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Ex-husband charged in murder of Redmond massage therapist | Update
Everyone who knew Nataliya Vabishchevich described her as upbeat and friendly. She was smiley and well-loved, so much so that since learning of her death on June 17, friends and old clients from as far away as North Carolina have been calling Pure Chiropractic of Bellevue and Eastside Life Chiropractic of Redmond, where she worked nearly daily to express their condolences.
“She was a very devoted mother. That’s the most important thing. She did everything for her son, sometimes working extra hours,” said Dr. Jeremy Welch who hired her almost six years ago, despite her having just graduated from massage school. “We’ve even gotten calls from people who haven’t seen her for years. I think that says something about the impact she had on people’s lives.”
"She was the sweetest person you'd ever want to meet. She always had a smile on her face and always had something nice to say," said Dr. Eric Hansen, owner of the Redmond business where Vabishchevich worked two days a week for the last four years. She worked at the Bellevue business for two days a week, as well.
Hansen added that Vabishchevich "literally had a following" of customers who were pleased with her massage work. (Flowers and a memorial card are pictured at Eastside Life Chiropractic.)
Vabishchevich, 35, was found dead in the entryway of her Bellevue condominium in the 12700 block of Northeast 10th Place just before noon on June 17. She had been stabbed 72 times in her head, neck, chest and arms. On June 21, a charge of first-degree murder was filed by the King County Prosecuting Attorney against ex-husband Aleksandr Polak, 46, after his arrest in Los Angeles, en route to the Mexico border. Prosecutors requested that he be held without bail, citing flight risk and the violence of the crime.
Vabishchevich lived with her 14-year-old son, who told police that when he left for school the morning of June 17 at 7:15 a.m., she was still alive. By noon, police had labeled the condo a crime scene.
Charging papers and friends' accounts indicate that there were early signs of domestic violence. Vabishchevich had reportedly voiced her fear on several occasions. Once, several years back, a friend who was babysitting her young son said that Polak had come by the apartment, hoping to reconcile with his wife and threatening to kill her if she did not agree.
“I kill people; I hurt people and don't mess with me,” said Polak, stabbing the table with a knife during that same encounter.
Vabishchevich’s son told detectives that he had seen his parents argue regularly, but never physically, adding that he hadn’t spoken to his father in the last two years, and suspected that he still lived in his native Latvia.
Court documents indicate that the couple divorced in 2007; Polak soon after moved out of their Bellevue apartment and eventually the country. He would come back to Bellevue on several occasions over the next six years in an attempt to reconcile. On May 8 he returned. He took up residence in Edmonds, and resumed contact with his nephew, who was close in age to his son and lived in apartment with Polak’s sister just a short walk from Vabishchevich.
In the weeks before her death, the single mother told her son that she suspected Polak may be back in Bellevue. She warned him to stay away and worried that her ex intended to kidnap the teenager.
“I had no clue that there was anything wrong,” said Dr. Welch. “She was always upbeat and always positive.”
Detectives contacted Polak on the evening of June 20 in the parking lot of the Hidden Creek apartments, where his sister and nephew lived. Upon asking him to voluntarily join them at the police station, they noted a scratch on the back of his neck and a bandage on his left pinky finger, which would later reveal a deep laceration. In his car, which Polak told police he had borrowed from a friend, they noticed stains and material that resembled that at the crime scene. Polak told police that he had been alone all of June 17, after swimming in the morning to help his asthma. He attributed his lacerated finger to an injury he had sustained while cutting an avocado. Charging papers say that Polak later asked the police what the sentence for murder was, and when he would be arrested.
That same day, after the interview with police had concluded, Polak was seen purchasing a bus ticket at the downtown Seattle Greyhound station. The following morning, police witnessed him board a bus and followed suit.
Local officers arrested Polak in Los Angeles with the assistance of U.S. Marshalls and the Los Angeles Police Department. He was found hiding $5,000 in his baseball cap and interviews with fellow passengers would later reveal that Polak had asked them about traveling to Mexico.
On Monday, Polak appeared at an extradition hearing in Los Angeles.
“Friends and family, co-workers, we all just miss her,” said Dr. Welch.
Pure Chiropractic and Eastside Life Chiropractic will be raising funds for Vabischevich’s son. Donations can be made at any BECU in her name.