LTV's De Facto probes Jēkabpils murder case

Take note – story published 1 year and 2 months ago

The tragic case in Jēkabpils, where a woman was murdered after the suspect Leons Rusiņš had stalked her and her co-workers for over a year, has prompted discussion on whether the responsible services were doing enough. Latvian Television's De Facto, aired April 23, found that the victim herself had given up on the police according to social media entries.

At the scene of the murder on an outlying rural road, only fragments of broken glass, traces of braking, and an earring found by De Facto's cameraman, remain. Yet the history of the case makes everyone think why Rusiņš had been free all this time.

The first criminal proceedings against Rusiņš for violating the court's ruling on temporary protection against violence, namely ignoring his restraining order, were initiated by the police a year and a half ago, in September 2021, and combined with another criminal case for the same article.

In November, the case was handed over to the prosecutor's office, where Rusiņš was prosecuted, and in December the case came to the Zemgale District Court in Jēkabpils.

The first hearing was actually held only a year ago, in April 2022; the next, according by the portal manas.tiesas.lv, was only in November. In the middle of December last year, the court had to take a decision on Rusiņš' forced arrival.

Rusiņš did not show up to the next court hearing on February 8, so the court applied custody as a security measure to him, declared him wanted, and suspended the proceedings until he was found.

“In the light of this, the court has taken all procedural steps to ensure that criminal cases are examined, but unfortunately, the State Police has not taken the necessary procedural action,” wrote Līga Ašmane, Chair of the District Court of Zemgale, in an e-mail to De Facto. However, De Facto found that Rusiņš could have been announced wanted earlier as he failed to arrive to court twice in January. Another hearing had been scheduled for April 17, already after the murder. 

This case, which combines eight episodes of non-compliance with the separation ruling, came to the court last September.

Nearly at the same time as the case was reached in Zemgale District Court in September, Rusiņš came out of the central prison of Rīga, where he had been in temporary detention imposed by the court for 25 days. This was the only judgment where the penalty had actually been imposed. Excerpts from the judgment:

“The court agrees with the view expressed by the prosecutor on the nature of the sentence — temporary deprivation of liberty. But the court doesn't agree with the prosecutor's view on the punishment. Since the criminal proceedings, in which the defendant is accused of three analogous criminal offenses, are in pre-trial process, there is no legal basis to take this into account when imposing a sentence in this case. The Court, taking into account the personality of the accused, the nature of the criminal offense in question, and the absence of aggravating circumstances, acknowledges that the penalty may be set below the average. The Court acknowledges that such a measure of punishment will be proportionate in order to deter and protect the public from new infringements."

However, in the following paragraph of this judgment, Rusiņš is described as follows:

"The Court notes that, in the case at hand, one of the grounds for custody was that the defendant committed a new criminal offense only five days after being released from custody. It shows the nihilism of the accused, and the low legal consciousness."

In the case in question, Rusiņš was convicted of violating the restraining order by coming to the victim's house in August 2022. He had come to the house and called her son, but when the child's mother began filming it from the balcony, he tried to grab her by the arm and foot. She called the police, who arrived and detained him.

Not long after he left prison, Rusiņš allegedly created a number of profiles on social media that he used to insult the woman, her relatives, acquaintances, and colleagues.De Facto found at least a dozen such profiles, the author of which was most likely to have been Rusiņš.

In comments to the Latvian Television story about the killing, the deceased woman's acquaintance had published a screenshot of messages between herself and the victim.

“All that is written there [on the social media profiles] is fiction and does not correspond to the truth. Unfortunately, the Jēkabpils police are powerless against him. But he aims to destroy me, and all means are good for him. Now Facebook is running. [..] The police have heaps of reports about him, and not just from me. I don't know why nothing is done to stop him. I've realized there's nothing the police will do,” wrote Rusiņš' victim.

Jēkabpils Austrumlatgale police station chief Rolands Bērziņš believes everything had been done with the best conscience. He didn't agree to an interview, but it was provided by the Chief of the Zemgale Police Office, Lauris Arājs, who said that they had used the tools they had. 

A service inspection has been launched at the by the Chief of State Police Armands Ruks to assess whether the police did their work properly and to seek systemic solutions.

In the meantime, Aigars Bičušs, chief prosecutor of the District of Zemgale Court Prosecutor, has also undertaken to assess whether Rusiņš' many criminal offenses were investigated without seeing the overall picture: “Here I also see the biggest problem – not a specific criminal process should be seen, but the situation as a whole. And I suppose if [..] the management of this investigative body would come together with the prosecutor's office and think about how to proceed in a situation that is very atypical, I suppose there might be a different result. I cannot say whether that man would have behaved better, but in any case, at least [..] those proceedings which handed over to the court in 2021 and the other in 2022, would have already been viewed – with deprivation of liberty, most likely.”

He also agrees that cases of infringement of the interim protection decision should be examined without delay, since they are essentially simple. The fact that this year there was still no judgment on the restraining order case of 2021 "does not indicate effectiveness", says the Chief Prosecutor.

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