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Murder charge filed in Cosby slaying; teen could face death penalty

March 15, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The young Russian immigrant who could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Ennis Cosby was an above-average student who struggled to fit in, aspired to be a gang member and spent time in a juvenile camp, classmates and school officials said.

``We just thought he was a little white boy who wanted to be a `cholo’ (gang member),″ said Olga Medina, 18, a former classmate at Los Alamitos High School. ``He was a wannabe, he wanted to be a gang member.″

Mikail Markhasev, 18, was charged with murder Friday for the slaying of Cosby, 27, the only son of entertainer Bill Cosby. Markhasev was also charged with attempted robbery and use of a firearm during commission of a crime.

He did not enter a plea and will be held without bail until his next court appearance March 28.

Bill Cosby’s only comment, as he entered his New York City apartment on Friday: ``Jurisprudence.″ It was his first public comment since a family statement was issued after the arrest.

Police say Markhasev randomly chose Cosby for a robbery attempt, shooting him as he was changing a flat tire near a freeway off ramp on Jan. 16. Police say they have recovered the gun used in the slaying and a cap worn by the killer.

The allegation that Cosby was killed during an attempted robbery is a so-called ``special circumstance″ that, if upheld at trial, could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Markhasev and his mother came to the United States about eight years ago from Lvov, Ukraine, an industrial and cultural center of 800,000 people. He attended a number of Los Angeles-area schools.

Students at Los Alamitos High School in Orange County said Markhasev was called ``Pee Wee″ because of a perceived resemblance to the film and television character Pee Wee Herman.

Markhasev also had ties to the Varrio Los Alamitos gang, the Long Beach Press Telegram reported today.

``He was promoting VLA as a big bad group,″ said Soda Davetas, 17, of Laurel High, near Los Alamitos High. ``He was too fake. He walked around talking that big talk. It’s not powerful when you talk like that.″

Los Angeles school officials and Markhasev’s boss at a North Hollywood plant store described him as an intelligent teen who didn’t cause trouble. He earned a ``B″ average at Reseda High School, where he enrolled in 1993 after transferring from Los Alamitos.

Markhasev was hired in February as a cashier at Mainly Seconds Pottery Plants & Things near the apartment he shared with his mother. He was scheduled to work the night he was arrested, owner Jim Herzoff said.

``He just seemed like a nice kid who lived down the block,″ Herzoff said. ``It’s like, go figure.″

In late 1995, Markhasev spent six months in a juvenile probation camp. His juvenile record includes a conviction for marijuana possession and assault with a deadly weapon, newspapers reported.

Markhasev and his mother were quiet tenants who signed a year lease in January for the two-bedroom apartment in North Hollywood, building manager Olga Faynshteyn said.

Asked about the mother’s reaction to the case, Faynshteyn said, ``I guess she’s shocked like everybody else. She wasn’t expecting it.″

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