Today’s news:

Borukhova trial set to start on Monday

The criminal trial of the Forest Hills mother accused of hiring her uncle to kill her estranged husband is set to begin Monday in Queens Criminal Court.

Prosecutors and investigators contend that Mazoltuv Borukhova, 35, hired her uncle to kill Dr. Daniel Malakov, a Forest Hills dentist, in revenge for gaining custody of their −5−year−old daughter, Michelle, during a bitter divorce dispute.

Borukhova and her distant relative, Mikhail Mallayev, 51, are facing charges of first−degree murder and conspiracy charges in the Oct. 28, 2007 shooting in a Forest Hills playground. Each could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted.

Despite numerous pieces of evidence that prosecutors claim implicate the pair, Borukhova’s attorney, Stephen Scarring, said his client is innocent.

“The evidence in the case is based on speculation and guess work. We’re looking forward to them making their case,” he said of the prosecution.

Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal, who will be handling the case for the Queens district attorney’s office, could not be reached for comment. Michael Siff, Mallayev’s lawyer, said the trial could last for at least four weeks.

Nearly 15 months have passed since Malakov, 34, was shot twice in the chest at the Annadale Playground on Yellowstone Boulevard and 64th Road as he was dropping off his then 4−year−old daughter to visit Borukhova. Malakov, an orthodontist who had a private Forest Hills practice, had gained custody of the child from his estranged wife 10 days before his murder.

Three weeks after the shooting, police arrested Mallayev in his home in suburban Atlanta after they said they found his fingerprints on a makeshift silencer abandoned at the park by the shooter. He was extradited to Queens last January and was ordered held without bail.

Mallayev denied several times being in Queens on the day of the murder, but then changed his story, claiming to have visited a friend, detectives said.

In February, officers arrested Borukhova at her apartment on 65th Avenue and 108th Street and she was indicted her with her relative on murder and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors said she and Mallayev made more than 90 phone calls in the weeks leading up to the shooting, but only two following it.

During a Queens Family Court hearing following the shooting, state Sen. Diane Savino (D−Staten Island) testified that Borukhova’s sisters, Sofia Borukhova and Natella Natanova, came to her office a week before Malakov’s death for help with the custody case. Savino said the sisters proposed two suspicious scenarios involving Michelle.

“What if something happens? What if [Malakov] can’t take care of her?” the senator recalled the sisters as saying. “What if she disappears?”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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