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A University of Pittsburgh student was beaten to death inside her home in the city’s Oakland neighborhood Sunday and police are searching for her ex-boyfriend in connection to her homicide.
Alina Sheykhet, 20, was killed just days after securing a protective order against her ex, 21-year-old Matthew Darby, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Darby has not been named as a suspect, but police are looking to question him.
Darby was arrested last month on felony trespassing charges in connection to an incident at Sheykhet’s home, and his $10,000 bail has been revoked in that case, making him a wanted man. Darby could be driving a black 2013 Chevrolet Cruze with Pennsylvania license plate HBT1677, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Police said he is possibly armed and dangerous, according to the newspaper. “At this point in the investigation, he has not been charged in the homicide,” police said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Was Found Dead of Blunt Force Trauma to the Head in Her Apartment After Her Father Kicked Down the Door
Alina Sheykhet was found dead Sunday morning in the home she was renting in the 3500 block of Cable Place in the Oakland neighborhood, Pittsburgh police said in a press release.
“At 8:56 a.m. Sunday, October 8, Paramedics and Zone 4 Officers were dispatched to a residence in the 3500 block of Cable Place in Oakland for a report that a female was found unresponsive. Upon arrival, officers discovered the 20-year-old female on the second floor of the residence. Paramedics pronounced her deceased at the scene from blunt force trauma,” police said.
Sheykhet was found by her father on the second floor of her home after he kicked in her door, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
“We were supposed to pick her up at 8:30 a.m. to go on a dog walk for breast cancer in Allison Park,” Yan Sheykhet told the newspaper. “She wasn’t answering my call. Nobody was answering the door. I pushed open the door and she was laying on the floor. I was screaming, asking her to breathe. But she didn’t. There was lots of blood.”
Yan Sheykhet told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had dropped his daughter off at her apartment about 11 p.m. Saturday night after she finished working at the Hilton Garden Inn in Oakland.
“She worked with customers at the front desk,” he told the Tribune-Review. “It was a good job for her because she was so friendly.”
She and her family were planning to celebrate her brother’s 25th birthday later Sunday:
Police Chief Scott Schubert said in a statement, “We do not believe at this time that this was a random act of violence. There is no continued threat to Oakland residents and the university communities. However, releasing additional details at this time could be detrimental to the investigation. As with each homicide investigation, our primary interest is collecting sufficient evidence that can be successfully used in a court of law.”
Sheykhet’s ex-boyfriend, Matt Darby, has not been named as a suspect in her death, but police did ask Monday for the public’s help in finding him.
“Right now we are looking at several different possible scenarios as to the circumstances surrounding this,” Pittsburgh Police Sergeant William Vollbergn told KDKA-TV.
The investigation is ongoing. “I encourage anyone with information that could be helpful to call police headquarters and speak to a Violent Crime Unit Detective,” Schubert said. The Violent Crime Unit can be reached by calling 412-323-7800, police said.
The medical examiner ruled Sheykhet’s cause of death a homicide and said the manner of death was “sharp/blunt trauma of the head.”
2. Her Boyfriend Was Accused of Breaking Into Her Home Last Month & Is Also Facing Rape Charges in an Unrelated Case
Matt Darby was arrested after he “climbed up the gutter on the side of the house and broke through the second floor window” of Sheykhet’s home, according to court documents she filed in September. Sheykhet said Darby broke into her home because she “left him and stopped answering his phone calls.”
The incident occurred September 21 and Darby was later charged with felony criminal trespassing. He was released after posting $10,000 bail.
Sheykhet listed “grabbing, pushing,” as previous incidents of abuse in the documents, which you can see below. She also accused Darby of “emotional abuse,” and said he showed “jealousy” and was “controlling.” The protection order was granted, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Sheykhet met Darby while she was studying at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, her father told KDKA-TV. He said that his daughter broke up with Darby after she moved to the University of Pittsburgh main campus, but Darby “continued to chase her.”
