The Case

On July 22, 2001, Michael Hetrick killed Stephanie Sipe in her apartment in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After the murder, investigators quickly focused on Ivan Teleguz, the father of Stephanie’s child, as their primary suspect. Even though DNA evidence at the crime scene showed early in the investigation that Ivan could not have been the killer, the Commonwealth continued to pursue Ivan and built a case against him based on the word of three men: Hetrick; Edwin Gilkes; and Aleksey Safanov.

At Ivan’s trial, these men told jurors that Ivan had hired Hetrick and Gilkes to kill Stephanie. Ivan was found guilty based on this testimony.The alleged motive was that Ivan did not want to pay child support, although investigation would show that Ivan actually was making child support payments before Stephanie’s murder, and he continued to do so after her death.

Gilkes also testified that Ivan was involved in another murder in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and the prosecution told jurors that showed Ivan was dangerous. After hearing this, jurors sentenced Ivan to death.

In exchange for providing information against Ivan, all three witnesses were given generous deals for their own crimes. Hetrick, whose DNA matched the blood at the crime scene, was given a life sentence in return for implicating Ivan. After Ivan’s trial, Gilkes and Safanov gave sworn statements admitting they lied when they claimed Ivan was involved in the murder, and that Ivan is innocent. Gilkes also admitted that his testimony about the Ephrata murder was false—in fact, the murder never even happened. Despite this new evidence, Virginia plans to execute Ivan.