NEW YORK – Dr. Eugene Perchikov was a man of mystery, locked up in an Israeli jail amid murky accusations in the United States about the deaths of his purported lover and another woman.
The estates of the women claimed in lawsuits that each was poisoned in a multimillion-dollar life insurance fraud hatched by Perchikov in the early 2000s — charges reportedly mirrored in an unsealed criminal indictment in Manhattan.
The civil complaints, which Perchikov never answered, accused him of acting out a short story he had written years earlier about getting away with murder. But autopsies were inconclusive.
Perchikov will never be able to offer an epilogue: On Tuesday, Israeli authorities confirmed he had killed himself in his Jerusalem cell.
News of his suicide on Sunday saddened the families of the two dead women, said their attorney, Jacques Debrot.
"It brings back memories of the deaths of the two ladies," the lawyer said Tuesday. "It's not something they're happy about at all."
Perchikov's defense attorney in Israel told the New York Daily News he had spoken to his client on Friday about a U.S. extradition request.
"He had no reason to be in bad spirits," the attorney said. "We both thought he had a good chance not to be extradited."
Prosecutors in Manhattan refused to comment on Tuesday on newspaper reports that Perchikov was under an indictment. But the Israeli Justice Ministry said he had been in custody there for about a year, based on extradition papers filed in December, citing second-degree murder and insurance fraud charges against him in New York.
According to the extradition papers, Perchikov, 61, was born in Russia, became a doctor and received an Israeli medical license after immigrating to Israel. They say he also used the Hebrew name Eyal Shachar, frequently visited New York and had U.S. residency.
Details of his relationships with the dead women, Larysa Vasserman and Tatiana Korkhova, remain unclear.
Debrot said Perchikov met Vasserman through a personal ad during one of his visits to the United States. Court papers filed in the civil suits say he frequently stayed in the Brooklyn apartment of Vasserman, "with whom he had a romantic relationship."
The papers describe Vasserman as a single mother who immigrated from the Ukraine in 1999 and didn't know English.
Beginning in late 2000, Vasserman began taking out $1 million life insurance policies naming her sister and daughter as beneficiaries, the papers say. The policies later were amended to benefit Perchikov, falsely identifying him as her cousin in one instance and her husband in another.
"Perchikov accompanied Vasserman to each meeting with insurance company representatives and provided information about Ms. Vasserman's employment, income, marital status and beneficiaries because Vasserman could not communicate in English," the papers say. "Perchikov also paid premiums on each of Vasserman's policies."
The suits lay out a similar scenario with Tatiana Korkhova, also known as Tatiana Light, saying Perchikov sometimes stayed at her Manhattan apartment. Korkhova's attorney said she had known Perchikov's wife in Russia.
In 2001, the suits say, he persuaded Korkhova to apply for large amounts of life insurance and to name him and a co-conspirator as beneficiaries.
Vasserman was found dead in 2002, Korkhova in 2004. The New York medical examiner's office wasn't able to determine a cause of death for either, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
But the civil complaints say Perchikov assaulted the 54-year-old Korkhova and then poisoned her — using a method he laid out in a self-published short story about a killer impersonating an emergency medical worker — by giving her an overdose of norepinephrine.
The plaintiffs say the drug acts as adrenaline, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. It dissipates in the body and likely wouldn't show up in a toxicology test.
Vasserman, 48, died "in the same manner," the suits say.
The extradition papers in Israel claimed Perchikov got $1 million in life insurance after killing Vasserman but after killing Korkhova his benefits claim was rejected.
Last January, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued a default judgment against Perchikov awarding Vasserman's family $6.8 million, including insurance proceeds and wrongful-death proceeds and punitive damages. Another judge in Manhattan had blocked Perchikov from collecting on the Korkhova policies.
Meanwhile, Israeli authorities left no doubt about how Perchikov died: They said he bled to death after cutting himself with a jail-issued razor blade while his cellmates slept.
A government spokesman said the facial razor was tiny. But, he added, the prisoner "was a doctor, and he knew how to do it."
Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Jerusalem and Colleen Long and Deepti Hajela in New York contributed to this report.