Immigrant's Quest Takes Bloody Detour

Posted: June 16, 2000

BRIDGETON, N.J. — Andrei Goumnov came to the United States four years ago to chase the American dream. The young Russian technical-school student was looking for opportunity, for a chance, family members say, to start a new life in a new world.

Instead, law enforcement authorities say, during a six-month period beginning in October 1997, Goumnov staged at least three violent home break-ins that left two people dead and six terrorized.

The crimes, in Atlantic and Cumberland Counties in New Jersey and in Bucks County in Pennsylvania, were carried out in similar fashion: The victims were bound and gagged by a gun-wielding intruder who then ransacked the homes.

Two of the three burglaries ended in murder.

"He's a stone-cold killer," said Cumberland County Prosecutor Arthur J. Marchand, who is scheduled to be in Superior Court here today when Goumnov is sent to prison for 45 years.

The sentence will be in return for his pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the 1998 strangulation of Gloria Jean Baglio in her Deerfield Township home.

Pending is a first-degree murder trial in Atlantic County for the November 1997 slaying of a Hamilton Township man who was shot by a masked burglar who had tied the victim's wife and son. The son was wounded in the same confrontation. Goumnov has pleaded not guilty to that charge.

He is also awaiting trial for an October 1997 home invasion in Springfield Township in which three Bucks County women and an infant were bound with duct tape and terrorized for hours as they cried and pleaded, "Please don't hurt us."

"There may be more," said Assistant Cumberland County Prosecutor Duane Bell, who worked the Baglio case. "There's a lot we don't know."

In fact, the investigation of Andrei Goumnov is a story littered with more questions than answers. Even his age - his sister says 23, authorities 25 - is in dispute.

Two years after arresting him, authorities frankly say they have been unable to piece together much of Goumnov's life in the United States. Were it not for a chance encounter between an unsuspecting Bucks County man and a trash bag in a wooded area off a highway near Hammonton, Goumnov might never even have been linked to any of the crimes with which he is charged.

More frustrating to some investigators and family members of his alleged victims is the fact that his visa had expired when the crimes were committed.

"He should not have been in this country," said Pam Baglio, 30, whose anger and grief over losing her mother has been compounded by the Immigration and Naturalization Service's policy regarding visas.

A spokesman said that the INS does not attempt to locate visitors whose visas have expired and that INS policy prohibited him from commenting on Goumnov's or any other visa issued by the INS.

* Like Andrei Goumnov, Gloria Jean Baglio (Jean or Jeanie, to friends) was trying to find a new life.

Separated after 35 years of marriage, she was living alone in the tidy ranch-style home on Kenyon Avenue in the Rosenhayn section of Deerfield Township where she had raised three children.

For more than a year, Baglio, 53, had been battling Lyme disease. Her daughter said the struggle had been exacerbated by the stress of a pending divorce and the prospect of living the rest of her life alone.

"She was depressed, for a lot of reasons," said Pam Baglio, who last spoke to her mother, by phone, on the morning of March 18, 1998.

Toward the end of the call, Pam Baglio said, her mother told her: "I can't take this anymore. Sometimes, I just wish it would end."

The next morning, concerned because their mother wasn't answering her phone, Pam Baglio and her sister, Donna Mitchell, rushed to the Kenyon Avenue home. As soon as they had walked in the door, they knew there was a problem.

In the living room, papers were scattered over the floor. A safe lay open in the hallway. Blood was splattered on a wall.

In a back bedroom, the sisters found their mother, face down on a bed, hog-tied, "like a calf," Pam Baglio said.

There was a belt around her neck and blood from what appeared to be a bullet wound in one hand. An exercise bike had been placed on top of her.

"I killed the lady but did not mean to," Andrei Goumnov said in a signed statement that is part of the court record. "I just wanted to make her be quiet."

About $20,000, jewelry, a computer, savings bonds worth about $5,000, a coin collection, and some luggage had been taken, Pam Baglio said.

"We figure he used the suitcases to carry out what he took," she said.

* Ten days after Jean Baglio's body had been found, Ron Semock, en route home to Bensalem from Atlantic City, pulled his van off along the side of Route 206 just outside of Hammonton. He stopped, he told investigators, because "he needed to use the bathroom."

