According to investigators, on the evening of January 24, 2002 Volgograd resident Filippov was celebrating his birthday with his friends, as well as his homecoming from military service in Chechnya. At around 2230 Filippov saw his guests out and at the same time took his bulldog for a walk in a nearby schoolyard.
According to eyewitness accounts, at approximately the same time deputy Nizhegorodov was going through the schoolyard carrying a US-made pump action shot gun in his hands. Filippov’s dog jumped at the deputy and started barking at him, whereupon Nizhegorodov fired at the animal. When the dog’s owner tried to push the dog away, the deputy fired at him, too. Filippov was lethally wounded and died before an ambulance arrived.
Evidence of Nizhegorodov’s guilt gathered by the investigators was more than sufficient: including eyewitness accounts, shells from the 12-calibre gun, and a trail leading from the scene of the murder directly to the deputy’s garage. Two days later the prosecutor of the Volgograd Region Nikolai Shepel sanctioned his arrest. He was charged with murder and placed in custody, where he suffered a heart attack.
The probe into Nizhegorodov dragged on for seven months. Throughout the investigation the deputy claimed he was innocent, insisting that the gun with which Filippov had been killed was stolen from him a day before the murder.
The deputy’s defence insisted that the case against their client was politically motivated. In 1999 during elections to the city legislature Nizhegorodov outstripped his rivals, and since then the deputy has been a staunch opponent of the mayor of Volgograd Yuri Chekhov.
For a short while Nizhegorodov headed the city council. In addition to some politicians, his lawyers claimed, he could have been framed by bandits – while director of a law firm Nizhegorodov defended well-known mobster Vitaly Nesterov in court.
To all appearances, the deputy, with the help of his associates, attempted to exert pressure on the witnesses: before Nizhegorodov’s case-file was forwarded to court, several people complained to the mayor of Volgograd that they had been threatened, and ordered to keep silent.
The vice-mayor of Volgograd and the chief of the city council Sergei Mikhailov pledged his full support to the prosecutor’s office in order to ensure that the probe was carried out as quickly and effectively as possible, and that the deputy was held accountable for the crime he committed.
When earlier this year Nizhegorodov went on trial, he refused to put his signature to the indictment act, and continued to deny his guilt, refusing to testify. Then all of a sudden, at a court session on Thursday Nizhegorodov agreed to talk and confessed to the crime, evidently in the hope that if he admitted his guilt, he would be given a more lenient sentence.
However, in their closing address Nizhegorodov’s lawyers continued to insist that the deputy was acting in self-defence. The state prosecutor, nevertheless, asked the court to sentence Nizhegorodov to 13 years in a high security prison for premeditated murder.
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