A married sheriff’s deputy who emigrated to the U.S. from Russia in 2007 has been implicated in the bizarre death of a champion speedskater who she claimed had wasted away after suddenly contracting mad cow disease.
Friends of former Olympian Boris Leikin told The Daily Beast that they watched the super-fit athlete grow increasingly disoriented and frail while his supposed lover kept him isolated, refusing to let others communicate with him before she allegedly stole his life savings.
Marina Billings, 49, and her husband Robert, 70, are now charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office confirmed. They’re accused of fleecing Leikin of his Cottonwood Heights, Utah home and assets before he died mysteriously last July at the age of 69.
Billings was raised in Siberia, where she reportedly owned an advertising agency, and became a booking deputy at the Bannock County, Idaho jail in 2014. She worked two jobs, at Wal-Mart and Denny’s, when she first arrived in America with her young daughter and said in a 2016 interview that she loved being a deputy because, “When I come to work…it’s like family. I know everybody will cover my back.”
She met Leikin last year, in a Facebook group for Russian speakers, according to a charging document obtained by The Daily Beast. A few months later, Leikin learned that Billings was married, the filing states. Still, Leikin told a friend that “he was in love with Marina, who is over 20 years his junior,” it says.
Leikin was one of the oldest athletes to compete at the Olympic level, and set Masters world records in 2013 and 2014. In an online memorial, the International Masters' Speed Skating Committee noted Leikin’s participation in the U.S. Olympic trials in 1998, 2002, and 2005, at the age of 53. He eagerly mentored young skaters, and was said to be revered by those in the game.
Leikin and Billings saw each other frequently, visiting each other in Utah and Idaho. But last spring, strange things started to happen to Leikin, who friends say had always been a paragon of health.
Ule Archuletta, president of the Utah Masters Speed Skating League—where Leikin was a director—said he raced with Leikin in March. All appeared normal at the time, and Leikin was active at the skating club, training and coaching others.
In May, while out for a hike with Leikin, Archuletta first realized that something was not right with his longtime skating partner.
“Shortly after he met her, he started complaining about headaches and not being able to sleep, and then it just progressively got worse,” Archuletta told The Daily Beast. “It all seemed amiss because he was one of the top skaters in his age division in the world.”
When he went over to Leikin’s house a couple of weeks later, Archuletta said Leikin “was weak, he couldn’t recognize the people who were there, and when I asked him who the president was, he laughed it off. But then he said, ‘I’m not sure.’”
It “was basically like he had dementia,” said Archuletta. “And that’s when she moved into the house.”
A day or two later, a concerned Archuletta stopped by Leikin’s house to check on him. But Billings refused to let Archuletta inside, he said, adding, “That’s when I called the police.”
Others told a similar story once cops began digging in.
A married couple that Leikin was friendly with told detectives that Leikin contacted them in early May and said he was experiencing unexplainable health issues. Within a few weeks, he had deteriorated to the point he was hospitalized.
The couple “attempted to make contact with Boris while he was hospitalized but were told that Marina had put restrictions on any persons having contact with Boris, other than herself, claiming that she was Boris’ fiancé [sic] and had power of attorney,” the charging document states. “According to hospital staff and social works [sic], they suspected Boris was severely neglected and he was in very serious condition. [The couple] stated that Boris had no family to advocate for him while he was being hospitalized, which was a great concern.”
Further, Billings “informed Boris’ friends and neighbors that she was taking control of Boris’ finances while he was hospitalized,” according to the filing.
Leikin was discharged from the hospital on May 28 and went home, where Billings said she would care for him.
A woman who lived across the street from Leikin told investigators that Billings contacted her on May 30 and asked her to come over because “Boris wanted to adjust his will,” the charging document explains. When she got there, Billings told the neighbor and her husband “that Boris may have mad cow disease and was terminal.”
An unknown “older man” was also there, who was later identified as Billings’ husband, Robert, who worked as an FBI electronics technician, according to public records. He said Leikin wanted to “change one line in his will,” according to the filing, which says the neighbor “watched as Marina put the pen in Boris’ hand, put the will document under the pen that Boris was holding, but Boris was not able to sign the will. Boris could not keep the pen on the line and sign his signature.”
Eventually, Billings was able to get Leikin, whose hands were shaking uncontrollably, to sign the will. But he appeared unaware of what he was doing, said the neighbor, who subsequently told police that Billings was talking to Leikin “in a very peculiar way and described it as though she was treating him like [a] dog.” “Marina talked to me that weekend and asked if he had a will and all that, and later she [suddenly] had the will,” Archuletta told The Daily Beast. “There were a lot of things that did not add up.”
Leikin’s condition soon took a turn for the worse. On June 4, suffering the effects of dehydration and rapid weight loss, he was rehospitalized.
“Doctors were concerned with Boris’ lack of care and Marina’s indifference to it,” says the charging document.
Leikin died on July 6. Court papers do not specify if his death was attributed to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or, mad cow disease.
“He was a great guy, he had a magnetic personality, everyone who met him liked him,” Archuletta told The Daily Beast. “He had a lot of people who would come out and train with him, and he let them stay at his house. There's a list of Olympians who could tell you about Boris and everything he’s done for everybody in the community.”
After Leikin’s death, a detective with the Cottonwood Heights Police Department reviewed his finances, according to the charging document. In late May, while Leikin was first hospitalized, Billings drafted a new will for Leikin, naming herself as beneficiary and executor, it says. She also drafted a codicil removing a close friend of Leikin’s as executor, which had been formalized in 2017.
The couple “authored documents to completely take control of Boris’ property and assets” and signed them when Leikin’s “physical and mental condition was rapidly deteriorating,” the charging document says.
In an interview with detectives, Billings insisted that it was Leikin who “wanted her to have guardianship and kept pushing her and Robert to get the Will drawn up,” and said Leikin wanted to leave his entire estate to her. Under separate questioning, Robert Billings admitted to detectives that he had drawn up the amended will Leikin signed, but claimed he only did so because “Boris expressed some concerns about caring for his elderly mother.” He also admitted taking a Ruger 9mm handgun from Leikin’s home “because they feared that Boris may use the gun on himself,” the charging document says.
Robert claimed he didn’t have the will or any of the other alleged documents in his possession but when cops searched the Billings’ home in Idaho, they located a “secret room in the basement” with a large plastic file divider containing “copies of the Will, Power of Attorney, Trust, Medical Records for Boris’ treatment in Idaho and other paper documents.”
When he first learned that Marina and Robert Billings had been arrested, Archuletta said he had one response: “Relief.”
Both were booked and released on $2,500 bail, Ben Haynes, a spokesman for the Salt Lake County D.A., told The Daily Beast. Murder charges have not been filed at this time. In an email, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said, “We file charges based on the evidence. Marina and Robert Billings are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Police have not said if they believe Billings intentionally poisoned Leikin.
Reached at her Pocatello, Idaho home by The Daily Beast, Marina Billings declined to discuss the situation or the charges she and her husband are facing. She said to direct all inquiries to her lawyer, but hung up when asked for her attorney’s name.
A neighbor who lives a few doors down from the couple told The Daily Beast that they are “pretty private people.”
“The few times that we’ve talked to her, she’s been really nice,” said the neighbor, who asked that he not be identified. “But I don’t know that anybody in the neighborhood really knows them. They keep pretty much to themselves.”
Following the charges, Marina Billings was placed on administrative leave by the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Tony Manu said in a statement.
“Billings will remain on administrative leave while the County conducts an internal investigation regarding Bannock County policies,” the statement said. “The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office expects the highest professional conduct of its employees both on-and off-duty, which includes conformance to laws.”