He walked several hundred feet into the woods, where he stumbled upon two trash bags. Inside one, he found savings bonds in the name of Gloria Jean Baglio. They included her address. That afternoon, Semock drove 30 miles out of his way to try to return the bonds, investigators said.

Semock, through his mother, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Jim Parent, the Cumberland County detective working the case, said Semock got to Kenyon Avenue, knocked on the door of one of Jean Baglio's neighbors, and asked where Baglio lived. The neighbor told him of the murder and steered him to a nearby New Jersey State Police barracks.

Investigators sifting through the trash bags found several envelopes they believed had contained the cash stolen from Jean Baglio's safe.

They also found two motor-vehicle citations, a court summons, and a Radio Shack credit-card receipt - all in the name of Andrei Goumnov.

On April 7, 1998, Cumberland County detectives and the New Jersey State Police raided two homes in the Vineland area where Goumnov had lived. At his sister's house on Palermo Avenue, they arrested Goumnov and recovered a stash of stolen property, most of it locked in a metal storage cabinet that he kept in his room.

Computers, jewelry and other items from the Baglio case and from the burglary of a Springfield home were recovered, as were several handguns. Police have declined to comment on whether any of the guns have been linked to the crimes with which Goumnov is charged.

Several items linked to burglaries in Shamokin Township, Pa., and Ventnor, N.J., were also found in the bedroom, Bell said. Both cases are under investigation.

Goumnov was charged in the Baglio murder and burglary at the time of his arrest. Two months later, based on DNA evidence, investigators said, he was charged in the home break-in and shooting death of Robert Botbyl Sr.

Botbyl, 47, was killed and his son, Robert Jr., 29, wounded by a masked gunman who broke into their Sterling Avenue home in Hamilton Township late on the afternoon of Nov. 4, 1997.

* Andrei Goumnov has told his family that he does not want to talk about what happened.

"He tells me not to ask any questions," his sister, Tatyana Sytailo, 26, said as she sat with her mother, Vera, in the kitchen of a home, outside Millville, where they now live. "He said it will only make things worse."

Her brother, she said, came to this country to visit her and her husband in August 1996. They had immigrated here in 1995.

Sytailo described her younger brother, and only sibling, as a hard worker and good student who had completed two years in a technical school in Novgorod, a small city about 300 miles west of Moscow, before coming here.

He had worked briefly as a dishwasher at a Denny's restaurant, then as a construction worker for a friend of hers who did small home repairs.

"He worked hard, and he was a nice guy," said Ludmila Kerusenko, 21, who dated Goumnov here.

Goumnov lived for a time in the basement of Kerusenko's home on West Oak Road outside Vineland before moving back with his sister and brother-in-law.

"He would go to work 8 o'clock in the morning and come home 8 o'clock at night all sweaty and dirty," said Kerusenko's father, Yakov, who came to New Jersey 10 years ago from Kiev.

"A thief and a murderer doesn't go to work," Kerusenko said, echoing his daughter's feelings and insisting that there is more to the case than investigators have discovered.

Sytailo agrees. She said her brother often complained of not making enough money, chiding her and her husband, both of whom had studied to be pharmacists in Russia, for working in a glass factory for $16 an hour.

"He wanted more," she said.

About a year after his arrival, her brother tired of his construction job, she said, and began to look for other "opportunities," traveling several times to New York to visit "friends." Later, he boasted of those friends' "connections."

"If you have any problems, we can take care of them," he would say, implying, Sytailo believed, that his friends were part of the Russian underworld.

Despite his brash talk, Sytailo said, her brother was naive. Like the Kerusenkos, she believes that he worked for or was set up by others and that he is too afraid to say anything.

But Marchand, the Cumberland County prosecutor, said there was no evidence tying Goumnov to either Russian organized crime, a rumor that surfaced early in the investigation, or any accomplice.

And to Pam Baglio and her family, it almost doesn't matter.

"I don't think we'll ever know everything," she said. "A lot of this is conjecture and assumption.

" . . . But of all the valuables he took, nothing compares to the value of the life of my mother. He took something priceless from us. And there's no way we can ever get that back."

George Anastasia's e-mail address is ganastasia@phillynews.com

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