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Woman accused of killing quadriplegic daughter can be released on house arrest, judge rules

Yelena Nezhikhovskaya is accused of giving her 31-year-old daughter a deadly dose of drugs and alcohol.

Yelena Nezhikhovskaya, 63, is charged with third-degree murder and drug delivery resulting in death, in connection with the death of her 31-year-old daughter, Yulia.
Yelena Nezhikhovskaya, 63, is charged with third-degree murder and drug delivery resulting in death, in connection with the death of her 31-year-old daughter, Yulia.Read morePhiladelphia Police Department

A judge on Wednesday ordered that a 63-year-old Bustleton woman charged with the fatal poisoning of her quadriplegic daughter last year can be released on house arrest if she posts 10% of $50,000 bail.

Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner found that Yelena Nezhikhovskaya was not such a flight risk or a danger to the community to warrant setting a high bail.

Nezhikhovskaya was arrested and charged Nov. 16 with third-degree murder, drug delivery resulting in death, and related offenses in the Dec. 17, 2018, death of her 31-year-old daughter, Yulia. The daughter, officials say, died after Nezhikhovskaya gave her a potent combination of drugs and alcohol in their apartment on the 9600 block of Bustleton Avenue.

The Medical Examiner’s Office in April listed the cause of death as drug intoxication and the manner as homicide. Assistant District Attorney Steven Patton told Lerner that toxicology results showed that Yulia Nezhikhovskaya had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08%; about 24 times the normal therapeutic dose of Valium; 14 times the normal amount of a sleep medication; and 1.5 million times the normal dose of a muscle relaxer. The medications had been prescribed.

Wednesday’s bail hearing followed appeals by both sides on her initial bail amount, which was overturned by Municipal Court Judge Martin Coleman. He granted a defense request for a nominal bail of $300 with the condition that she be placed on house arrest. But that bail amount was stayed after Patton got Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart to sign an emergency petition to keep Nezhikhovskaya in jail pending a full bail hearing.

On Wednesday, Patton asked Lerner to set bail at $500,000, arguing that the Russian native, now a U.S. citizen, was a flight risk and a danger to the community. He told the judge that she had pleaded guilty to a summary harassment charge stemming from a 2012 incident in which she had threatened to shoot a boyfriend with a BB gun.

Defense attorney Lonny Fish, however, told the judge that his client is not a flight risk and noted that her U.S. passport, issued in 2011, showed no travel abroad. And he said she was the one who had called 911 on the day her daughter stopped breathing.

Fish told the judge that the daughter was born with cerebral palsy, and that during her life, her mother didn’t work and took care of her daughter nonstop while living on disability payments.

Before granting house arrest if Nezhikhovskaya posts bail and ordering that she see a psychiatrist or psychologist, Lerner said this was an “almost unimaginably tragic case from so many points of view.”

Nezhikhovskaya, who has been in custody since her arrest, faces a Feb. 4 preliminary hearing.