Janesville77.1°

Police say man wanted councilman killed

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Mike DuPre'
Marcia Nelesen
September 11, 2008

City Councilman Yuri Rashkin thought the divorce between his girlfriend and her husband was going amicably.


"He clearly decided to take a different direction," Rashkin said this morning.


Police on Wednesday night arrested the husband, Joseph R. Chrislaw Sr., 46, of 733 Kellogg Ave., No. 3, Janesville, on charges of solicitation to commit first-degree intentional homicide and conspiracy to commit murder, the police department reported.


"He was despondent about the new relationship," Janesville Police Chief Neil Mahan said of Chrislaw.


The relationship between Rashkin, 33, and Inna M. Cheremisina, 34, has been characterized as girlfriend-boyfriend, Mahan said, and she is living with Rashkin at this home at 226 Forest Park Blvd.


Police don't think Rashkin's position on the city council had anything to do with the alleged plot.


Earlier this month, Chrislaw arranged to meet an undercover officer he thought was a contract killer through a confidential police informant who Chrislaw thought had contact with the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, Mahan said.


Chrislaw and the officer met once Tuesday evening, and Chrislaw then gave cash the officer to kill Rashkin and Cheremisina this upcoming weekend, the chief said.


"Part of his plan was that this be done quickly," Mahan said.


Once they determined the threat was credible, Mahan said, police assigned personal protection to each of the intended victims. After about 24 hours, Rashkin and Cheremisina chose not to be so protected, but cops nevertheless kept on eye on them, the chief said.


Mahan declined to reveal the amount of cash police say Chrislaw gave the undercover officer, and he would not disclose details of how police protected the couple.


A second meeting between Chrislaw and the officer was set for Wednesday, but they had a phone conversation instead, Mahan said.


During the phone call, Chrislaw—who works as a distribution manager for Papa John's Pizza--asked the officer to postpone the murders because he would have trouble with his alibi this weekend, the chief added.


A team of as many as 20 officers kept an eye on Chrislaw, prepared the paperwork for a search warrant and executed the warrant Wednesday night at his apartment.


Alone at the time, Chrislaw surrendered to officers without incident about 10:30 p.m.


Police seized some potential evidence—including a computer—but found no firearms or contraband, Mahan said.


At this stage of the investigation, police have no information that anyone other than Chrislaw, the confidential informant and undercover officer were involved in the plot, Mahan said.


Police have not had many, if any, criminal contacts with Chrislaw, the chief said.


Online court records did not show any criminal convictions or pending charges.


Chrislaw's initial court appearance is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday. He faces a maximum sentence of 72 and a half years in prison and fine of $25,000.


Rashkin and his wife, Amy, a former Janesville School Board member, jointly filed for divorce Sept. 2, according to Rock County Court records. The marriage "is irretrievably broken," according to the filing.


Rashkin said his wife has moved out of their home.


"My girlfriend and (her) soon-to-be ex-husband were supposed to file paperwork, and he clearly decided to take a different direction," Rashkin said this morning.


"Things were going amicably, and everyone was understanding of the situation, and then this happens.


"I am going through a divorce, and she was, as well. She just thought it was amicable, and it turned out it wasn't."


Rashkin was born in Moscow and came to the United States with his family at age 13 as a refugee from the Soviet Union. He became a citizen in 1996. He was elected to the council in April.


Rashkin said police told him of the alleged plot Tuesday afternoon.


"I was aware of this as soon as they heard of it," Rashkin said. "They had somebody stationed at the house right away. It sounds like the (officer) didn't have time to go to the restroom before he made it to my house."


"(Police) didn't know how far it went … That night, I got a call from the chief, explaining the situation.


"I want to express my most sincere and heartfelt appreciation to Chief Mahan and the Janesville Police Department for their stellar handling of this difficult situation as a citizen and as a member of the Janesville City Council," he said.


"I am most impressed with the level of professionalism exhibited by our police department. This is a highly private matter. My No. 1 priority is my family, especially my daughter."


Rashkin's daughter is 7 years old.


Rashkin said he will not let the incident interfere with his life, and he will continue his duties as council member.


"I've got a job to do," he said. "We've got to hire a Janesville City Manager (and I am) part of the interview process next week.


"And this is one of those situations where having normalcy is very desirable."


Reporters Kayla Bunge, Gina Duwe and Stacy Vogel contributed to this report.

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