Local News

Trial begins in Chapel Hill student's slaying

Posted March 14, 2011 3:07 p.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2011 3:15 p.m. EDT

— Jury selection in the trial of a man accused in the death of a University of North Carolina at Charlotte student was scheduled to begin Monday in Gaston County.

Irina Yarmolenko's body was discovered May 2008 along the banks of the Catawba River near Mount Holly not far from where her car was found.

A coroner determined that Yarmolenko, 20, a graduate of Chapel Hill High School, died of asphyxiation. A bungee cord and a ribbon were found tied around her neck.

Two cousins from Gaston County were arrested in December 2008 and charged with Yarmolenko's homicide.

One of the suspects, Neal Cassada, died of natural causes a day before his trial was scheduled to begin last year.

Co-defendant Mark Carver was to go on trial Monday in Gaston County Superior Court.

Cassada and Carver have maintained their innocence. They said they were in the area fishing and that they never committed the homicide.

Cassada's family has told investigators he simply didn't have it in him to commit the murder. They also blame the stress of the charges and court case for his sudden death.

Cassada's defense attorney had said DNA evidence was found in Yarmolenko's car, but none was found on the murder weapon.