Crimetracker: Russia convicts man Gatlinburg murders

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Russian jury has convicted one of its citizens of the 2002 murders of his roommates in Gatlinburg, the Dept. of Justice announced on Thursday.

Yuri Solovyev and his victims Vladimir Yemelyanov and Sufiya Arslanova, were visiting America on seasonal tourist visas. Russian law forbids extradition of Russian nationals to the U.S., but will allow for them to be tried under Russian law for crimes committed outside its borders.

“I am very pleased the Department of Justice has been able to assist the authorities in Sevier County with bringing this man to justice," said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian. "It sends an important message that fleeing to a foreign country – even if extradition is not possible – does not necessarily preclude a successful prosecution."

Sevier Co. and Gatlinburg authorities were able to connect Solovyev to the crimes shortly after they occurred, but, by then, he had already fled the country.

The FBI tracked Solovyev to Moscow where he told Russian officials he stole $19,000 from the victims and buried their bodies in the Smokies, but he claimed a man named "Alex" committed the murders.

The Dept. of Justice noted this was the first time Russia had prosecuted one of its own on American murder charges. In addition, Russian investigators spent a week in Gatlinbirg collecting evidence.