Nikolai Ogolobyak, 33, was meant to remain behind bars until 2030 for his role in what Yaroslavl authorities described as a satanic cult: He and several other members were accused of murdering four teenagers in 2008 during two separate “rituals.” Convicted and sentenced in 2010, Ogolobyak received the harshest sentence, as he was the only member of the group who was of legal age at the time of the murders.
But Ogolobyak is already back home after receiving a pardon to go fight in Ukraine, a source familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast. Ogolobyak’s father confirmed to local media that his son had spent six months in the Russian Defense Ministry’s “Storm Z” unit, a Wagner-inspired army unit made up of convicts freed from prison to keep the war afloat.
“After being wounded, he’s disabled,” Ogolobyak’s father told 76.ru, adding that his son returned from the hospital on Nov. 2. “He’s walking, but the wound was severe. He is not working right now, just recovering.”
Ogolobyak was described by prosecutors during the trial as the “warrior” of the group who initiated the murders by first attacking the victims. The first two to fall prey were Olga Pukhova and Anya Gorokhova, two goth teenagers who met members of the alleged cult at school. While hanging out with the alleged satanists one night, the girls were fed booze and lured into a forest once they were sufficiently drunk, where they were attacked with daggers, dismembered, and their hearts and tongues supposedly removed and eaten. Prosecutors said members of the “cult” posed for photographs with the girls’ dismembered heads, and one of their girlfriends allegedly “bathed” in the blood of the victims.
The group then allegedly used a similar scenario to kill another young couple, with prosecutors claiming Ogolobyak had “counted the blows out loud” as the man, Andrei Sorokin, was stabbed. “He counted until he hit 666,” prosecutor Yelena Smirnova was quoted saying.
All the victims were dismembered, and their remains buried in a wooded area. The investigation into the murders dragged on for years, hampered by the fact that the bodies had been mutilated and scattered.
The far-fetched details provided by prosecutors—including that one member of the “cult” kept notes on the killing in a book “made from the skin of the murdered teens”—left some Yaroslavl residents skeptical.
A woman who worked as one of Ogolobyak’s teachers at the time of the killings recalled her shock at learning of the charges against him.
“Those who knew him in college, the teachers, couldn’t believe that it was he who had done this. He was quiet, with limited intellectual capabilities. For a long time, we didn’t believe it was him,” she said, adding that he’d had a “troubled home life.”
Asked if she believed the heinous details about the murders, she was blunt: “Who the hell knows.”
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