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Friday, May 17, 2019

Another Murder Mystery

     This sounds like an open and shut case...but is it? When I recently stumbled across a headline about a 28 year old “Soviet chess ace” who had beaten and stabbed a renowned psychology professor to death in the latter’s $2.2 million home in Brooklyn just two years after he was arrested for trying to rape a tourist, I was curious. 
     Naturally, thoughts turned to Raymond Weinstein. The late Arthur Bisguier’s cousin, Raymond Weinstein (born April 25, 1941), was from Brooklyn, where he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was two grades ahead of Bobby Fischer. He was warded the IM title in 1962 In 1963, Weinstein graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in psychology and went to Amsterdam to attend graduate school. While there he was arrested for assault on Dutch psychology professor and International Master Johan Barendregt. 
     Dr. Johan Barendregt (February16, 1924 – January 2, 1982) was awarded the IM title in 1962. He participated in the Dutch Championship four times and played in the 1952 Olympiad. From 1962 he lectured in clinical psychology at the University of Amsterdam. He passed away from lung cancer at the age of 57. Soon after this incident, Weinstein was deported to the US and was detained in a half-way house, where he killed his 83-year-old roommate with a razor after an argument. Weinstein was deemed incapable to stand trial, and remanded to the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Manhattan's Wards Island. Blogger Sam Sloan visited him in 1996, and reported that he was very uncommunicative. 
     In this recent case, the murdered man was Jeremy David Safran (April 23, 1952 – May 7, 2018), a Canadian-born American clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, lecturer, and psychotherapy researcher.
     Along with many other accomplishments, Safran was a professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research, where he served for many years as director of clinical training. He was also a faculty member at New York University's postdoctoral program in psychoanalysis and The Stephen A. Mitchell Center for Relational Studies. Safran practiced Buddhism and engaged in meditation. 
     On May 7th of last year Safran was found dead in his home of repeated hammer blows, the victim of what police believe was a botched burglary. Chessplayer Mirzo Atadzhanov, 28, was found covered in blood and surrounded by several tools, including a hammer, in the house's basement, arrested and charged with murder. Fox 8 News
     Accounts, as they often are, were somewhat garbled and no doubt contained some inaccuracies. Also, unlike you see on television, police and prosecutors aren’t always so meticulous to make sure they have the right person. Many times all the police want to do is arrest someone and are satisfied to let the courts figure out guilt or innocence. And, prosecutors are looking, not for the truth, but for convictions. For many lawyers, it’s a game and may the shrewdest attorney win. I have this from a reliable source...a judge who was a former assistant prosecutor.
     In June, through his attorney, Atadzhanov entered a plea of not guilty of murder and burglary charges claiming self-defense. According to court papers, Safran hired Atadzhanov to “work on his lights” in his home, even though Atadzhanov said he wasn’t an electrician. Supposedly Safran wasn’t satisfied with Atadzhanov’s work and complained, “This country cannot benefit from immigrants.” Atadzhanov, who is originally from Tajikistan, said he was offended, an argument ensued and the fight escalated. Atadzhanov said Safran tried to stab him with a combat knife and he was just defending himself. 
     Two days after the murder, Atadhanov met with a reporter in the visiting room at the Brooklyn Detention Complex looking nervous and confused. He told the reporter he was depressed and in shock. He said he did not know the family and dodged further questions before getting up to return to his cell. However, he had graduated from Brooklyn College where Safran's wife teaches.
     Prosecutors have a different story. They claimed that Safran was working out when Atadzhanov broke into his home and attacked him. According to newspaper reports, Safran's wife Jennifer and their daughter were in the home at the time. A neighbor who lives across the street saw what she thought was an intruder and alerted Safran's wife by sending her a text and then the two spoke outside and called 911. When police arrived they found Safran’s bludgeoned body and Atadzhanov hiding in the closet. 
     Interestingly, the neighbor was Doreen Giuliano. She gained national attention when she transformed herself from a homemaker into a sexy cougar to gather evidence to get her son, John Giuca, out of prison and her er story was recently featured on the television program 20/20. He son was convicted of murdering a New Jersey college student, but his mother refused to believe he did it, so, she went undercover to investigate one of the jurors who convicted him. She succeeded in overturning the conviction and winning him a new trial.
     Atadzhanov had previously been arrested in December 2016 for allegedly trying to rape a tourist at his apartment in Brooklyn. The woman, who connected with Atadzhanov through couchsurfing.com, told police she had to fight him off after he threw her onto a bed, punched her and tried to rape her. She managed to break free and cut Atadzhanov with a knife before fleeing down the fire escape. Atadzhanov was arrested on attempted rape, assault and forcible charges, but they were dismissed at his arraignment because his alleged victim had left the country. 
     His mother denied he was responsible for Safran's brutal killing. She lives in Russia and said, “He didn't do it. He is a smart boy. He has a master's in biology.” She added that he was planning to become a nurse and he was a cardiologist back in Russia and was the top chess player in the Republic. She also dismissed claims of burglary, saying they were not poor people and they were educated and treated people decent. 
     After the initial blaring newspaper headlines, nothing further concerning the case can be found.  Atadzhanov remains incarcerated in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Rikers Island in East Elmhurst, New York where he being held on a first degree murder charge. 
     Atadzhanov’s LinkedIn page says he graduated with a master's degree in biology from Brooklyn College in December 2017 and he claimed to have a medical degree from Tajik State Medical University in Tajikistan. His stated goal was to get his doctoral license in cardiology in New York and start his own practice. 
     With so many Grandmasters in the world these days I wondered who Mirzo Atadzhanov was. Was he a GM or an IM? After all, the papers reported him as being a “Soviet chess ace.”  According to his LinkedIn page he is a FIDE Candidate Master with over 5 years training and experience and had almost two years experience as an instructor in San Diego. He also claimed to be a “Chess Club Champion.” When I Googled the address of the chess club it turned out to be a pharmacy. 
     Atadzhanov’s FIDE profile lists him a being a US player with a rating of 1892 based on two games played in 2015 and four games in 2017, all played in New York. On the USCF rating list his rating is 1847 based on 15 games and his blitz rating based on 6 games is 1681. 
     

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