Crime & Courts

Guardians accused of killing 2-year-old on St. Paul Island texted about hitting him on head, charges say

The St. Paul Island couple charged with killing a 2-year-old boy in their care earlier this month texted about hitting him on the head and covering up what happened, including asking an older child to lie to police, according to an affidavit filed in the complaint against them.

The messages are included in a sworn affidavit filed by an Alaska State Trooper in the complaint against Steven Melovidov, 31, and Sophie Myers-Melovidov, 28. They were arraigned on first- and second-degree murder charges as well as fourth-degree assault in Anchorage on Thursday.

The charges accuse Melovidov of striking 2-year-old Joshua Rukovishnikoff on the head on Dec. 11, causing his death, as well as injuring the boy’s genitals.

The boy was placed in foster care with the Melovidovs in early October, according to troopers. His mother died in September.

Nadesda Rukovishnikoff’s husband, Joshua Rukovishnikoff, was indicted on charges of second-degree murder, criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and reckless endangerment in her death. Rukovishnikoff, 52, remains jailed at Goose Creek Correctional Center.

Initially, Melovidov and Myers-Melovidov told authorities the boy fell and hit his head and started experiencing seizures, according to the affidavit signed by Trooper Bret Ledford.

St. Paul police got the medical call the evening of Dec. 11, the document states. The toddler was taken to the St. Paul Health Clinic, then was flown to Alaska Native Medical Center, where he was put on life support. An imaging scan of his head early the next morning showed an extensive brain bleed. He was declared dead that night, Dec. 12.

An autopsy later revealed five separate head injuries, according to the affidavit. The State Medical Examiner Office ruled the manner of death was consistent with homicide. The autopsy also revealed multiple suspicious bruises on the boy’s genitals.

Texts included in the document show the couple knew what happened and were hoping authorities didn’t find out.

The affidavit includes what appear to be a series of text messages between Myers-Melovidov and her husband just after 1 a.m. Dec. 12: “Hopefully doctors and nurses and whoever checks him won’t call (the Office of Children’s Services) or the police. Please delete this text after you read. I’m scared and worried.”

He responded they wouldn’t, and later told her they were scanning the boy’s head.

“Gees and we’ve been hitting his head. Please delete our texts now,” she wrote.

Later that same afternoon, Myers-Melovidov told him police came to the house. She told him that she and a child in the home wouldn’t tell them anything.

Myers-Melovidov also told him what she told police during an interview: She was busy in the kitchen and heard a thud in her bedroom, and her husband told her the boy hit his head before calling for help.

On Dec. 14, police returned to the home to take photos and talk with Myers-Melovidov.

“F---en aye man,” she texted her husband, according to the affidavit. “They better not f---en put us in jail.”

He texted about putting aside bail money. She said she told the older child in the home “if they ever ask her questions. Just tell them that we discipline and put him in time out.”

Severe weather prevented troopers from reaching St. Paul Island for nearly a week, a spokesman said. The town of just under 400 people is in the Pribilof Islands, about 300 miles west of mainland Alaska in the Bering Sea.

St. Paul Island Alaska

Melovidov and Myers-Melovidov were arraigned separately in Anchorage Superior Court on Thursday. Judge Gregory Miller set their bail at $250,000 each including $50,000 cash performance and $200,000 cash/corporate appearance, plus release to a court-appointed third party custodian.

They were also ordered not to have any contact with their child or each other, and were assigned public defenders.

The boy’s relatives asked Miller not to allow the couple’s release until they could provide victim impact statements.

Miller assured them the couple can’t be released — if they can make bail — until a third-party custodian is appointed.

Their next scheduled hearing is Jan. 10.

Zaz Hollander

Longtime ADN reporter Zaz Hollander is based in the Mat-Su and is currently focused on coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska. She also covers the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.

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