More than five months since Dr. Daniel Malakov was shot to death, neighbors still come up to his father to offer condolences. But some refuse to offer a word to the family of the slain orthodontist's estranged wife.
Dr. Mazaltov Borukhova is accused of paying a distant cousin nearly $20,000 to shoot him after losing a bitter custody battle over their 5-year-old daughter. He was shot execution-style in front of Borukhova and the girl near a playground.
The shooting has roiled New York's close-knit community of conservative Bukharian Jews and, although the case is still in the courts, many in their community have already reached their verdicts against the wife's family.
"The community doesn't want to communicate with them," said Efraim Penhasov, 60, who lives near Daniel's office. "They're scared to talk to them, because everybody knows they killed Daniel."
Istat Borukhova, the family matriarch, vehemently denied those claims.
"Whatever the Malakov family says is a lie," Istat Borukhova said through a translator. "If you do not agree with whatever they say, you're their enemy and they will smash you. Everyone knows this in the community."
The ill will between the two families has escalated. About a month after Mazaltov Borukhova's arrest, her sister, Natella Natanova, was charged with threatening the life one of Daniel's brothers if he testified.
Borukhova's family no longer attends the Beth Gavriel Bukharian Congregation in Queens, where Malakov's father, Khaika Malakov, goes every Saturday to recite a prayer for his son in the ancient language of Aramaic.
The community is made up of about 40,000 Bukharian immigrants from Uzbekistan and other former Soviet states. It is the largest Bukharian community in the U.S. Many came to Queens after the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.
"Daniel was very loved in his community," said Olga Allayev, 25.
Families joined by matrimony
Daniel's family is held in high-esteem in their community. Rafael Nektal, editor of The Bukharian Times, said the Malakovs are "a very well-respected family from Uzbekistan."
His grandfather and great grandfather were rabbis. His uncle compiled by memory over 500 pages of Jewish folk songs into a book. His father headed an oncology unit at a hospital in Uzbekistan.
Borukhova's family, although accomplished, was not as well-known. Nektal, who knew the family from Uzbekistan, said they had problems. Borukhova lost her father at an early age.
Daniel, who was 34 when he died, graduated from New York University and Columbia University.
She met Daniel through a friend while he studied at New York University. They exchanged phone calls and met for the first time in the school library. Not long after, Daniel's family was invited to the Borukhovas for dinner.
The elder Malakov was not impressed.
"I thought it's no good, she's no good," Malakov said. "She doesn't smile, she doesn't talk, she doesn't do anything. But, I thought, my son found her. They're both doctors."
After the birth of their daughter, Michelle, Borukhova's mother moved in to help the couple care for the baby. The marriage deteriorated and a rancorous custody battle ensued.
"This was a very loud divorce with all kinds of accusations and lawsuits and many years of court hearings," said Itzhak Yehoshua, head of the Bukharian Rabbinical Council of America, who counseled the couple.
"They didn't want to cooperate. They were very hurt," Yehoshua said.
Allegations surface against dentist
Borukhova, who never officially divorced her husband, claimed he had beaten her and sexually abused their daughter. Malakov said she and her family repeatedly threatened to kill him if he took her daughter away from her.
A judge awarded the father custody a week before his death. He was gunned down Oct. 28. His wife was charged with murder last month. Her distant cousin, Mikhail Mallayev, 50, is accused of pulling the trigger.
Mallayev and Borukhova are charged with murder and conspiracy and face life in prison if convicted. Borukhova's sister faces up to four years behind bars.
Michelle, now 5, was placed in foster care and a judge recommended she be placed with one of her uncles.