Mystery Surrounds Death of UNC Student

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," May 8, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, a real life "Star Wars," a wild war of words between Star Jones and Barbara Walters. The former co-hosts of "The View" go head to head, and there could be blood on the floor. We're going to have much more on this anchor-star war later in the show.

But first: Well, it happened again, another UNC college coed murdered, 20-year-old Irina Yarmolenko murdered. Irina's was found Monday afternoon outside her crashed blue Saturn car by the Catawba River in North Carolina. Irina was a sophomore at University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and as you know, UNC Chapel Hill student body president, Eve Carson, was murdered. She was shot in the head just two months ago.

North Carolina police held a press conference about Irina's murder.


CHIEF DAVID BELK, MOUNT HOLLY POLICE DEPARTMENT: The Mount Holly Police Department has shifted our death investigation to a full homicide investigation.

Just to recap the events, on May the 5th at 1:18, we got a call from the Gaston County emergency operations center. They had received a call that a white female was lying on the bank next to a blue four-door car. That information was then dispatched to offices here in Mount Holly. We responded to that location. It did take some boats, and we did respond by foot because of the remoteness of the particular area that we were given.

It appeared to the officers that the vehicle had traveled down an embankment and had struck a tree stump that was at the water's edge. Fire and EMS responders checked Ms. Yarmo -- I'm sorry, I'll get the name right -- Yarmolenko and determined that she was dead on the scene. An autopsy was required as part of the investigation, and at this particular point, we're able to say that she died of asphyxiation.

This is a tragic event and our hearts do go out to the family. The entire investigative division of the Mount Holly Police Department, along with other officers from Mount Holly, the Belmont Police Department, the UNCC police and the SBI are cooperating and continuing the investigation.

Our latest information is that she made a stop at the credit union and then stopped at the Jackson's Java near the UNCC campus. She left Jackson's Java around 10:50 in the morning, and investigators are still conducting interviews, attempting to close the timeline from when she left Jackson's Java to when she was found here at the river. We have been and continue to follow up on several strong leads in this particular case, and I do thank you for your assistance on that because you did publicize the number that we were asking to do that, and we have been receiving phone calls.

And we still ask that anyone that may have seen her in the past -- since Monday is asked to call the Mount Holly Police Department, and I've listed the numbers as 827-4343, and I've also provided the number from UNCC, which is 704-687-2200.


VAN SUSTEREN: Daniel Jackson, staff reporter for the Gaston Gazette, joins us in Charlotte. Daniel, the police officer said that they have strong leads. Do you know if that has been advanced any further or whether they have a person of interest or persons of interest tonight?

DANIEL JACKSON, GASTON GAZETTE: Talking to the chief, he hasn't mentioned that they have any specific suspects or persons that they believe to be suspects. He just said what you heard in the press conference, that they have strong leaders they're following, they're conducting interviews. So there's still quite a few questions that remain unanswered.

Watch Greta's interview

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know the area where her car was found?

JACKSON: I did not go all the way to the river's edge. I drove my truck back as far as the police would allow me to go, down a very bumpy dirt road behind this housing development toward the river, but I did not get within, you know, a distance where I could see -- actually see where her car was. And it was down a very steep slope, so it would have been difficult to see without actually going down there on foot, I think.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. If I left Jackson's Java at about 10:50 AM and drove straight to this area, how long would you expect it to take? When would I be likely to arrive?

JACKSON: You're looking at a drive of at least 30 to 40 minutes from the university campus area to Gaston County. And then once you get off the interstate, you know, there's several turns you have to take to get back behind this housing development and through the woods to the river.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you know, if we made the tightest timeline, she would have gotten there about 10 minutes to noon, and the first call came in at about 1:18.

JACKSON: Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's not a very big window. Is there anything unusual about someone driving out into that area? Is that someplace where students hang out, or is that sort of an unusual place to go?

JACKSON: I would say it's unusual. The police chief of Mount Holly said it's unusual. Now, I talked to some residents that live in the water's edge development, which is right there, and they walk their dogs down there. And they said they do routinely see teenagers going back there to fish or just for recreation. You know, they're, of course, shocked that, you know, anyone would go back there to do something like this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything or was there anything going on in her life that's unusual, people giving her a hard time, any problems with any guys, anything like that?

JACKSON: Not that I know of. She seems to be so beloved by everyone that knew her personally, it's really hard to imagine that anyone would want to do her harm. At the candlelight vigil tonight, there was just an outpouring of love for this young lady. People really seem to think that she was just a wonderful person. And at this point, I can't think why anyone would want to harm her.

I talked to some people at the coffee shop where she worked at the cafe on campus, Jackson's Java, and they believe that she was abducted. The police have not said anything about this being a random act, so there's still a question there that needs to be answered. And a lot of people are uneasy about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Before she went to Jackson's Java, according to the press conference, she had gone to the credit union. Had she withdrawn money? If so, how much? And do you know if that money was found in her car or on her when her body was found?

JACKSON: Honestly, that's a question I didn't ask. But I do know that the police believe she was alone at the time that she went to the credit union, and when she went to the cafe, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, the cafe -- had she worked at the cafe, did you say?

JACKSON: Yes, she did. She had worked there since August, I believe.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there any purpose in her stop? Was it simply to get coffee, or did she have some sort of -- was she meeting somebody?

JACKSON: The two young guys that I spoke with at the cafe this evening were not working that day, so they didn't -- they weren't quite sure why she'd come in.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know how long she was at Jackson's Java before she left?

JACKSON: Well, she left at 10:50. She was at the credit union at 10:18. So it would have only been, you know, 15 minutes, maybe.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, I mean, the first call came in at 1:18 that her body had been found. Who found her body?

JACKSON: There was some people jet skiing on the Catawba River, and it wouldn't have been difficult to see her car crashed on the banks of the river. So I think they saw the car, saw her body, and went to the nearest construction site on the river, where they had construction workers there call the police.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me about her. Where is she from? What was she studying?

JACKSON: Well, I spoke to her brother earlier. His name is Pavel Yarmolenko. Their family is from the Ukraine originally. She came to the United States in 1996, didn't speak a word of English, and in months was speaking with a Southern accent, he said, and was just the apple of everyone's eye. She had moved to Charlotte to go to school. I understand she was trying to transfer back to UNC Chapel Hill. She was studying theater here. She worked at the campus newspaper, was a photographer, a poet, an artist, and I'm told also a very gifted student in math and science.

VAN SUSTEREN: When her body was found, at least according to the police officer, it was asphyxiation. Do you know if there was any sort of rope or ligature, or whether this was a strangulation by hand? Any more information about how she died?

JACKSON: They're really keeping that information close to the chest right now because the investigation is ongoing. I think police want to make sure that they have certain details that are not public, so that when they make an arrest, they can be sure that they've got the right person.

VAN SUSTEREN: Daniel, thank you. And terrible story, terrible tragedy, but I hope information's now out. If anybody has any information, call the police. We need justice for this. Once more, another murder victim. Thank you, Daniel.

JACKSON: Thank you.

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