Suspect says he didn't mean to kill Bulgarian journalist

A 21-year-old suspect in the rape and slaying of a Bulgarian television journalist said Friday that he killed Viktoria Marinova, but didn't mean to.

Handcuffed and surrounded by police officers, Severin Krassimirov spoke to reporters inside a courtroom where he appeared for a custody hearing.

"I regret it so much. I cannot believe I did it," Krassimirov said of Marinova's killing.

The young man's defense lawyer had asked for the hearing to be held behind closed doors, but the court in Ruse denied the request. The lawyer joined Krassimirov after he had spoken to the media and told him to remain silent.

Prior to that, Krassimirov said he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he got into an argument with a woman he didn't know on Oct. 6. He said he hit her in the face and threw her into bushes, but does not remember what happened next.

"Whatever I get, even if it is life in prison, I will serve it," he said when asked what punishment he thought he deserved.

Marinova's body was found by the Danube River in Ruse on Oct. 6. Investigators said she was raped, hit on the head and suffocated.

So far, they have rejected suggestions the 30-year-old journalist's slaying could be linked to her work, which included highlighting alleged corruption.

Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said Friday that the evidence collected by investigators included DNA and fingerprints that allegedly match Krassimirov's. Police said they found Marinova's cellphone buried near the place she was assaulted.

Krassimirov was extradited to Bulgaria on Wednesday from Germany, where his mother lives. He was arrested Oct. 9 near Hamburg on a European warrant.

The district court in Ruse ordered him held in custody until his trial on murder and rape charges. If convicted, Krassimirov could be sentenced to life in prison.