Wheaton alum Yevgeniy “Eugene” Savenok pleaded guilty on Feb. 2 to two counts of second degree murder after stabbing his pregnant wife in May 2016. The plea deal removed the first degree murder charge and reduced his sentence to approximately 65 years, a decrease from the life sentence. According to Fox 9, one third of the time will be spent on supervised release.
Savenok graduated from Wheaton College in 2009 as an honor student and star wrestler. He married Lyuba Katane — who did not attend Wheaton — in 2010 and the couple lived in Eden Prairie, MN with their two young children.
Savenok was staying in Wheaton with his brother Mark Savenok ‘15 during the days before the murder. Mark said, “ There was nothing we hadn’t seen from him in the past two years that alarmed us.” According to The Chicago Tribune, it was on the drive back from Chicago that Savenok decided to murder his pregnant wife.
The Savenok family immigrated from Russia after experiencing religious persecution for being unregistered Christians. Mark’s grandfather was incarcerated for four years in Russia for pastoring an underground church. “My parents have given everything for their nine kids in order for us to live better lives than they experienced in Russia,” said Mark.
Mark Savenok told The Record he was very close to his brother growing up, and even chose to attend Wheaton, join the wrestling team and work for the same employer after graduation. Describing his brother as a “role model” growing up, Mark explained that Eugene was also a youth leader, disciplined in his faith and school and “very, very smart.”
But during his senior year at Wheaton, Mark said he spent much of his time caring for his brother, who then lived near campus. Mark said Eugene later moved to Minnesota with his wife Lyuba, where he began to struggle with alcohol and developed a pattern of domestic abuse. “Eugene walked away from the Lord, and changed completely from how we were raised … I believe he developed a mental condition,” said Mark.
The family encouraged Eugene to seek help, which he lost interest in leading up to the incident, according to his brother. Mark described him as a completely different person. “We prayed constantly as a family for him, we feared he’d take his own life. Never, ever, did we even think he was capable of killing another,” he said. Eugene Savenok was unavailable for comment.
Though Wheaton College has not issued a public statement on the matter, President Philip G. Ryken told The Record, “I was saddened to learn of this devastating loss of two lives and remain grieved by the many ways their tragedy will continue to affect the Katane and Savenok families, and all those who love them.”
Revised and updated on March 7, 2017.