Spousal homicide theory goes out the window
Oleksandr and Maryna married in 2008, and had traveled the world together.
Mérida, Yucatán -
Prosecutors here have confirmed that the human remains found in a remote region of the Yucatán peninsula are those of Ukrainian citizen Maryna Burakova, who had been missing and unaccounted for since January 2013. The results of just completed forensic analyses will raise as many questions as they answer, however.
In late 2012 Maryna and husband Oleksandr Batychko, 25, arrived in Mexico on vacation, renting a car in Playa del Carmen. The couple drove west towards Valladolid and Mérida, apparently intending to visit the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá.
On Jan. 7 a campesino from the tiny hamlet of Xocempich discovered Oleksandr's body in the rental. Batychko had been dead for days, according to state forensic investigators, and his remains were in an advanced state of decomposition. They said he was killed at the scene. Batychko was identified by DNA analysis, with test samples provided by family members in the eastern European nation. He was not repatriated for many weeks. Body of Ukrainian murder victim remains in Mérida, nearly six weeks after his death.
There was no trace of Maryna, despite an exhaustive search by local constables, and she soon became the prime suspect. Prosecutors said her fingerprints were all over a knife left at the scene, which they claimed was the murder weapon. Oleksandr was stabbed many times, but authorities offered no motive for the bloody crime.
Batychko's remains were found in this car, inexplicably parked on a concealed from view tractor path. The keys were still in the ignition in the ON position. The killer(s) fled, leaving it to run out of fuel.
Mexico issued an international arrest warrant for Maryna Burakova on Feb. 9, 2013. The assumption was that she might have fled the country by way of Belize, which borders southern Quintana Roo state. Interpol joins search for Ukrainian woman in Yucatán murder case.
Last month Yucatán deputy prosecutor Javier León León said that female remains had been found in remote Dzitás county. He said DNA material would be used to compare with that of Maryna's mother, who lives in Kiev. Remains of Ukrainian woman may have been found. The process was completed this week, and state attorney general Celia Rivas Rodríguez confirmed the remains are Burakova's.
The identification was made based upon both DNA and dental records, according to investigators.
Forensic pathologists had only ossified remains to examine. Rivas Rodríguez offered no information concerning the cause or probable date of death. Burakova's body was actually located in Chankom county, 33 kilometers (about 20 miles) from where her husband Oleksandr was found 15 months ago. Both of the crime scenes are in the general vicinity of Valladolid and Chichén Itzá. Family members in Ukraine last heard from the young couple in December 2012, when they were in Playa del Carmen.
Yucatán is one of the very safest of Mexico's 32 constituent states, with low rates of both common crime and drug war violence. Prosecutors said their investigation of the mysterious case remains open and active. Last year they discounted robbery as a motive, since cash and credit cards were found at the scene of Oleksandr's death. Prosecutors will likely focus on the theory that the couple was kidnapped, or that someone in the area gained their confidence and led them to the place of the first murder. Sexual assault of one or both cannot be ruled out as the motive. But what once was thought to be a clear case of spousal murder has now turned out to be a double homicide, and in the most unlikely of places.
Update: Some Spanish press sources are reporting this evening that Maryna died from asphyxiation due to strangulation. It would be unlikely, although not impossible, that such a determination could be made by forensic examiners based upon skeletal remains which have been exposed to the elements and to wildlife for nearly a year. It is quite common for human remains to be carried off by scavengers, and very rarely is an intact skeleton recovered after such a long time in the field. The unfortunate part of this case is that investigators decided early on that Maryna must have killed her husband and then fled. In truth the assailant may well be someone from the immediate community. But the chances of solving the case now, with little reliable evidence other than the identities of the victims, are very slim.
Feb. 1, 2014 - Yucatán prosecutor: remains of Ukrainian woman may have been found
Oct. 21, 2013 - Mystery of what befell Ukrainian couple in Yucatán backcountry remains unsolved
Jan. 18, 2013 - "Violence on Yucatán soil" - against foreigners
Dec. 15, 2013 - Mexico the world leader in 2013 kidnappings
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