More than 20 people testified Monday in the first day of the trial of three men accused of committing a string of violent burglaries and robberies from 2009 to 2010.
During her opening statement, Centre County District Attorney Stacey Parks Miller said the three defendants, Maxsim Illarionov, Dmitriy Litvinov and Anatoliy Veretnov, treated people's homes and businesses like personal candy stores under the guise of "greed, guns and gangster wannabes." The three defendants are charged with multiple counts of robbery, simple assault, criminal mischief, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy.
Parks Miller went on to say that the three liked to brag to others about their exploits and explained to the jury each of their roles in "the crew." Parks Miller said Illarionov was the leader, Litvinov was the "muscle" and Veretnov had connections to guns, which they stole from a friend of Veretnov's in Erie.
The last of three opening statements from each of the defense attorneys was from Jonathan Sobel, the attorney for Litvinov, who made a distinction to the jury between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Sobel said that the Commonwealth would likely present mostly circumstantial evidence.
"Direct evidence is seeing it rain," Sobel said. "Circumstantial evidence is seeing wet grass and inferring it rained."
Anaida Manukyan, an elderly Russian woman, was the first to testify. Manukyan testified that while staying at her cousin's house on the night of July 12, 2008, a strange man in the home pointed a gun at her in the dark and asked her for her money.
Manukyan testified that she agreed to give him the money if he wouldn't kill her, to which the burglar agreed. Then, Manukyan said, she led the burglar down the stairs of the house to the front door where she rang the doorbell a couple times and ran to the neighbor's house where she called the police.
Manukyan also said she knew Litvinov previously, as his mother used to clean the house she was in and he would often be around. She described him as a very polite boy who often talked to her.
Detective Ralph Ralston of the State College Police Department testified that about a year after this incident occurred, he had the woman do a photo lineup with eight photos of men similar in appearance to Illarionov. The woman said it could be two of the men, one being Illarionov.
Another person, this time a young man, also testified today that he was threatened with a gun on January 24, 2010, when a man robbed the Uni-Mart he was working at on Waupelani Drive.
The man said that at 8 p.m., a man came in with a mask and gloves on and said he would kill him unless he gave the burglar the money. The man estimated that he gave him around $600.
When questioned by police initially, the man told police the burglar had no accent. Today, however, the man said that he thought he had a Russian accent at the time, he was just so used to it he didn't consciously realize it.
The last person to testify today was Josh Dunlap, an inmate Centre County Correctional Facility. Dunlap testified that he was on the same cell block as Litvinov in late summer 2010 and May 2011, where Litvinov would often tell him about the crimes he is charged with committing.
Dunlap said Litvinov trusted him and that's why he confided in Dunlap. Dunlap said Litvinov told him he and his friends robbed a Dollar General in Centre Hall as "practice" for "bigger and better jobs" such as a bank and a pharmacy in Boalsburg.
Litvinov also told Dunlap he and his friends had robbed the Uni-Mart on Waupelani Drive, but also said the police would never catch them because the person they robbed got the height of the burglar wrong.
Dunlap also said he made no deal with the Commonwealth for early release upon questioning from Sobel.
Some of those who had been burglarized sustained what they described as major losses.
Bill Clarke, for instance, testified that while visiting his daughter in Saratoga, NY, at the end of September 2009, he was called by State College Police and informed that his house had been robbed. Clarke said his wife would often keep cash in the house for home repairs and, upon inspection, nearly $100,000 in cash was stolen along with some jewelry and jars of collected coins.
Detective Michael McDannel testified today that some of the property, mostly jewelry, was found in three places: the laundry room ceiling in which Litvinov stashed stolen items, Illarionov's apartment and a storage room he rented.
Jeremy Gibson and his wife, owners of Digital Trace Forensics, 1318 W College Ave, said they lost exactly $22,576.22 when their store was broken into.
Gibson testified Monday that many items, including computer parts and video game consoles were stolen, as well as the computer and external hard drives that contained all the finances of the business as well as all their customer contacts.
"It was almost like starting the business from scratch," Gibson said.
Ralston again testified that things such as one of Gibson's personal hard drives that were once filled with photos were recovered at Illarionov's apartment, filled with photos of Illarionov and his brother.
Kerry Small of Legacy Logistics, 3450 W College Ave, testified that on December 3, 2009, the window to his office had been pushed in. When he got to his office, he said, he found a Mac computer, PowerPoint projector, video camera, iPod and Blackberry phone had all been stolen.
Other peoples whose homes and businesses had been burglarized, but who suffered smaller loses, also testified, including a man who had $750 stolen from his gas station and a woman who had two jewelry boxes, a bicycle and a power drill stolen from her apartment.