Day after day, Ruven and Elisabeth Umansky, an aging Ukrainian couple, have sat silently in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles and listened to testimony about the murder of their son. When a key witness told of pulling a rope tight around Alexander’s neck and of a plastic bag being sucked into his nostrils, Elisabeth let out a deep sigh, closed her eyes and folded forward. Ruven squeezed her shoulder. But they stay put, taking in every detail.
The couple and five other relatives of the victims had to fight to win the right to attend the trial of the two men accused of kidnapping and murdering their son and four other Los Angeles business people. Iouri Mikhel and Jurijus Kadamovas are accused of luring the five victims to their upscale San Fernando Valley homes in 2001 and 2002, holding them for ransom, killing them and dumping their bodies in a reservoir in the Sierra foothills. Prosecutors say the conspiracy was, in part, directed by organized crime figures in Russia. The defendants face the death penalty.