The four victims of the worst homicide in Kirkland's history were buried at the Evergreen Washelli cemetery July 23 following an emotional memorial service at The City Church, where enlarged photographs of the victims were placed next to two adult-sized coffins and two child-sized coffins.
And the savage killings of 28-year-old Olga Milkin, her two sons, 5-year-old Justin and 3-year-old Andrew, and her sister, 24-year-old Lyubov Botvina have shocked even veteran Kirkland police and King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng.
The four had been slashed and stabbed multiple times, and they were dead before they and 26 locations in the house were doused in gasoline and set on fire on Monday, July 17, according to court documents.
A suspect in the brutal crime, 24-year-old Conner Schierman, was arrested two days later, thanks in part to the help of two neighborhood women who allegedly saw him walking in the area with what looked like a gas can shortly before the fire started.
Schierman, who had moved into a house across the street from the murder scene roughly two weeks earlier, also had several scratches on his face and the back of his neck, along with a puncture wound on one forearm, according to court documents.
He had an explanation for the injuries when police interviewed him for the first time on Tuesday night that week. Schierman said he was injured when he'd tried to break up a domestic-violence incident in which an unknown male was assaulting an unknown female at a neighborhood convenience store around 3 a.m. Monday.
"According to Schierman, the unknown female became angry at him and scratched his face. She also punctured his forearm with a key," the court documents state.
Police interviewed a clerk on duty at the convenience store at the time Schierman claims he tried to break up the fight, and the clerk didn't back up his story, according to police.
But a later review of the surveillance tapes did show Schierman buying two one-gallon gas cans and filling them with gasoline at the convenience store around 11 a.m. on Monday, roughly half an hour before the fire at the Milkin house was reported.
Police executed a search warrant at Schierman residence on Wednesday that week, and they noticed a strong smell of an accelerant in his bedroom, according to court documents. A specially trained police dog also indicated an alleged accelerant was on a pair of athletic shoes in the bedroom. "Investigators recovered blood evidence from the soles of both shoes," the court documents add.
Schierman was arrested the same day, and he at first denied any knowledge of the killings or the arson two days earlier. But he finally came clean, claiming he woke up from an alcoholic blackout in the Milkin house that Monday morning "covered in blood and seeing the two young children lying on the floor covered in blood," according to court documents.
Schierman also told police he found the bloody bodies of the two sisters in a nearby bedroom. Then he took a shower in the house, found some clothes in the house to wear, left through a rear door, went home and drove to the convenience store, where he bought two gas cans and filled them with gas, according to court documents.
Schierman said he then returned to the Milkin home, poured gasoline everywhere, including on the bodies of the victims, then set everything on fire with some matches he found in the house, according to court documents.
Kirkland police found a hunting knife at the base of the stairs leading to the second floor in the Milkin home, and it didn't belong to the family.
Evidence in the house also included a flashlight and a partially burned glove that didn't belong to anyone in the house, along with what appeared to be athletic socks, male underwear, shorts and a T-shirt on the floor of the master bedroom. "Initial indications at the scene detected the presence of human blood on one of the socks and the T-shirt," according to court documents.
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng has charged Schierman with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. "The enormity of the loss in this crime is heartbreaking for surviving family, friends and for our entire community," a choked-up Maleng said at a July 24 press conference.
Not all information about the case has been officially released, but there is "compelling evidence" that the crimes were premeditated, according to Maleng.
That will be a factor in whether the death penalty is called for, according to Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office. The only other sentence Schierman would face if convicted is life in prison with no chance of parole, he said.
Kirkland Police Capt. Eric Olsen was also emotional when he said the victims had been murdered and announced Schierman's arrest at a July 19 press conference.
Olsen isn't the only Kirkland cop who has found it difficult to deal with the crime, according to Kirkland Police Lt. Bradley Gilmore. "Several of us are having a hard time," he said with a subdued tone. "We've already had a couple of meetings about it."
Gilmore added that he has never run across a crime as disturbing as the Schierman case in the 16 years he's been with the force. He had also never heard of one in Kirkland that was as bad, Gilmore added.
Leonid Milkin, Olga's husband and the father of Justin and Andrew, appeared to be holding up pretty well at the memorial service, where speaker after speaker spoke of how devout his wife, children and sister-in-law were. Leonid was on duty in Iraq with his National Guard unit when his family was slaughtered, and he returned to Kirkland on emergency leave.
"First, God is the ultimate authority," Leonid said at the memorial service. "I disagree with what happened, but I will respect God's decision."
The positive memories of his family surpass the grief at their passing, he added. "I'll see her shortly in heaven, and the children."
Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206)461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]