Answers remain elusive one year after Tatyana Tupikova's death

Family, friends mourn Battle Ground woman who died in hit-and-run

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

How to help

• Tatyana Tupikova's death, considered a hit-and-run by police, is still active and open. As the case's one-year anniversary, police are asking the public for any clues related to her death or any suspicious activity near the cinema on the evening of May 9, 2012. The public is asked to submit tips online at www.cityofbg.org/tips or by contacting Detective Joshua Phelps at 360-342-5242 or at joshua.phelps@cityofbg.org.

• Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Submit a tip online at www.crimestoppersoforegon.com, text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP, followed by your tip, or call 503-823-HELP (4357). Tips can be anonymous.

It wasn't a quiet event remembering Tatyana Tupikova. Cars and big rigs rumbled by on Highway 503, past the memorial spot behind Battle Ground Cinema, some honking at the people holding signs Thursday to remember the 22-year-old who mysteriously died last May.

"Every once in a while it just gets really quiet," Sam Bascuti said.

In those moments of stillness, Tatyana's family talks about one year ago, when she left her home and never returned. Two days later, on May 11, 2012, a passerby noticed a body in the ditch about 50 feet from the northbound lanes, between Main Street and Eaton Boulevard, that turned out to be Tatyana's.

Her loved ones still don't have answers about her death. What happened? How?

An autopsy by the Clark County Medical Examiner's Office determined that Tatyana died of blunt force trauma. Over the last year, Battle Ground detectives have gotten many calls, interviewed several people and followed up on tips, but it hasn't led to anything.

"They have nothing. That's what's strange about it," Olga Tupikova said.

The events of that Wednesday were pieced together by Tatyana's family members. She's one of 14 children who live throughout the Portland-metro area.

That morning, Tatyana wrapped presents for her nephew's upcoming birthday party at her parents' home in Battle Ground. She made soup for her father, and friends invited her to Yo Factory Frozen Yogurt, near Highway 503 and Main Street. She loved to walk, sometimes to nearby stores or to meet her friends, but declined the invitation.

"I don't know why she didn't meet with her friends," Olga said.

A ticket stub found in her purse, showed that she went to the 6:30 p.m. showing of the Avengers. Her family called her cell phone, but there was no answer. Thursday, they filed a missing persons report and posted fliers with her picture all over town.

Detectives later suspected that while she was walking home from the movie, northbound on the east side of Highway 503 around 9 p.m., she was struck by an oncoming vehicle or some object sticking out of a vehicle.

In the weeks leading up to her disappearance, Tatyana had lost her job as a care provider at Mallard Landing, an assisted living facility in Battle Ground. She visited extended family she hadn't seen in a while and helped out with baby-sitting. Bascuti said she never really visited their home in Gresham before, but when she came over they talked for about five hours. Tatyana was described as outgoing, someone who didn't care what other people thought and who was always herself.

After her death, the family held a press conference, asked the public for any information related to the evening of May 9 and made "Justice for Tatyana" T-shirts and products. Their efforts were fruitless. Yellow evidence markers are still stuck in the ground, where she was found. The markers are torn and frayed, though. You wouldn't notice them if you just walked by.

The family goes in circles speculating about what happened.

"There's no conclusion. There's no end to it," Bascuti said. If the person responsible for Tatyana's death doesn't feel remorse, he said, there's no way to punish them.

"I mean, what can we do? We're not detectives. There's nothing there," said Lyuda Paliyev, pointing to the ditch. "We're not even looking for justice. We're just looking for answers. What happened?"

She says they have to learn to live without her -- something they'll learn their entire lives. Closure, however, means something different to each family member.

"I'm not sure what I want to find out. I'm afraid of what I'll find out," Olga said. "I'm afraid to be angry."

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/

col_cops; patty.hastings@columbian.com.