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Brother remembers slain UNCC student

Posted May 12, 2008

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— The brother of a slain University of North Carolina at Charlotte student calls his sister's death "a horrible dream that we're still waiting to wake up from."

The body of Irina Sergeyevna Yarmolenko, 20, was found next to her blue Saturn at the edge of the Catawba River on May 5.

“Somebody killed my sister,” Pavel Yarmolenko said Monday.

Her brother said Irina's sunny personality captivated friends.

“She really was just happy all the time,” Pavel said. “She always talked to you and looked at you and made you feel like she cared about what you had to say."

Irina died of asphyxiation. A rider on a personal watercraft discovered her body, Mount Holly police said.

“I just stood there and shook, and my parents, they were in shock, too,” Pavel said when recalling the moments after an officer told him that his sister was dead.

Pavel, 25, a graduate student at Duke University, said his family moved from Ukraine in the 1990s because of religious persecution. They first called Greensboro home and later moved to Chapel Hill.

Irina, a sophomore at UNCC, enjoyed being behind the camera as a photographer on the campus newspaper.

"She really loved photography," Pavel said.

Irina was last seen at her job at a coffee shop near campus about two hours before her body was found, police said.

“I wish I could've told her that I loved her,” Pavel said. “People have said that she knew that, so I hope she did."

Pavel also said he hopes his sister's sudden death will make everyone realize life is too short.

“Tell everyone that you're close to that you really care. And go out of your way, if possible, to do something that will really brighten somebody's day,” Pavel said.

A memorial service for Irina is scheduled for Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, at Chapel Hill High School, 1709 High School Road.

Irina's death marks the fourth high-profile slaying this year of a North Carolina college student. Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato was shot in January during a robbery at his off-campus apartment, and Eve Carson, UNC Chapel Hill student body president, was found dead March 5 on a street near the campus. Also in January, motorists traveling along Interstate 540 in Wake County found the slain body of NCCU student Latrese Matral Curtis on an embankment.

Anyone with information about Irina's death is asked to call the Mount Holly police at 704-827-4343.


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  • hkypky May 13, 2008

    stellersfan: My take is that finding her was more an accident that coincidence. She was found by someone cruising the river on a jet ski or similar as they were passing by. A car at that location on the bank of the river is going to very obvious to anyone passing by.

    By accident, I mean that it looks like the car and that young girl were headed for the river and instead got hung up on a stump or branches. Perhaps the person who murdered her, tried to force the car into the water and could not and, perhaps, was going to throw the girl into the river and decided not too!?!?

    Who knows? Perhaps the car and the girl never making it to the river will improve the chance of getting some prints!?

    Hope someone puts up some money for leads. Would be willing to bet that the scum responsible for this a) can't keep their mouth shut and b)has friends willing to give them up fro a quick fix.

    Very, very sad story.

  • Mom of two May 13, 2008

    Prayers w/ the family.

  • Justin T. May 13, 2008

    Does anyone (maybe in law enforcement) know if details are normally witheld in cases like these? It seems very strange that she was strangled with no other crime or motive involved.

  • k557451 May 13, 2008

    When a community sends a signal that it is tolerant of criminals and will blame society rather than the wrongdoer, it is understandable why these evnts will continue to happen.

  • dogsrule12cheek May 13, 2008

    People are sooooo mean in this world today its sad, i hope they find out who did this.

    Thoughts and prayers for the family

  • steelersfan May 13, 2008

    Her body was found two hours after she left work. That's a pretty short period of time to have an attack and then be found at a lake. Seems a little coincidental?...