Slain Bride’s Parents Tormented by ‘If Onlys’
Anastasia’s parents are tormented by thoughts of what might have been.
If only they hadn’t pushed their daughter so hard to succeed, to seek in America what they couldn’t provide in Kyrgyzstan. If only they hadn’t given the matchmaking agency that photo of Anastasia looking so fresh and innocent. If only they hadn’t believed the lies of that fast-talking American who wanted to make Anastasia his wife.
“We were so blind,” says her mother, a black shawl of mourning wrapped around her shoulders. “If I had trusted him less, I could have saved my daughter.”
Anastasia King was a mail-order bride, one of the 4,000 to 6,000 women who come to America each year, marrying men they barely know.
Many of them find economic security, and some even find love.
Anastasia found her way to a shallow grave. Indle King Jr., convicted of murdering his young bride, was sentenced March 25 to nearly 29 years in prison.
The punishment may be fair but it brings little solace, for nothing can return Anastasia to them, say her parents, Anatolyi Soloviev and Alevtina Solovieva. Memories will have to do, and of those they have no end. Anastasia had an astonishing smile, her parents say. It was a smile that turned heads and lit up the bleakest day like sunshine.
She was their only child, and in her they invested the dreams they could not realize for themselves in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic where prosperity eludes all but a few.
The parents, both music teachers in Bishkek, tried to shield their family from worldly woes with what Alevtina calls “a wall of music.” But they worried about how to pay for a good education for Anastasia, a diligent student and gifted pianist.
When they heard that a relative had found an American husband through a mail-order bride service, they signed up Anastasia. Soon a photograph of their 18-year-old daughter--sitting on the floor, beaming that astonishing smile--joined the pictures of dozens of other women in a catalog.
Before long, letters started arriving. There were piles of them, and among them was one from a man named Indle King.
He’d enclosed a photograph, but it was very small. Mother and daughter peered at it. He seemed old and overweight. “Is that a beard, or a second chin?” Alevtina wondered.
But Indle King was persistent. He wrote, he called, and in December 1997 he arrived in Kyrgyzstan for a visit. He struck Anastasia’s father as an organized, efficient man. He impressed Anastasia’s mother with his interest in classical music.
He was highly educated, with an MBA from the University of Chicago, and was from a well-to-do family in Seattle, which the Solovievs knew as the prosperous land of Bill Gates.
Still, the parents had reservations. At 36, Indle was twice their daughter’s age, and at 270 pounds was nearly twice her weight. She was beautiful, with silken hair down to her waist; he was dumpy and nearly bald. He’d also been married and divorced before, to another Russian mail-order bride, which they wondered about until he explained that she had run off, abandoning him most cruelly.
He had a keen sense of humor, and he swept up Anastasia with promises of a wonderful life. She’d find adventure and a good education in America, he told her, and she’d never want for money.
“A man loves with his eyes, but a woman loves with her ears,” Alevtina says. “The girl just idealized him.”
Three months after meeting Indle in Kyrgyzstan, Anastasia flew to America for a visit. One month after that, on April 30, 1998, they went before a justice of the peace and were married.
The honeymoon soon ended.
Anastasia complained that her husband wanted to know where she was every minute of the day. He wouldn’t let her get a driver’s license. They argued a lot. He said he wanted children; she said she wasn’t ready.
He wasn’t as well-off as he’d led her to believe, so they took in boarders at their home in Mountlake Terrace, a suburb of Seattle. Anastasia enrolled at the University of Washington and worked long hours as a waitress and restaurant hostess. Indle took money from her account.
Anastasia read books about how to save a marriage, but nothing seemed to help. By the summer of 2000, two years into their marriage, “it was warfare,” her mother says.
Indle was corresponding with other prospective mail-order brides. Anastasia was seeing other men and keeping a list of her husband’s transgressions. He threatened to hurt her, forced her to have sex, and forbade her from going to a counselor, she wrote in a journal that she hid in a safe-deposit box.
Anastasia grew depressed. One day, she showed up at work with bandages covering cuts on her wrists, recalls her boss, Patty Swaney.
“Nothing can be that bad, ever,” Swaney admonished her.
“It was a weak moment,” Anastasia said. “I won’t do it again.”
In August 2000, Anastasia flew to Kyrgyzstan, her second visit that summer to see her parents. Shortly after she left, Indle filed for divorce, telling his attorney that he had no idea where his wife was, even though he talked with Anastasia frequently by phone.
In September, Indle joined his wife in Kyrgyzstan. By this point, Anastasia was telling her parents she was determined to go back to America, get divorced and apply for permanent residence, now that she’d been married for the required two years to a U.S. citizen.
The couple arrived at the Seattle airport on Sept. 22, 2000, and took a shuttle bus to their home. It was the last day Anastasia was seen alive.
Indle King initially told police he’d left his wife in Moscow, changing his story only when confronted with records that showed them clearing Customs together in Seattle.
He still insists he had nothing to do with the death of his wife, but jurors at his five-week murder trial earlier this year came to believe a different tale told by Daniel Larson, 21, a boarder in the Kings’ home.
In December 2000, Larson led investigators to Anastasia’s body, buried in a shallow grave on an Indian reservation 25 miles away.
At trial, Larson testified that Indle King had enlisted him to kill Anastasia so he could avoid another expensive divorce like the one from his first wife, which cost him $55,000.
Larson said Indle lured Anastasia into the garage the night they returned, then grabbed her in a bear hug while Larson slipped a necktie around her neck. The trio lurched back into the house, where Indle lay on top of her while Larson twisted ever tighter, Larson said.
They stripped her body and cut off her long, blond hair, then stuffed her into a shallow grave, Larson testified.
Defense attorneys raised doubts about Larson, a convicted sex offender who changed his story several times and testified only after prosecutors offered him a plea bargain for second-degree murder.
But the jury not only convicted Indle King of first-degree murder, they fell in love with Anastasia.
On Feb. 24, three days after handing down their verdict, all but two of the jurors joined Anastasia’s parents at a graveside service. They held hands in a circle around the grave and prayed. Alevtina and Anatolyi gave them each a chocolate egg, one of Anastasia’s favorite treats, and the jurors gave the parents a plaque.
“In remembrance of Anastasia,” it read, “who only wished to follow her dream.”
Brought to America last year to help investigators, Anastasia’s parents now are asking immigration officials to grant them a special humanitarian visa to stay, saying they want to remain close to their daughter’s grave.
Alevtina tries to focus on memories of better times, such as the days in September 2000, when Anastasia, finding strength among family in Kyrgyzstan, regained her bubbly confidence. She started flashing that astonishing smile again, and people turned to look when she walked by.
But one memory leads to the next, and Alevtina cannot help but think about how her daughter looked when she realized her husband soon would arrive to take her back to America.
She would be strong, Anastasia told her mother. She would do what she had to do. But she did not look strong. Her whole body seemed to shrink at the very thought of Indle King. Her green eyes stared vacantly, and tears flowed down her cheeks.
“Mama,” Anastasia asked, “why do I feel so sad?”