Sheykhet’s father told the newspaper that his daughter went to court last week with him and her mother to obtain the protection from abuse (PFA) order. The documents show that an October 4 court date had been set. Yan Sheykhet said he was told authorities served Darby with the PFA order at his job at UPS in Greensburg on Friday. The order barred Darby from going to Sheykhet’s Oakland home.
He told the Tribune-Review that his daughter had been trying to end things with Darby before the break-in.
“For the last couple of weeks she had told me she tried to stop talking to him,” he told the newspaper. “She disconnected his phone number, Facebook and all that stuff. I heard his name but I never met him personally.”
Matthew Darby was charged with rape and other sexual assault offenses in an unrelated case in Indiana County in March, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Details of the rape case were not immediately available. According to court documents, the incident that led to the charges occurred February 23, 2017. He posted $10,000 bail in that case after his March arrest. Amended charges were filed in June. He was charged with rape forcible compulsion, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault – forcible compulsion and indecent assault – forcible compulsion. Other charges of hindering apprehension/prosecution or concealing/destroying evidence, obstruction and tampering with evidence were dismissed.
He was scheduled to appear in court October 6.
His attorney, David Schrager, told the Post-Gazette, “We are conducting a thorough investigation of all the facts, but until I’m in possession of all the facts, I could not adequately advise my client. I’m hoping to able to have more information” on Tuesday.
Read more about Matthew Darby and the search for him at the link below:
3. She Came to the U.S. From Russia as a Child & Dreamed of Being a Physical Therapist Working With Children
Alina Sheykhet was originally from Ivanovo, Russia, and went to Montour High School in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, graduating in 2015, according to her Facebook page. She was expected to graduate from Pitt in 2019.
Her father, Yan, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she was “the best person in the world,” and excelled at dancing, singing and gymnastics. He told the Tribune-Review that his daughter wanted to be a physical therapist working with children.
“It was her dream. And she worked so hard. I lost my beautiful princess. I don’t know what else to say. She made everyone happy. She had such a bright future,” he told the newspaper.
She came to the Pittsburgh area as a child, her friend, Sammy Balyasny, who is also Russian, told WTAE-TV.
“It’s very troubling for them of course when they found out about it. It’s tragic. A tragic situation. She moved from Russia to America you know. It’s sad that it happened here you know. It’s very emotional and troubling,” Balyasny told the news station.
4. Friends Remembered Her as ‘Lovable’ & the ‘Funniest Girl Ever’
Sheridan McHenry, who went to school with Sheykhet, told WTAE, “She was like a really lovable person so I was just so surprised to see that she got killed. So it was just shocking. She was always a sweet person. Every time we were in school she always had a bright attitude, never had problems with anyone. The fact that we hear about this sweet girl, this happening to her, is pretty sad to hear.”
Another childhood friend, Hunter Smith, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette she was the “probably funniest girl I’ve ever met. … Everyone gravitated toward her because she was so nice and so kind. She was always the one looking to have fun.”
5. The University Says It’s ‘Saddened’ by Her Death & Is Offering Counseling to Students
Pitt issued a statement Monday about her death.
“The University confirms that a Pitt student has died and her family is aware. Pitt Police are providing assistance to the Pittsburgh Police, which is leading the investigation. Police do not believe the situation, which occurred off campus, provides further threat to the University community. Our campus is saddened and extends its deepest sympathies to the student’s family and those who knew her,” a University of Pittsburgh spokesperson said in a statement.
The school said counseling will be available to students.
“The University Counseling Center will be open for walk-in appointments beginning Monday and can be reached around the clock at (412) 648-7930.”
Her funeral will be held later this week, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Her death notice reads, “Gone too young and too soon. You will be in our hearts forever. Rest in peace, our little angel.”
According to the newspaper, visitation will be held Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Ralph Schugar Chapel Inc. in Shadyside. Services will be Wednesday at a local funeral home, the newspaper reports.