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Police: Cosby’s son a victim of random robbery attempt

March 14, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A teen-age refugee accused of killing Ennis Cosby chose his victim at random, police said, finding the 27-year-old student beside a disabled Mercedes-Benz along a darkened road.

``It could have been you or I sitting on the side of the road trying to get help to fix a tire,″ police Chief Willie Williams said Thursday.

Mikail Markhasev, 18, was arrested Wednesday night at his suburban North Hollywood home, and he was expected to be charged with murder today. Police said they seized the murder weapon and a wool cap supposedly worn by the killer.

Bill Cosby’s only son was shot as he changed a tire on his $130,000 convertible Jan. 16, just off a busy Los Angeles freeway. No one tampered with the car to flatten the tire, Williams said, nor was race a factor.

``This was a random stop as far as we know now,″ Williams said. ``The motive was robbery. He passed by and Mr. Cosby was just there.″

Police say they still aren’t sure whether Markhasev took anything from Cosby that night.

Markhasev does have a criminal record, but police declined to elaborate. He came to the United States as a Russian refugee in 1989 and is not a U.S. citizen, a federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press.

Markhasev does have a criminal record, but police declined to elaborate.

According to published reports today, he spent six months in an Orange County juvenile probation camp and his record includes convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and marijuana possession.

Williams rejected reports that the slaying may have been the work of a Russian car theft ring or have ties to the Russian mob.

Markhasev and his mother lived in a two-bedroom apartment at a development called Villa Valencia, building manager Olga Faynshteyn said today. She described the mother as hard-working, adding that Markhasev ``seemed to be normal.″

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

Markhasev worked as a cashier at Mainly Seconds pottery store, where he ``seemed like a very pleasant kid,″ manager Jim Herzoff told KABC-TV. ``He was very quite, he kept to himself. ... He was very nice with customers, from what I hear.″

The primary witness to the slaying was a woman Ennis Cosby apparently was going to visit that night. After Cosby had the flat tire, she went to the scene in her car and came face to face with the suspect. Williams said her description of Markhasev was remarkably accurate.

As the chief spoke, Markhasev’s mug shot and an artist’s sketch made from her description were displayed side by side.

The National Enquirer was the first to receive the tip that led to Markhasev’s arrest. The caller phoned the tabloid’s tip line just days after the killing, Enquirer editor Steve Coz said.

The tipster, who had hoped to claim the tabloid’s $100,000 reward, gave the Enquirer a pager number. The number and name were given to police.

The person told the tabloid there was a Russian mob connection, and the the link was widely reported Thursday; Williams, however, said Markhasev acted alone.

Coz said the tipster directed police to the area where the gun had been dumped, just a few miles from the crime scene.

``This tip along with many other hundreds was methodically reviewed and followed up on,″ Williams said. It led to the serving of three search warrants, surveillance of Markhasev and eventually his arrest.

Two other people brought in for questioning Wednesday night _ a man and a woman _ have been released.

The younger Cosby was a doctoral candidate in special education at Columbia University in New York.

Cosby family spokesman David Brokaw, after talking with Bill and Camille Cosby, said, ``I sense a real sense of triumph, exuberance and something along the lines of some sort of closure.″

In a statement, the Cosbys thanked police and said they ``felt certain and had every hope that they would find the suspect and that the process of jurisprudence would unfold.″

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