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Falling death of a Russian Scientologist in Clearwater: The police investigation

Evgeny Zharkin, who also went by "Gene."

Evgeny Zharkin, who also went by “Gene.”

On January 28, a man named Evgeny Zharkin died after falling from a building in Clearwater, Florida.

Clearwater is the spiritual worldwide headquarters of the Church of Scientology, and Zharkin was a Scientologist. Also, Zharkin was a Russian national, and increasingly, many of the Scientologists in Florida are from that country.

Did Zharkin’s death implicate Scientology in some way? Did he commit suicide? Was he thrown from the building? Those of us who watch the church couldn’t help being curious about Zharkin’s death, and there’s been a lot of speculation about it online.

Now, we’ve obtained from the Clearwater Police Department the 41-page investigative report about Zharkin’s death, and we’re going to share it with you. After reading it, we still aren’t entirely positive about how or why Evgeny Zharkin ended up dead in Scientology’s ‘mecca’. But the Clearwater Police are now convinced that no crime was committed.

Here are the facts which the police were able to determine. On January 28, Evgeny and Olga Zharkin arrived in Clearwater at about 2 am after traveling for about 26 hours from Russia.

They were on their third pilgrimage to Clearwater, where dedicated Scientologists go for expensive and upper-level courses and training. They figured their stay would last a month or two.


They arrived at unit 813 at the Station Square Condos, an apartment owned by a woman named Olga Plotnikova, who was apparently in Russia, and allowed people she knew to stay at her condo. The Zharkins began to unpack, and crawled into some bunk beds for some sleep.

About 8 am, the Zharkins awoke. Evgeny complained of being very hungry, so the couple got up for some instant oatmeal.

Olga then went back to bed. She told police that the next thing she knew, at about 11:30 in the morning, she next woke up when a police officer demanded that she show him her hands.

The police officer had gained entry to the apartment with the help of the building’s management because one of its windows was open, and it appeared to be the place from which Evgeny Zharkin fell.

Police said that Olga genuinely seemed to have been asleep when they came into the condo and found her in one of the bunk beds. She said she had no idea how her husband had fallen from the window. She said that he had not talked about killing himself, and wasn’t depressed.

Police eventually also spoke to Olga Plotnikova, the condo owner, who said she had taken the screens off the apartment’s windows in order to make it easier to clean them.

Olga Zharkin told police that she had turned up the heat in the condo to “85 degrees.” We checked, and at 8 am that morning the outside air temperature was 55 degrees, which is chilly for Florida, but not cold for a couple coming from Russia in January. But for whatever reason, if Olga had turned up the heat, and Evgeny had sought some relief by opening a window he didn’t know was lacking a screen, could he have simply stumbled out of the window to an unintentional death?

Two clues possibly point in that direction. First, Olga told police that her husband was clumsy. And second, there are the flip flops. One of Evgeny’s sandals was found on the ground with his corpse. The other, however, was on the floor of the apartment near the window. That might suggest a man clumsily falling out of a window rather than a jumper.

But police also talked to Evgeny’s mother, Alla Zharkin, who said she suspected her daughter-in-law.

“Alla stated that Olga blamed the deceased for financial problems. Alla stated that she heard that two days prior to leaving Russia Olga made him sign a will… Alla stated that if that was true, the deceased died within a few days of signing his will, which she felt was suspicious,” the report says.

But investigators didn’t find Olga Zharkin’s fingerprints among the few that were on the window. Also, police really didn’t doubt Olga’s story that she was asleep when the police arrived just minutes after Evgeny fell to his death.

There’s one more puzzling detail which seems to contradict the idea that a clumsy Evgeny Zharkin fell out when he opened a window for some cool air.

A woman driving a rental car spotted Zharkin plunging to the ground out of her peripheral vision. She and her husband, who were tourists in town, stopped their car and ran to check on Zharkin.

The woman, Karin Swain, said she thought the person she saw falling was motionless, and wasn’t displaying the kind of panic of someone falling accidentally from a great height. But she also had been in a moving car and saw the figure falling in her peripheral vision.

The Clearwater Police ultimately only found that a crime had not been committed. We look forward to you poring through the report. Let us know if there are significant clues which support your version of what happened.


Clearwater Police investigation of Evgeny Zharkin death


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 14, 2014 at 07:00

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