A recent college graduate from Russia, gunned down shortly after he walked a friend to a home on Arctic Avenue last week, was the city's 12th homicide victim this year, his friend confirmed Friday.
Konstantin Sergeivich Kraev, 22, was working his second summer in Atlantic City and planned to return home this week. But he was shot Sept. 23, shortly after walking Ekaterina Chernobaeva to a friend's home in what he told her was a dangerous part of the city, she said.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said Friday that his office had identified the man who was fatally shot at about 10:30 p.m. Sept. 23 but would not release his identity until his family was notified. But Chernobaeva, 19, who confirmed his identity, told The Press of Atlantic City that she talked to Kraev's father in Russia, and that they are trying to make arrangements to contact police.
"His friend has indicated to us also that she's notified the parents," Housel said, adding that he still wants someone from his office to talk to the family before he can officially confirm the victim's identity.
"He was very worried," Chernobaeva said of why Kraev went with her on the half-hour walk from their neighborhood on North Georgia Avenue. "He agreed to go with me just for my safety."
"He was always thinking about other people," she said in a thick Russian accent.
A few days after the shooting last week, Housel released a photo of the dead man hoping someone would be able to identify him. Whether the office had received any calls from that release was unclear Friday, but Chernobaeva said she called police Wednesday night after being unable to find her friend since he dropped her off a couple of blocks from the killing.
Chernobaeva met Kraev in May, shortly after arriving in Atlantic City. The agency that sent her there for summer work said someone from her hometown of Stavropol, Russia, was there as well. Kraev helped her with everything she said, including English.
Kraev was spending his second summer in Atlantic City, working at the arcade inside Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, said his boss, Dave Kleinschrodt, general manager of Globe Vending in Egg Harbor Township.
"He had a great work ethic and a fantastic personality," he said. "He was just a good kid. As a parent, he's the kind of kid you would hope your kids turn out to be."
That's why Kleinschrodt worried when Kraev did not show up to work Sept. 25, after his scheduled weekend.
When Kraev still had not called or shown up the next day, a search began. Calls to his cell phone found the service disconnected, Kleinschrodt said.
There was no answer at the Seaside Avenue address they had for his apartment, although Kleinschrodt said they later discovered he was really living on North Georgia Avenue.
"My initial feeling was that he must have gone home," Kleinschrodt said. "That there must have been some kind of emergency and he had to leave."
Chernobaeva said that's what she was told when she showed up looking for her friend Tuesday. But she was worried.
Since Friday, she had been coming daily to Kraev's apartment to try to find him. They had spent a lot of time together, and she found it strange that she could not find him. On Sunday, she used a key he had given her in the beginning of the summer and thought she had lost. Nothing seemed wrong, but the next day — when everything was in the same spot — she grew suspicious. She visited the Taj arcade Tuesday, and by Wednesday decided to call police.
When she showed them Kraev's passport picture, she said they believed he was the unidentified man killed over the weekend.
"They asked what he was doing in that area," Chernobaeva said. "Was it drugs? I told them he never never used drugs. He never drank alcohol or nothing. He was never in this area before, he just walk with me."
Kleinschrodt said he got the call Thursday from the agency that placed Kraev with his business, telling him the body had been identified.
"It was a shock," Kleinschrodt said. "We had become very close. It's almost like losing a relative, that's how close he was to us."
Kleinschrodt said Kraev had just graduated from college in Russia and was planning to return home and work in his family's business remodeling apartment complexes. He had majored in translation and spoke perfect English.
Chernobaeva said she got in touch with Kraev's father Friday - the day the young man was supposed to return home. The grieving family tried to get as many details from her as they could.
She told them that their son walked with her and she watched as he headed back the way they had come.
"Everything was so quiet," she said. "Nothing strange. Nothing special."
Chernobaeva is still struggling to understand what happened.
"It's really crazy in the streets that at 10 o'clock to just kill a young guy," she said. "He was just a very good guy."
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