Local News

Brother remembers slain UNCC student

Posted May 12, 2008 7:37 p.m. EDT
Updated May 12, 2008 11:20 p.m. EDT

— 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.