MOSCOW – Killings over real estate are not unusual in Russia, but this one may have been a first: A woman has been arrested on charges of murdering a look-alike she met on the Internet and selling the victim's apartment in a grisly moneymaking scheme, Channel One television reported Thursday.
The woman's killer made one crucial mistake, the report said: Leaving her dismembered body on the balcony.
Investigators say the 46-year-old suspect struck up an Internet friendship with her victim, who looked like her and was roughly the same age, by commiserating about being abandoned by men, state-controlled Channel One reported. They believe she came to the victim's apartment in a Moscow suburb, poisoned her and used her identification documents to sell the apartment.
A man the report identified as the victim's son said he was unaware anything was wrong until the apartment's new owners called to ask him to remove her belongings. He told Channel One he found the dismembered corpse of his mother in a bag on the balcony.
The report described the victim as a "quiet, quick-to-smile" woman who spent a lot of time on the Internet.
The report said she moved into the apartment six months ago, but it did not say when her body was found.
The suspect is believed to have sold the apartment quickly for about a quarter of the market price, it said.
Police and prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday.
Investigator Yulia Zhukova told Channel One the suspect faces murder charges and up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Swindles to steal real estate are common in Russia, and owners or rival pretenders to homes or land are sometimes killed. There was a wave of such slayings — often targeting elderly owners — as apartments became a highly valuable commodity with the advent of capitalism following the 1991 Soviet collapse, particularly in and around Moscow.