DNA ID of Skeleton Remains brings Daughter from Russia

by Placerville Newswire / Oct 14, 2019 / comments

<El Dorado County Sheriff's Office>  

In November 2015, a family walking along the Folsom Lake waterfront made a discovery which lead to a multi year investigation, spanning numerous agencies and even another country. The discovery? Skeleton remains, which had only become visible due to a historic drought.

We contacted an anthropology team at California State University, Chico, who came and collected the remains. Their evaluation of the remains provided a general description of the person, a white adult man, as well as noted dental work which could assist in identification. We then brought the remains to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office to be reviewed by a forensic odontologist who found that the dental work on the teeth was not likely done in the United States.

It was around this same time that we received a tip from a local citizen about a possible drowning in Folsom Lake in the mid 1990’s.
On June 21, 1996, EDSO had been called by California State Parks to search for 29-year-old Oleg Zheleznikov, a Russian National Citizen. Oleg, along with two other Russian National Citizens, a translator, and the boat’s captain had gone sailing on Folsom Lake. Oleg had jumped into the water to swim while the sails were still up. By the time the boat was able to turn around and get to the area where Oleg jumped in, he had disappeared beneath the surface.

The EDSO Dive Team searched for Oleg in water depths around 100 feet deep and were unable to locate him. Undersheriff Randy Peshon, a Sergeant at the time and one of the divers, later described how murky the water had been with zero visibility.

EDSO Coroner Detectives were able to locate the original State Park Ranger, the translator and boat captain. With this information, they confirmed that the area these remains were found was the same general vicinity that Oleg had last been seen. EDSO also found out that at the time of Oleg’s death, he was married and had an eight-year-old daughter in Russia.

With a DNA sample in hand, the only way to positively identify the remains was to locate Oleg’s daughter and compare her DNA to his. For this, we turned to the FBI for assistance. 

Information was relayed to the FBI Sacramento Division, who then passed it onto the FBI’s Legal Attaché Office (Legat) in Moscow, Russia. The Legat worked diligently with Interpol and Russia authorities to identify Oleg’s Daughter, Yulia Rusina, and obtain a DNA sample for comparison. After many years of work, the remains found in 2015 were positively identified in June 2018 as Oleg Zheleznikov.

While it was important for us to identify the remains and provide closure to Oleg’s family, we felt that more could be done. Together, with assistance from an FBI Sacramento Division Victim Specialist, Yulia was provided a secure flight and hotel accommodations to come to America and recover her father’s remains.

Yulia flew into San Francisco on Saturday, Oct. 5, and was picked up by members of EDSO, including Deputy Gutsu and his wife, who are both fluent in Russian and had connected with Yulia on Facebook, as well as representatives from the FBI.

Yulia spent a few days in El Dorado County taking in the sites and experiences that we have to offer. On Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, she picked up her father’s urn from Green Valley Mortuary and met with the Sheriff, as well as EDSO and FBI staff who had been involved in the investigation.

On Wednesday, Yulia flew back to Russia, returning Oleg to his home and his family.

October 14 at 12:26 PM ·