As the family of Dr. Daniel Malakov prepares to mark the one−year anniversary of his murder in a Forest Hills playground, they say they are in a state of limbo even though the rest of the community has moved on.
After 12 months of twists and turns in the investigation, the people allegedly responsible for the orthodontist’s death, his estranged wife and her distant uncle, are still several months away at the earliest from facing justice in a murder and conspiracy trial.
“I don’t understand what’s going on,” said Khaifka Malakov, Daniel’s father, following the last court hearing two weeks ago.
For the rest of the Forest Hills community, which has seen an increase of Bukarian Jewish immigrants from Uzbekistan where Malakov and his family originated, the shooting and the trial are not that important today.
At the Annadale Playground on Yellowstone Boulevard and 64th Road, where Malakov was shot twice in the chest on Oct. 28, 2007, children, teens and parents still laugh and play in the late autumn.
Fran Sternberg, the parent coordinator of PS 175, which is next to the playground, said she has heard no talk of the murder from parents or anyone who uses the playground in months.
“We had some concerns initially and people were holding back, but it didn’t last for long,” she said.
The Malakovs on the other hand, have said no amount of time can dull the pain they have been feeling since the murder.
On that Sunday morning, Daniel Malakov, 34, an orthodontist who ran a private practice in Forest Hills, decided to drop off his then 4−year−old daughter, Michelle, at the playground to see her mother, Mazoltuv Borukhova.
He had gained custody of the girl from Queens Family Court six days earlier following bitter divorce proceedings and made arrangements with his estranged wife for a peaceful visit in the playground.
When he arrived there, Malakov was shot outside Annadale’s entrance in front of not only dozens of playground goers, but also his former wife and daughter. While police searched for the runaway shooter, Malakov’s kin immediately accused Borukhova, 34, and also a Uzbek immigrant, because they thought she wanted to reclaim Michelle.
Two weeks later, a Queens Family Court judge ruled against her. After numerous hearings following the murder, Judge Linda Tally placed Michelle in the custody of a foster parent, deeming Borukhova an unfit mother, a rare ruling according to child custody experts.
The family court proceedings also revealed a bombshell meeting between a Staten Island state senator and Borukhova’s family that backed up the Malakovs’ suspicions. Sen. Diane Savino told the judge that 10 days before Daniel Malakov’s death, Borukhova’s sisters, Sofia and Natella Natanova, came to her office for help in the custody case.
Savino, a former city Administration for Children’s Services worker, said the sisters posed two disturbing scenarios.
“What would happen if he couldn’t take care of her? What if she disappears?” Savino recounted their asking her.
The Borukhova family could not be reached for comment for this article and have rarely talked to the press since the incident.
On Nov. 18, the police made a break in the case when they arrested Mikhail Mallayev at his home in suburban Atlanta and charged him with murder.
Mallayev, 51, is a distant uncle of Borukhova and police matched his fingerprints that were on file for a 1994 arrest to prints found on a makeshift silencer abandoned at the playground by the shooter.
Although the links between Borukhova and her husband’s death were building up rapidly, investigators did not officially label the mother a suspect.
Even after it was revealed during Mallayev’s first Queens Supreme Court appearance in January that she had made several phone calls to her uncle in the weeks leading up to the murder, police did not implicate her.
All of that changed Feb. 7, when detectives arrested Borukhova outside her Forest Hills apartment and the next day arraigned her on charges of first−degree murder and conspiracy.
While she made her first court appearance, relatives and friends of Malakov and Borukhova’s family who sat on the opposite sides of the room erupted in a war of angry words in their native Russian.
This animosity caused another turn of events for the Borukhova family, when Natanova was arrested March 4 for allegedly threatening Gavril Malakov, Daniel’s brother on the streets of Forest Hills.
Gavril, who now has custody of Michelle as a foster parent, told investigators that she accosted him and said in Russian, “You should know if you talk, you will be the next to go.”
The allegations did not hold up in court, however, and the homemaker was exonerated on charges of intimidating a witness and tampering with a witness in July.
Although that trial came and went quickly, the joint case against Mallayev and Borukhova is still in legal limbo. After months of pre−trial hearings and motions, no opening date has been set and the head prosecutor has said that it will likely begin sometime in January.
Khaifka Malakov has repeatedly expressed frustration over the delays because he wants to bring closure to the ordeal that has already affected the lives of his family for the last year and will stay in their hearts and minds for years to come.
“I want justice for my Daniel,” the father said following a court hearing two weeks ago.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@t
©2008 Community News Group
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