Department of Human Services is working with the relatives "to make sure they have the support services they need," said spokeswoman Liz Sollis. The Department is also investigating why the 4-year-old boy was allowed to remain with the family after his initial hospitalization.

"Even if the hospital did [notify us] we're not in the business of removing children from their parents," Sollis said. "Our preference is to try to keep families intact."




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