Michael Prozumenshikov & Zachary Persitz [Going for Broke] Forensic Files Case Study

Summary of Going for Broke Casee of Michael Prozumenshikov and Zachary Persitz

Date of IncidentJanuary 28, 1991
Region and LocationWayzata, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Forensic Files CaseGoing for Broke (Season 11, Episode 2)
VictimMichael Joseph Prozumenshikov
CulpritZachary Persitz
Type of CrimeMurder, Revenge, Envy killing
Forensic EvidenceFingerprint, micro paint chips, dog hair, blood spatter and plastic part from car bumper
Forensic Techniques UsedBlood type analysis, Fingerprint comparison, Luminol, Microscopic examination of hair, Solubility test
Charged ForFirst Degree murder
PunishmentLife sentence (parole after 27½ years)
Where is NowZachary died at 59 years at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, Bayport

Michael Prozumenshikov (37 years), an immigrant from Soviet-era Russia, was living the American Dream. He started as a janitor, studied finance, and got an entry-level position in a Minneapolis Firm. He soon became a successful stockbroker. 

Within seven years, he was driving a Mercedes, living in a 20-room house, and making $1 million a year. However, his life took a dark turn when he vanished on January 28, 1991. 

His wife, Ellen Prozumenshikov, called the police and said, “Michael didn’t come home last night.

Later, police found Michael’s car in the parking lot of Lake Minnetonka, a few blocks from his office.

After two days, police got a lead from a compost site north of Marine on St. Croix. They search the crime scene and got amputated pieces of the body including a human torso and the tip of fingerprints. Using a stockbroker license, prints are compared and they perfectly matched with the Michael Prozumenshikov. 

Investigators had no leads as to why he was killed. So, they investigate it again.

On investigating Prozumenshikov’s wife, she informed that he called him at 8:30 pm that night and asked for the supervisor’s number. And he was talking in Russian. That was unusual because he never talked Russian in front of American clients. 

This makes investigators believed that his client was also a Russian.

Michael also called his boss and asked for $200,000. He also added a strange reference to a boat. He said, “Didn’t you tell me that your father gave you $200,000 to buy a boat.” Later, investigators believed he was trying to implicate that he was in danger.

Four more leads!

  • In Michael Mercedes, forensic examiners found black dog hair that belongs to a breed Bernese Mountain.
  • Investigators found brown paint transferred from the car to the gate of the compost site where Michael’s body was found.
  • A piece of broken bumper was found near the gate from the car bumper.
  • An eyewitness saw a same-colored car parked next to Michael’s Mercedes and it was identified as a brown Mazda 626.

So, from all five main leads, investigators concluded that the suspect should be a Russian immigrant, have a Bernese Mountain breed dog, and a brown Mazda 626 car.

This all leads to Zachary Persitz, a 39-years old friend of Michael and a Dam inspector by profession.

Michael Prozumenshikov and Zachary Persitz were close friends

The two families were close. Even their sons had sleepovers together but money matters soured their friendship.

Zachary had given Michael $150,000 to invest, which tanked. The investment was worth less than $30,000. This makes Zachary enraged.

In short, he had a motive. He was also a Russian immigrant, had a Bernese dog, and a brown Mazda 626.

Zachary Persitz was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The evidence was stacked against him. His defense? He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. But the jury didn’t buy it. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 1993 with the possibility of parole after 27½ years.

However, after serving approx 17 years in prison, he committed suicide (by hanging) in June 2010 at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, Bayport.

Who was Michael Prozumenshikov and His Early Life?

Alright, let’s dive into Michael Prozumenshikov‘s story. This guy was a real hustler. Born in the Soviet Union, where he shared a small apartment with 30 people. Can you imagine?

  • Background and early life: He was a Soviet native, and let me tell you, life wasn’t a bed of roses.
  • Immigrating to the US: He said goodbye to Mother Russia and hello to the United States. But, the struggle was real. He started as a janitor earning $63 a week.
  • Becoming a stockbroker: He initially failed the dental exam and switched his career. He studied finance, got a stockbroker’s license, and boom! He was in the money.
  • Lifestyle and investments: We’re talking Mercedes, a 20-room house, Rolex watches, and making a cool $1 million a year. But, he played fast and loose with investments.
  • The dark side: Rumors about illegal practices and falsifying info started making rounds, including a scam involving a resort in Reno, Nevada. He wasn’t making friends, that’s for sure.
  • He was buried at Temple Israel Memorial Park, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA.

Who was Zachary Persitz? And How He Caught?

Now, let’s talk about Zachary Persitz.

  • Early life: Zachary, also a Russian immigrant, knew Michael. Their families were close.
  • Background and relationship: They were buddies, but money changed things. Zachary gave Michael $150,000 to invest. Spoiler alert: It didn’t end well.
  • Financial dispute: Zachary’s investment tanked. He lost about $120,000.

And this is how he caught:

Zarchy Persitz was also a Russian immigrant, had a Bernese dog, and a brown Mazda 626
  • Arrest and charges: Zachary got nabbed for Michael’s murder. The evidence was like a neon sign pointing at him.
  • Prosecution’s case and defense: The prosecution brought their A-game. Zachary tried the insanity defense. The jury was like, “Nope.”
  • Verdict and sentencing: Guilty as sin. Zachary got life with a chance of parole after 27½ years.

Read More: John Helble & Andy Rich [Hair of the Dog] Forensic Files Case Study

Reasons Why Zachary Persitz Killed Michael Prozumenshikov?

