Mark Brichikov, convicted in the drug-fueled beating that left his wife dead in the open door of their Raleigh motel room, has been granted a new trial.
The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Brichikov, now 39 and serving a 28 to 34-year prison sentence, might have gotten lighter punishment if his jury had the option of involuntary manslaughter.
Brichikov and his wife, Nadia, had long histories of drug abuse and served multiple stints in rehab and jail. But they reunited at the former Knights Inn on New Bern Avenue in 2018.
Brichikov admitted to assaulting Nadia, who had bones broken on both sides of her face and a bump the size of a cantaloupe. Police identified her by the grapevine tattoo on her right arm, and a surveillance camera captured her last moments while people passed their open room, unconcerned.
But Nadia Brichikov had Fentanyl in her system at the time of death, and had survived a near-overdose only days before. During his 2019 trial, Brichikov’s attorney showed jurors a history of text messages, including one in which he begged her, “please don’t do any drugs please Knights Inn is a bad place.”
Request for involuntary manslaughter
His defense requested involuntary manslaughter as an option for jurors, and in the appeals court’s 2-1 decision, judges Hunter Murphy and Fred Gore ruled the trial court was wrong to refuse that request.
Involuntary manslaughter, a lesser offense compared to Brichikov’s second-degree murder conviction, is defined as unlawful killing without malice, without premeditation and deliberation.
“The jury could reasonably have found defendant did not act with malice, but rather committed a reckless act without the intent to kill or seriously injure,” Murphy wrote in the court’s opinion. “He spent the day declaring his love for Mrs. Brichikov, they used drugs together, something occurred to trigger a confrontation after they spent hours together the day of the killing, and her body was in a weakened state from a recent overdose, heart blockage, and Fentanyl overdose.”
Also, the court noted, the assault did not cause Nadia Brichikov’s death on its own.
Judge Jeffery Carpenter offered a dissenting opinion, noting that jurors found several aggravating factors in the case, including that the assault was especially heinous or cruel.
Given that, he wrote, it is unlikely jurors would have chosen involuntary manslaughter even if they had been given the choice.
“It appears clear the verdict would not have been different,” he wrote.
Problems at Raleigh motels
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she will consider whether her office will try Brichikov again. She will also consult with the state attorney general about petitioning the NC Supreme Court.
Brichikov’s murder highlighted a persistent problem with violence, drugs and prostitution at Raleigh’s low-budget motels, most of them clustered around New Bern Avenue and Capital Boulevard.
In a two-month investigation, The News & Observer found eight motels that averaged more than one 911 call a day between 2015 and 2020.
The Knights Inn, later known as Budgetel, had logged 4,806 calls in that time, including near-daily reports of assault, drug deals and prostitution, according to reports from Raleigh police.