Slain dentist murder trial begins

February 4, 2009 5:29:59 PM PST
A woman distraught over losing custody of her 4-year-old daughter plotted with her uncle to lure her estranged husband to a playground, where he was shot to death on a bright, clear fall afternoon in front of the little girl, a prosecutor said Wednesday. The prosecutor made the statement at the start of the murder and conspiracy trial of Dr. Mazoltuv Borukhova and the uncle, Mikhail Mallayev. They are charged in the slaying of Dr. Daniel Malakov, who died outside a Queens playground on Oct. 28, 2007.

Borukhova's attorney, Stephen Scaring, said investigators hadn't found strong evidence tying his client to the crime.

"There's no concrete evidence connecting Dr. Borukhova to the death of her husband," he said. "There is speculation and guesswork fueled by families making statements and cops rushing to judgment."

Mallayev's defense attorney, Michael Siff, urged jurors to keep open minds, describing his client as a "family man" who was a victim of overzealous prosecutors and police.

But Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal, in his opening statement, called Mallayev "a paid assassin, executioner, a hit man." He laid out the details of the alleged murder-for-hire plot, saying Borukhova was motivated by distress over losing custody rights.

Family members from both sides packed the courtroom, some reading Scripture during proceedings, others taking notes and whispering. The slaying rocked the close-knit community of Bukharan Jews from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan.

According to the prosecution, Borukhova, an internist, paid her uncle nearly $20,000 to kill her orthodontist husband a week after losing custody of the girl, Michelle.

As the child went to greet her mother, a gunman wearing a black leather jacket and a dark hat approached and shot three rounds, hitting Malakov twice.

Mallayev calmly put the weapon in his jacket and fled, Leventhal said. Police later recovered a bleach bottle covered with tape used as a silencer.

Malakov grabbed his chest and stumbled to the ground "feet away from his little girl, who watched him die," Leventhal said.

The prosecutor said Borukhova and Malakov had been married briefly and had been going through an acrimonious divorce.

Borukhova temporarily lost custody of the girl for blocking visits between the child and her father.

Upset about the ruling, Borukhova called Mallayev at his Atlanta home and hatched a plot for him to shoot Malakov, the prosecutor said. The two exchanged 91 phone calls, 68 of them in the week before the shooting.

Scaring said the frequent contact was because Borukhova was Mallayev's doctor.

By hiring Mallayev as an assassin, Leventhal said, Borukhova accomplished what she couldn't accomplish with attorneys - "to permanently and forever deprive Daniel of ever developing a relationship with his little girl."

Police Officer Thomas Daniele, the first officer on the scene, testified he was in the area and heard the gunshots but thought they were the sound of a truck slamming a lift to the ground. Borukhova approached him and asked to help her do CPR.

The victim's bloody shirt was shown as his family members wept loudly, later prompting a request from Judge Robert Hanophy to keep emotions in check.

A schoolteacher who was walking her dog near the park and saw the shooting from about 30 feet away was expected to testify. She gave an initial description of the shooter and later picked out Mallayev in a lineup, Leventhal said.

Leventhal also said fingerprints were lifted from the makeshift silencer, and a bullet was recovered at the scene.

After the shooting, Mallayev drove back to his home in Atlanta, eventually returning to New York to deposit money before he was arrested months later, Leventhal said.

Scaring suggested there was animosity on both sides and Malakov's family believed Borukhova, the same age as her husband, was too old for him.

Outside court, Malakov's brother Joseph Malakov said it was untrue.