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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Ex-Worker to Stand Trial in Businessman's Slaying

May 13, 1999|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the defendant trembled, a judge ordered the Uzbekistan immigrant to stand trial in the slaying of a computer software executive shot nine times at a Camarillo office in January.

Judge Kevin McGee held Mikhail Khaimchayev, 29, to answer charges of murder and use of a handgun to commit a crime--offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison.

Khaimchayev shook throughout the 90-minute preliminary hearing. Lawyer Howard Asher said his client's frail condition resulted from a combination of nerves and poor health that prompted him to gnaw on his lips and chatter his teeth.

The hearing was dominated by the testimony of three employees who saw the defendant at the office of Postal Innovations on the afternoon of Jan. 13.

An office manager said she greeted the distraught former employee as he walked directly past her to the office of Sheldon Snyder, 36, a co-owner of the company.

Two other employees said they ran downstairs after hearing a barrage of gunfire to find Khaimchayev, who had apparently shot himself in the stomach, screaming in agony, and Snyder, who was riddled with bullets, clinging to life.

"I heard gurgling noises and I felt he was still alive," testified Rick Woodman, a software engineer. "I put my hand on him and said, 'Hang on, help is on the way.' "

Before police arrived, Woodman said, he walked over to Khaimchayev and asked, "Why did you shoot him?

"He said, 'because he would not give me work.' "

Prosecutors believe Khaimchayev targeted Snyder because he was fired in mid-1998 after working about eight weeks as a computer programmer at the postal software company. Employees said after the shooting that Khaimchayev had poor computer skills and did not have a full command of English.

Although Snyder was not Khaimchayev's immediate supervisor and had nothing to do with hiring and firing employees, authorities believe the defendant shot Snyder because he was a company owner.

The first to take the stand Wednesday was office manager Sandra Strecker. She said Khaimchayev had called earlier on the afternoon of the shooting and asked for Snyder. She told him Snyder was out, but would be back.

Later, Khaimchayev walked into the office and smiled as he walked past Strecker and down a hallway to Snyder's office.

"He said, 'Hi, how are you?' I said, 'Fine, Michael, how are you?' And by that time he was already past me," Strecker said.

Then, Strecker said, she heard between nine and 10 shots within a few seconds. She grabbed the phone, dialed 911 and crouched behind her desk.

It was over in seconds, Strecker said. She peeked around the corner to see Khaimchayev.

"I saw Michael laying on the floor and [a co-worker] was holding his hand," Strecker said.

In the months after his June firing, Strecker said, Khaimchayev repeatedly responded to the company's newspaper ads for programmers. Khaimchayev, however, usually did not speak to Snyder about the positions, Strecker testified.

"As a general rule, [Snyder] didn't have anything to do with that," she said. "I don't think [Snyder] had any dealings with him."

Woodman recalled that he was on the second floor of the two-level office when gunshots began. At first, he said, he thought the loud blast was a nail gun.

"I just didn't think someone would fire a gun in our building," Woodman said.

Then he heard Strecker scream, and there were more shots. As he ran down a back stairway, he could see Khaimchayev lying in a hallway, he said. Woodman and another employee, software test engineer John Carroll, then ran toward Snyder's office.

Snyder was on the floor. Woodman knelt over him and could see three bullet holes in his fleece pullover. He said he picked up Khaimchayev's gun and a bullet clip with some paper towels and stored it on his desk. He then returned to Snyder, who now appeared to be dead.

"I couldn't hear any breathing or gurgling noises," Woodman said. "And there was no pulse."

In the hallway, Carroll said, he clutched Khaimchayev's hand and held him to the floor. The Uzbek immigrant shouted in a foreign language, Carroll said, and tried to stand up.

"I told him to try to relax, help was on the way," Carroll said. "I could see he was in a lot of pain."

Carroll said Khaimchayev acknowledged that he had shot himself. Khaimchayev was later rushed to the hospital, where he spent several weeks in intensive care. Asher said his client is still suffering from ailments caused by the shooting and complications from surgery.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bob Calvert said an autopsy revealed Snyder had been shot nine times in the front and back.

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