A Minnesota man will spend more than 65 years in prison for murdering his estranged pregnant wife in May and then fleeing the home with their two young children, PEOPLE confirms.
Yevgeniy “Eugene” Savenok, 31, entered guilty pleas on Thursday to two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the 2016 killings of his spouse and her unborn child, according to court records.
Authorities believe Savenok killed his 23-year-old wife, Lyuba Savenok, because he feared she would take their two young children, according to court records. Police say Lyuba was 26-weeks pregnant with their third child, a son, when Yevgeniy stabbed her more than a dozen times in the kitchen of their home in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, on May 13, 2016.
The couple was estranged and Yevgeniy had moved out of their home before the murders. In a GoFundMe set up for her after she was killed, Lyuba’s family remembered her as “an amazing mother of two beautiful children, a dear daughter to her parents, an amazing sister to her siblings and a faithful friend to many.”
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A Violent Scene
Officers responding to reports of a domestic disturbance arrived at the couple’s home that May day to find Lyuba dead on the kitchen floor, laying in a rapidly swelling pool of her own blood. A large knife was still protruding from her chest.
She was rushed to the nearest hospital, where doctors performed an emergency cesarean section on her body. The baby boy she had been carrying survived for several minutes but later died, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
According to court papers, Yevgeniy had placed the couple’s two young children in his car before returning to the house where he used a kitchen knife to attack Lyuba, stabbing her in the chest and stomach.
He later told investigators he only recalled stabbing her seven times. Afterward, he fled the home with his two kids.
Hours later, he drove with his children to United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he told a security guard he had killed his wife. According to a criminal complaint detailing the incident, St. Paul police were then called to the hospital where Yevgeniy was arrested.
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Talking to detectives, he said the couple’s marriage had become strained and that Lyuba threatened to take his children away from him. Killing her, he said, was his “only way out.”
Lyuba’s sister, who was present in the home at the time of the stabbing, reported seeing Yevgeniy place her in a headlock and put her on the floor before stabbing her in the throat, at which point she left the home and called police, who arrived shortly after Yevgeniy drove off.
His sentence in the killings surpasses state mandates, but he admitted to aggravating circumstances, according to court records: He acknowledged as part of the plea agreement that both of his victims were vulnerable and that the killings were committed with extreme cruelty.
Yevgeniy’s attorneys tell PEOPLE that “part of the desire to bring this case to a close was to allow everyone to now focus on the best interests of the two surviving Savenok children.”
At his formal sentencing in March, Yevgeniv “will attempt to convey his overwhelming remorse to everyone affected by the death of his wife and child,” his attorneys say. They say that, by way of explanation — not justification — their client was “in a very depressed and confused state of mind” when he attacked his wife and had been struggling with alcohol and his mental health.
Court records, however, indicate Yevgeniy had been violent with his wife before he killed her. On the day he was charged with her homicide, he was scheduled to appear in court for violating a restraining order she’d taken out against him.