A former Bellevue resident, Conner Michael Schierman, 27, will stand trial Jan. 13, accused of stabbing four Kirkland residents to death and then setting fire to their home in 2006.
Prosecutors accuse Schierman of killing Olga Milkin, 28; her sons Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3; and her sister, Lyubov Botvina, 24, who lived at the house.
Olga’s husband, National Guard Sgt. Leonid Milkin was assigned to the 415th Military Intelligence Battalion in Baghdad at the time and was one month away from returning to his family.
Difficulty has followed Milkin since tragedy. There’s been the case itself, which he feels the defense for the accused has “systematically” drawn out.
And his Kirkland home he’s tried to rebuild. A dispute with a contractor over a damaged foundation led to a lawsuit that left his home in disrepair.
But there is finally an end in sight for Milkin as the case goes to trial next week. The lawsuit concerning his house was also recently settled and he just began repair work on his home two weeks ago.
“It seemed like for a few years nothing really happened, a lot of hardship and frustration and then all of a sudden everything started to come together,” said Milkin on a recent afternoon inside a Kirkland Starbucks, where the National Guard sergeant sat in uniform during an interview with the Reporter. “I won the lawsuit, the trial’s going to get started and I feel like God is giving me a second chance.”
Milkin looks back at the slaying that happened in July of 2006 and reminds himself that he didn’t do anything to deserve what happened.
“As a matter of fact, I remind myself that when it happened, I was reading the Bible,” Milkin recalled. “I was sitting in the barracks reading the Bible and had their pictures in front of me.”
With just one month before he would go home on leave, Milkin thanked God that he would see his family again.
But a soldier informed Milkin he had a message from Red Cross that there was an emergency. He went into the Chaplain’s office, where officers took his rifle and ammunition. They told him his wife, her sister, and his two sons had died in a house fire.
Later, the gruesome details would emerge that Schierman, who moved in across the street from the family just weeks before, allegedly stabbed the two women and children to death and burned the home to hide the crime.
During the investigation, Schierman told Kirkland police he drank vodka, blacked out and then awoke in the victim’s home the next morning to find the four bodies. He also told detectives that he went back to his residence, changed his clothes, and then drove to the AM/PM where he bought gas cans and filled them up. Schierman admitted that he spread gas around the house and set it on fire.
Olga and Lyubov’s mother, Lyubov Botvina, can’t understand how this could happen to her family.
“I brought up five girls, nice girls,” she said. “I invest in my girls every minute of my life.”
Days before her girls were murdered, Lyubov asked her mother if she could read a speech she had written for a college course. Though Botvina was tired from work, she listened to the speech.
“I’m never too busy for my kids, to help them, to sew their dress for prom,” Botvina said. “It was my life.”
A fiscal specialist for the University of Washington, Botvina often finds herself walking the campus and looking for her daughter, Lyubov, who was a student at Seattle Pacific University when she died.
“I still have this feeling I’m missing them,” she said of her daughters. “Because she’s still in my mind with a lot of books and a lot of notes and everything. So when I walk, I understand she’s not there, but I’m still looking for someone who looks like her.”
Milkin is currently preparing for the trial to stay focused and keep his mind off his pain.
“Every single day I talk to God and I’m hoping that he’s going to give me release and bless me somehow and take away the pain and give me a new life.”
Seeking the death penalty
When Schierman walked into the courtroom for the first hearing years ago, Botvina was angered by the scars on his face and arms from her daughters.
Now, she points to his mother.
“How can you breed such a creature,” she has asked the defendant’s mother. “I cannot call him (Schierman) a human being.”
She added that Schierman’s mother made a decision how her son will grow up and “what she invested and planted in his soul. It’s her harvest. I made a decision and I invested in my girls and I am proud of that.”
But Botvina will not hold on to her anger.
She has spoken with her family about the outcome of the upcoming trial and they have agreed it is not their decision.
“We trust the people they picked for the jury and I think they will make the right decision,” she said.
Milkin describes Schierman as an “evil” person and the killings as a “monstrous act.”
“It’s inexplicable,” Milkin said. “I don’t understand why he didn’t have pity on my children. They were crying for mercy and I just don’t understand what kind of person would do that.”
Schierman’s attorneys will bring a “voluntary intoxification” defense, claiming he was blackout drunk the night of the killing.
Milkin said if the jury finds Schierman guilty, the death penalty would be fair and just.
“I think that what he did to my family, the same thing should happen to him. I’m very comfortable with (the death penalty),” he said.
Carrie Wood is editor of the Kirkland Reporter. She can be reached at email@example.com or 425.822.9166 ext 5050.