Court hearing Thursday for man accused of killing Holocaust survivor

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FLINT (WJRT) (1/3/2018) - Dmitri Zavalnitski has been charged with felony murder, possession of burglary tools, first-degree home invasion and possession of marijuana in the death of 79-year-old Leonid Yufa.

He's also charged with second-degree home invasion for robbing a unit in the same apartment complex where Leonid Yufa lived.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton explained that information led them to Yufa's alleged killer.

"When the murder occurred, we tried to put together a profile of who might the suspects be, based upon the evidence that we found," Leyton said.

He can't speak to what the evidence is, but said there are two key physical pieces that led them straight to 35-year-old Dmitri Zavalnitski.

"We think it was a burglary in process and because the victim knew the suspect, the suspect decided I'm gonna have to kill him to protect myself," Leyton said.

He said that's what Zavalnitski did. Yufa was found dead in his apartment on Dec. 19 from asphyxiation.

It's not clear if Zavalnitski stole anything, but knowing it was a robbery, Leyton said detectives looked into previous burglaries in the area. They learned of one in the same apartment complex that happened in April.

"We believe that the same suspect did the burglary and stole items from that apartment and pawned those items at a Metro Detroit pawn shop," Leyton said.

Zavalnitiski was in court briefly Wednesday on two misdemeanor charges. He'll return Thursday, accused of killing Yufa, the father of two who survived the Holocaust and then moved to Flint as a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union.

"The unspeakable horrors that he must have gone through, only to meet his demise here in Flint Township, Michigan. It's sad. It's really sad," Leyton said.

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