Summary of Going for Broke Casee of Michael Prozumenshikov and Zachary Persitz
|Date of Incident||January 28, 1991|
|Region and Location||Wayzata, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|Forensic Files Case||Going for Broke (Season 11, Episode 2)|
|Victim||Michael Joseph Prozumenshikov|
|Type of Crime||Murder, Revenge, Envy killing|
|Forensic Evidence||Fingerprint, micro paint chips, dog hair, blood spatter and plastic part from car bumper|
|Forensic Techniques Used||Blood type analysis, Fingerprint comparison, Luminol, Microscopic examination of hair, Solubility test|
|Charged For||First Degree murder|
|Punishment||Life sentence (parole after 27½ years)|
|Where is Now||Zachary 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.
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:
- 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.
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 Murder||Details|
|Financial Dispute||Zachary lost about $37,000 in investments that he saved for child’s tuition fees|
|Rage||Felt betrayed by Michael’s handling of funds.|
|Envy||Michael’s flashy lifestyle added salt to the wound.|
Forensic Evidence Against Zachary Persitz
|Evidence||Forensic Importance in the Case|
|Amputated Finger||Fingerprint found matched Michael’s brokerage license.|
|Dog Hair||Matched the hair of Persitz’s Bernese Mountain dog, found at the crime scene search.|
|Micro Paint Chips||Using a solubility test of paints chips from compost site gate, it was found to be originated similarly to the car that Persitz owned.|
|Car Bumper||A piece of car bumper found at compost site perfectly matched the missing bumper part of Persitz’s car.|
|Luminol Test||Revealed evidence of a gunshot in Persitz’s car.|
|Firearm||No firearm was recovered|
Forensic Experts and Investigators in the Case With Roles
|Forensic Experts||Designation||Roles in Going For Broke Case|
|Jim Liberty||Blood Spatter Expert||Analyse the bloodstain inside the Zachary’s car|
|Don Melander||Trace Evidence Expert||Compared paint samples, and hair comparison|
|Susan Roe||Forensic Pathologist||Time of death of Micahel|
|Jerry Cusick||Sergeant||Fingerprint recovery and comparison|
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.
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.
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
- Man who killed stockbroker hangs himself at Stillwater prison [TwinCities Publication]
- Buried at Findagrave.
- Watch Going for Broke, Forensic Files S11E02. [Youtube]
FR Author Group at ForensicReader is a team of Forensic experts and scholars having B.Sc, M.Sc, or Doctorate( Ph.D.) degrees in Forensic Science. We published on topics on fingerprints, questioned documents, forensic medicine, toxicology, physical evidence, and related case studies. Know More.