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Police Arrest Cosby Murder Suspect After Enquirer Reward Yields Lead

By Miles Corwin and Matt Lait
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES

Police Thursday identified an 18-year-old Russian immigrant as the man who allegedly shot and killed Ennis Cosby during a bungled robbery attempt nearly two months ago.

Mikail "Michael" Markhasev was arrested two days ago on suspicion of murder. Police said Markhasev, who immigrated to the United States eight years ago and lives in the San Fernando Valley, has a criminal record.

Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams said at a news conference that investigators have recovered a knit cap and a handgun that have been linked to the case. He said tests determined that the gun was used in the Jan. 16 slaying of Cosby, the 27-year-old son of entertainer Bill Cosby. A witness had described Cosby's assailant as wearing a knit cap.

The young Cosby was trying to fix a flat tire on his Mercedes-Benz convertible on a side road above Bel-Air when he was attacked.

"It appears that robbery was the motive," Williams said. "It was happenstance. It could have been a man, woman or child, black, white, or gray. There is no relation between the suspect and Mr. Cosby. It could have been you or I."

Williams said a man and a woman who were detained Wednesday for questioning in connection with the slaying were released from custody and are not considered suspects at this time. The investigation, however, is continuing, he said.

"We're not looking for any other suspect involved in the shooting at this time," Williams said. "We may find out that somebody may have been involved before [or] knew something, hid something from us afterwards so that's the part that's still ongoing."

He said homicide investigators tracked down Markhasev with information provided by a tipster who initially called the National Enquirer in January seeking the tabloid's $100,000 reward.

The paper passed the caller on to LAPD detectives who used the information to help them obtain at least three search warrants and conduct surveillance.

"It's amazing," said David Perel, executive editor of the National Enquirer. "It's not too often that a newspaper can help solve a murder."

The tipster will receive the reward if Markhasev is convicted of the killing, Perel said.

According to Perel, the tipster claimed that the murder was part of a botched robbery attempt by a man connected to a Russian car theft ring. Although Markhasev is of Russian heritage, Williams said, there is no evidence to suggest he was part of any criminal organization. Williams said Markhasev has a criminal record, but he would not elaborate.

"This guy was a street thug," one police source said. "He had a pretty healthy record. We have a lot of repeat customers and he's definitely one of them."