Former College Wrestling Star Charged With Murder in Pregnant Wife's Killing

Police said Yevgeniy Savenok walked in to a hospital and told a security guard he "just killed his wife"

A former Wheaton College star wrestler suspected of killing his pregnant wife at their suburban Minneapolis home has been charged with murder, prosecutors said. 

Yevgeniy Savenok, 30, was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 23-year-old Lyuba Savenok and the child she was carrying. The charges come three days after the attack, with Savenok later telling police his wife was planning to take their other two children from him, according to Hennepin County prosecutors.

"It passes all understanding how one person can do that to another, especially his own progeny," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement.

Police responded to a report of a domestic disturbance around 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the 17100 block of Park Circle in Eden Prairie, an upscale suburb about 12 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis.  

Officers arrived to find the victim's sister in the front yard, frantic and screaming, telling police her sister had been stabbed inside the home, according to the prosecutors' criminal complaint.

Inside the house, police found Lyuba Savenok with a kitchen knife protruding from her upper chest area. She had a total of 12 puncture wounds to her chest, shoulder and neck and was "noticeably pregnant," according to the complaint. 

Lyuba Savenok was transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, authorities said. Prosecutors said doctors performed an emergency cesarean section on her, and her infant survived for several minutes but died shortly after. Both of their deaths were ruled homicides by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office. 

Her husband fled the scene with the couple's two young children in the car, prompting a massive police search across the metro area, according to a criminal complaint. 

About 1 p.m., Yevgeniy Savenok, walked in to United Hospital in St. Paul, along with the two children, and told a security guard he had "just killed his wife," the complaint states. 

When asked why, Yevgeniy Savenok allegedly told security guards the couple had been having marital difficulties and his wife had "driven him to do it."

He later told investigators "I stabbed my wife" and admitted he thought about using a knife to kill his wife the night before, while returning from a trip to Chicago, according to the complaint. He told police his wife was going to take his children from him, and it was "probably like my only way out."

An attorney for Yevgeniy Savenok could not immediately be reached. 

Lyuba Savenok was the mother of a 4-year-old boy, Matthew, and a 3-year-old daughter, Vivienne. Her brother, Aleksandr Katane, said at the time of her death she was 26 weeks pregnant with her third child — a boy she planned to name Ellis.

Law enforcement officials said there has been a "turbulent domestic history" between the couple and that Lyuba Savenok had contacted police before, both in Illinois and Minnesota, for incidents of domestic assault. 

An order for protection had been issued at least once before and charges were pending for a domestic assault incident from Aug. 21, 2015.

Yevgeniy Savenok graduated from Wheaton College in 2009, according to school records. An article on the school’s website reported in 2007 he was named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Scholar All-American Team.

"Wheaton College is grieved to learn of this tragic situation," the school said in a statement.

Lyuba Savenok's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral expenses and costs associated with raising her two children, who are in their family's custody. The family released a statement about her death, reproduced below.

"We believe that justice will be served and so right now her family, loved ones and friends are focusing on celebrating her life and taking great care of her two beautiful children," Katane said in a statement. "Lyuba was a force of joy and passion. She really flourished when she became a mom and so we honor her by trying to set her kids up for success."

Police urge anyone involved in a domestic violence situation to seek help. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has resources available on its website, as does the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Family statement: 

"It's hard for us to once again hear the details of Lyuba's senseless murder. Her family, friends and loved ones feel deep sadness, loss and anger. It has been especially difficult to learn that her son survived for a small time after the doctors tried to save him. Lyuba was going to name him Ellis.

"We are assured knowing that we live in a country where justice will be served and we are grateful that the children are both safe and cared for by Lyuba's parents. As the report states my sister Alisa (14) escaped the house as Lyuba was murdered so we are relieved to know that she is also safe. Currently the entire family is focused on celebrating Lyuba's life at her funeral and also caring for her two remaining children.

"Lyuba was in a very difficult marriage and no stone will be left unturned as we look for answers. However at this time let's focus on celebrating her life, passions and coming together to set her children up for success."

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