Peace Corps volunteer murdered in Chernihiv

by Roman Woronowycz
Kyiv Press Bureau

KYIV - Days after a United States Peace Corps volunteer was found murdered in Chernihiv, Ukraine, during an apparent robbery, police officials announced that they have two suspects in custody and are searching for a third person.

The Chernihiv Ministry of Internal Affairs announced on September 19 that they had arrested two women in the September 14 murder of Victor Verloo, 64, of Sacramento, Calif., and had identified a third accomplice with a record of blackmail and burglaries, who is still at large.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer said in a statement released to the press that U.S. officials will cooperate with Ukraine's police organs in the investigation. "The U.S. Embassy is working with Ukrainian authorities to bring justice in this case. Tragic though it is, we will not allow this incident to mar relations between Americans and Ukrainians," said Ambassador Pifer.

The body of Mr. Verloo, who had arrived in Ukraine six months ago, was discovered in his apartment by Ministry of Internal Affairs officers after they responded to reports of a break-in at the Peace Corps volunteer's apartment.

The ministry's press office would not confirm or deny details of the crime nor comment on the investigation, as is their custom. However, according to the Kyiv newspaper Fakty, sources close to the matter who asked to remain anonymous said several assailants illegally entered the apartment of Mr. Verloo during the early morning hours of September 14. Mr. Verloo was struck over the head with a heavy object and also knifed during what is presumed to have been a struggle.

The sources said that keys to Mr. Verloo's apartment were found among the possessions of one of the suspects. Missing from the apartment, according to Fakty, were computer equipment and $4,000 in cash. The United States Information Service in Kyiv could only confirm that computer equipment had been taken.

Mr. Verloo, a native of Belgium who served with the Royal Belgian Air Force before moving to the U.S., was a retired employee of the California Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division with a master's degree in business administration and a bachelor of science degree in engineering.

In Chernihiv he worked with Alahar, a non-governmental organization that advises other NGOs on matters of organizational and financial sustainability and how to encourage community participation and volunteerism.

"He hoped to be a role model that would serve as an example of the highest ideals of the American way of life," said Peace Corps Country Director Jaroslav Dutkewych, "His goal was to assist in improving the quality of life of the Ukrainian people and leave a lasting and favorable impression of Americans."

Peace Corps volunteers and U.S. Embassy officials organized a memorial service for Mr. Verloo in Kyiv on September 19, after which the volunteer's body was flown to the United States, escorted by Country Director Dutkewych.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 27, 1998, No. 39, Vol. LXVI

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