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The man suspected of stabbing his ex-wife 72 times in her Bellevue home last month and then fleeing to California pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder at his arraignment Wednesday morning.

Aleksandr Polak is accused of stabbing Nataliya Vabishchevich, 35, repeatedly with a knife in the head, neck, hands, arms and chest — 72 times in all — in her Bellevue apartment while their teenage son was at school.

During Wednesday’s arraignment, King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle granted two motions made by the state, adding a domestic-violence allegation to the charges and barring Polak from any contact with his mother, sister, teenage nephew and two of Polak’s friends.

The relatives and friends are “direct witnesses to the planning and preparation of this crime,” said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Berliner, who noted there is evidence Polak enlisted his nephew’s help in carrying out the slaying.

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The boy unknowingly provided assistance to his uncle and is not considered an accomplice, Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff to Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said after the hearing.

Polak, a 46-year-old Latvian native who has been held without bail since his return to King County, appeared in court with his defense attorney and a Russian interpreter.

A second Russian interpreter sat in the gallery, flanked by members of the victim’s family.

Vabishchevich’s body was found June 17 by a co-worker who went to check on her when she didn’t show up to work.

Vabishchevich’s 14-year-old son said his mother had been alive when he left for school around 7:15 that morning.

Polak’s sister told Bellevue detectives she had not spoken to her brother in five years and would not allow him into her apartment; but the sister did not know that Polak had been spending time with her own 14-year-old son, charging papers say.

Polak’s nephew later told officers he thought Polak was depressed about not being able to see his son but agreed not to tell his aunt or cousin that Polak had returned to Washington, the papers say.

The boy confirmed that Vabishchevich’s apartment could be reached from his apartment by a short path through the woods connecting their complexes, charging papers say.

Two days after the slaying, two Bellevue police officers followed Polak onto a bus at Seattle’s Greyhound station bound for San Diego, charging papers say. One of the officers overheard Polak asking a female passenger if she knew how to get from San Diego to an airport across the border in Mexico, the papers say.

Polak was arrested on June 20 as he got off the bus in Los Angeles. A second passenger told officers that Polak had asked him about the best way to get out of Mexico and fly back to Europe, according to the charges.

He was extradited to King County last week and is being held without bail.

After their marriage ended in divorce about seven years ago, Polak threatened to kill Vabishchevich, according to charging documents. One of Vabishchevich’s friends said she remembered a particular occasion when she had been baby-sitting the couple’s son, who lived with Vabishchevich.

The friend said Polak came to the apartment looking to reconcile with his ex-wife. If Vabishchevich wouldn’t take him back, he said he would kill her, the friend said, according to the documents.

“I kill people,” the friend said he threatened. “I hurt people and don’t mess with me.”

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or

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