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Why did Zachary Persitz go all-out and kill Michael Prozumenshikov? Money, rage, and a dash of envy.

  • The financial dispute and losses: Zachary handed over $150,000 to Michael to invest. He was promised the moon but got peanuts. His investment tanked, and he lost about $37,000. That was money he was saving for his children’s college and tuition fees.
  • Persitz’s rage over the handling of his investment: Zachary was fuming. He felt betrayed. Michael was living large while Zachary’s hard-earned cash went down the drain.
  • The lifestyle comparison and envy: Picture this: Michael flaunting Rolex watches and driving a Mercedes, while Zachary’s dreams crumbled. The green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.
Reasons for MurderDetails
Financial DisputeZachary lost about $37,000 in investments that he saved for child’s tuition fees
RageFelt betrayed by Michael’s handling of funds.
EnvyMichael’s flashy lifestyle added salt to the wound.

Forensic Evidence Against Zachary Persitz

EvidenceForensic Importance in the Case
Amputated FingerFingerprint found matched Michael’s brokerage license.
Dog HairMatched the hair of Persitz’s Bernese Mountain dog, found at the crime scene search.
Micro Paint ChipsUsing a solubility test of paints chips from compost site gate, it was found to be originated similarly to the car that Persitz owned.
Car BumperA piece of car bumper found at compost site perfectly matched the missing bumper part of Persitz’s car.
Luminol TestRevealed evidence of a gunshot in Persitz’s car.
FirearmNo firearm was recovered

Forensic Experts and Investigators in the Case With Roles

Forensic ExpertsDesignationRoles in Going For Broke Case
Jim LibertyBlood Spatter ExpertAnalyse the bloodstain inside the Zachary’s car
Don MelanderTrace Evidence Expert Compared paint samples, and hair comparison
Susan RoeForensic PathologistTime of death of Micahel
Jerry CusickSergeantFingerprint recovery and comparison

Forensic Analysis in Michael Prozumenshikov and Zachary Persitz Case

Forensic Analysis in Michael Prozumenshikov and Zachary Persitz Case

A. The Fingerprint Match

Forensic Technique used: One-to-one Fingerprint Matching techniques.

Investigators successfully recovered the amputated finger even after 2 days. This is mainly because of the cold frizzing environment that slows degradation. Fingerprints were usually by the forensic pathologist during autopsy.

The forensic fingerprint expert rolled up their sleeves and got to work. It was a match for Michael’s brokerage license. This confirms that the body belongs to Michael Prozumenshikov.

B. Hair from Bernese Mountain Dog

Forensic Technique used: Microscopic analysis of hair

A single strand of hair was discovered near Michael’s body. Using a microscope examination of hair, the medulla part seems consistent with the Bernese Mountain Dog breed. Surprisingly, Zachary has one.

Here are some examples of hair under the microscope that help in identification.

bernese mountain breed dog, similar breed hair that was found on Michael’s body parts at compost site
Bernese mountain dog, similar breed hair that was found on Michael’s body parts at the compost site. [Image Source]

Read Another case where animal hair helps in solving the case: Shirley Duguay & Douglas Beamish [Purr-fect Match] Forensic Files Case.

C. Solubility Test of Paint

Forensic Technique used: Solubility test which uses a series of chemicals to define the constituents and dye profile of paint.

When Zachary’s car hit the compost site gate, there were some paint transfers. The paint transfer was so minute and microscopic.

However, with a microscopic solubility test from the sample collected from the gate and a reference sample for Zachary’s car, forensic experts were able to conclude that both might have the same origin.

This adds another finding that was against Zachary Persitz.

D. Broken Part of Car Bumper

Forensic Technique used: Perfect fit matching technique in which one part of the evidence is aligned to fit like the cards of a zig-zag puzzle.

Broken Part of Car Bumper from zachary persitz car

At the dumpster gate, there was a broken piece of car bumper. There was also a missing part on Zachary’s car. On placing, to fit, it aligned perfectly. And this is classic direct evidence that states that Zachary’s brown Mazda 626 was at the crime scene.

E. Luminol Revealing Gunshot Evidence

Forensic Technique Used: Luminol reagent which reveals blood based on the oxidation activity of blood (heme) that results in fluoresces in UV under dark conditions.

In the Going for Broke case, when cops sprayed luminol on Zachary’s car, it clearly reveals high-speed blood spatter patterns inside of the roof. These spatters are only made from high-speed projectiles like a bullet.

However, the sample was proven inconclusive to define whether the bloodstains belong to Michael Prozumenshikov because of a lack of DNA analysis.

My Thoughts on Going for Broke Case of Forensic Files

Alright, let’s discuss more. There are a number of cases where money sours friendships that do not end well.

Michael and Zachary Persitz had similar situations. Michael blew off Zachary’s children’s funds that he was saving for their college fees. The case was not only about the money but a person who trust his friend and lend him money.

There is also an emotional angle i.e. funds that he was saving for his children’s future tuition fees.

Zachary has a reputation and he was considered a good person. However, losses and envy of Michael’s lifestyle may be the reasons why he did something that unpredictable.

From a forensic point of view, Zachary Persitz Case showed the power of trace evidence like micro paint chips and a strand of hair. I’ll suggest, reading another famous case where a Shar Pei dog hair is used as evidence in catching the real culprit. The case is A Bag of Evidence Forensic Files Case: James Crowe Killer and Jessica Knott Victim


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *