State News

Attorneys: New DNA doesn't match suspects in UNCC student's slaying

Posted February 5, 2009 11:42 p.m. EST
Updated May 9, 2009 4:32 p.m. EDT

— Court papers filed late this week say that new DNA evidence casts doubt on the guilt of two men charged with first-degree murder in the death of a University of North Carolina-Charlotte student last May, according WBTV in Charlotte.

Mark Bradley Carver, 40, of Gastonia, and Neal Leon Cassada Jr., 54, of Mount Holly, are out on bond awaiting trial in the death of Irina Yarmolenko, 20. The Chapel Hill High School graduate was found strangled on the banks of the Catawba River in Mount Holly.

According to court papers filed by the suspects' attorneys, DNA from items tied around Yarmolenko's neck – including a bungee cord and ribbons – do not match that of either men. Neither does DNA fond under Yarmolenko's fingernails, according to the court papers.

The papers say that DNA from both suspects was found on Yarmolenko's vehicle, which was beside her body.

Carver and Cassada have said they were fishing in the Catawba River that day but did not see Yarmolenko. Both men have maintained their innocence.

In the papers, the lawyers argued that their clients do not need as many restrictions, such as electronic monitoring and a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew, while awaiting trial.

Cassada's lawyer, David Phillips, has said that another man in the Mecklenburg County Jail had confessed to the slaying in a letter to a television station, but refused to talk to investigators. The confession was from a 37-year-old man who was locked up May 21 – two weeks after Yarmolenko was killed – on rape charges, Phillips said.