Thursday, February 12, 2009

Testimony Adds New Mystery at a Murder Trial in Queens

The murder trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova and her uncle by marriage, Mikhail Mallayev — accused of conspiring to kill her estranged husband after a long child-custody battle — has played out so far as a family affair within the Bukharian Jewish immigrant community, as relatives trade scowls across the courtroom.

But on Tuesday, the court’s attention was riveted on two outsiders: women who have lived among, but are not part of, the Russian-speaking Bukharian society of Rego Park and Forest Hills in Queens, and who between them provided a chilling description of the man who shot the husband, Daniel Malakov, and introduced a new mystery into the trial.

The testimony raised new questions over whether Dr. Borukhova, 35, an internist, was standing a few feet away from Dr. Malakov, an orthodontist, with the couple’s 4-year-old daughter when he was shot, as she has said, or whether another woman was standing with the girl.

Both witnesses lived in a building opposite the entrance to Annadale Playground, where Dr. Malakov, 34, was shot. Both were walking their dogs that Sunday morning, Oct. 28, 2007, and both said they saw the shooting.

One witness, Cheryl Springsteen, a special-education teacher, described watching a man fire a gun about 30 feet away from her.

“I told myself, you have to look at him because you have to be able to tell them what he looks like,” she told the jury in State Supreme Court in Queens.

Ms. Springsteen and the other witness, Natalie Tabois, an accountant for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said they saw a red-haired woman with a girl near Dr. Malakov, who, prosecutors say, had taken his daughter to the park to meet her mother.

Both said they later saw a dark-haired woman who they identified as Dr. Borukhova come running toward the park a few minutes after the shooting and try to resuscitate her husband. Both said they had identified the red-haired woman in a police photo lineup — though prosecutors did not reveal who they believe she is.

“Where they’re going with this, I have no idea,” said Dr. Borukhova’s lawyer, Stephen Scaring.

Dr. Borukhova, who, like Mr. Mallayev, has pleaded not guilty, previously told police that she was a few feet from the shooting, and did not see or hear anything, prosecutors say.

Ms. Springsteen said she saw the man’s right profile clearly as he extended his right arm and fired a black gun. The man, she said, was stocky and jowly, with a gut “like Tony Soprano” and grayish hair combed back like her grandfather’s. She said that he wore a black Members Only jacket and gray pants, that he looked Eastern European or Russian, and that he seemed to be 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9 and between 48 and 52 years old.

Asked to identify him, she stood, nervously crossing her wrists and clasping her hands, and raised a hand to point to Mr. Mallayev, a bulky man with salt-and-pepper hair who according to prosecutors was 50 at the time of the killing and is 5-foot-8.

In January 2008, Ms. Springsteen picked Mr. Mallayev from a lineup, she and prosecutors said. She had an immediate physical reaction, she said: “I became very anxious. I got nauseous.”

Testimony Adds New Mystery at a Murder Trial in Queens -

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