resident, Vasily Petrovich Losev, 45, killed his three young sons, set
their apartment on fire and then killed himself in a nearby vacant lot.
Losev and his
wife had separated about six months ago after a 14-year marriage,
relatives said. They had joint custody of the boys -- Alexi, 9,
Alexander, 6, and Peter, 2. The boys' mother, Galena Loseva, was coming
to pick up the children when the fire began.
members claim Losev knew his wife was coming for the children, so he
killed the boys and then set the fire shortly before she was to arrive.
"We all know Vasily did it," said Vera Lyubov, one of Galena
Loseva's five sisters. "And he wanted her to see it, too."
Father Kills His 3
Sons, Sets Home on Fire Then Slays Self, Police Say
Los Angeles Times
January 25, 1999
FRESNO — A trail of blood led to
a man who police believe killed himself after murdering his three young
sons and setting their apartment on fire, officials said Sunday.
Bloodstains on a nearby
chain-link fence and sidewalk marked the path to the body of
Vasily Petrovich Losev, 45. He was found in a grassy lot Saturday,
Nearly six hours earlier, the
bodies of his three sons--Alexi, 9, Alexander, 6, and Peter, 2--were
found in their apartment after the fire that consumed it was
extinguished about 6:15 p.m. Friday.
The boys' mother, Galena Loseva,
who is separated from her husband, was coming to pick up the children
when the fire began. Family members said Losev knew his wife was coming
for the children, so he killed the boys and then set the fire shortly
before she was to arrive.
Police did not say how Losev's
wounds were inflicted.
10 years later
January 23, 2009
Galina Messmer knelt on the
grass at Clovis Cemetery to clear leaves from the gravesite of her three
A prayerful woman, Messmer, 46,
spoke softly but not, at this moment, to pray. She spoke to her children.
Messmer, the former Galina
Loseva, a Russian immigrant, placed red, white and peach-colored roses
with white angel's breath in the gravesite vases. Then she stood and
softly sang a Russian song to her young children with a perfect, if
She translated moments later:
"Here on this earth, I'm always
tired, and my soul is swimming in a sea of vanity. Only I know that a
special future waits for me in heaven when He wipes away my tears and I
never experience any pain, death or suffering and separation."
Ten years ago, on Jan. 22, 1999,
Messmer's first husband, a man who had abused her and their children,
was despondent about their 8-month separation. In the Russian tradition,
Galina's married last name was derived from his -- Vasiliy Petrovich
Losev, 45, begged and pleaded
with her to let him return, but she and their boys had been through
enough. She refused, and on Jan. 19, a Fresno court decreed that the two
would have joint custody of the three boys, Alexi, 9, Alexander, 6, and
Peter, 2, even though, Messmer remembers, she had warned the judge that
this man was dangerously unstable. She had obtained a restraining order
Messmer speaks English with a
distinct, lyrical Russian accent.
"My husband call and call. Maybe
drinking. Could be dangerous. I tell the judge that. He violates judge
order. He say, 'Do you forgive me? Why you don't love me? Give me
another chance.' "
She tells him it will take more
time for him to prove that he can change.
Her husband says, "There's no
"I asked him," Messmer said, " 'What
do you mean?' And he said nothing."
His silence told her all she
needed to know.
On Jan. 21 and 22, Vasiliy "called
every minute," Messmer said. "I dream he going to kill me."
"My children stay with him this
week. Every Friday, we change kids."
She told him she needed to talk
with her children. He refused several times.
Messmer called her children's
school and learned that they had been absent for days.
"I run to school," Messmer said.
"I call my sister. Sister call police to check on kids."
A police officer visits her
husband's apartment to ask why the children missed school for three days.
The officer sees Alexi and Alexander. Peter, the 2-year-old, is
sleeping. Their father tells the officer the children missed school
because they have colds.
When Messmer learned about that
police visit, she recalls this week, "I had something in my stomach.
School keeps them safe."
The feeling in her stomach was
fear, and she knew they would have been safe at school.
She sums up the worst news she
had feared from that moment: "Police are there at 3 p.m. My kids die at
Tim Heinrichs, a brother-in-law,
"took me to street. It's blocked. Helicopters. Fire, police."
Messmer can't come near the
McKinley Avenue apartment house to reach her husband's first-floor home
and her children.
"I see fire from children's
bedroom. Tim grab me. 'Wait.' Camera in my face. I want to check my
children. It's like eternity.
" 'I'm sorry. Everybody inside
is dead.' "
"I want to die," Messmer recalls.
She's told that two of the dead
are children, but a third may be an adult. That may be Vasiliy, she
hopes, and at least one of "my precious children" may have survived at
No, the possible adult is, in
"Police tell me all three. He
cut their throat," Messmer says. "He cut their wrist, and he put them on
fire. Can't find husband."
Police look for her husband and
soon find his bloody body. He has killed himself, likely using the same
knife he used to kill the boys, police said.
"I am numb," Messmer remembers.
"Tears, shock, like knife inside you feels so bad like bomb inside you.
"I not believe I never going to
Meeting a pen pal
On the other side of the
country, Peter Messmer, 47, is grieving over the sudden death of his
wife, Elsie, on Jan. 17 from a heart attack. How, he wonders, can he
raise their children alone -- Eva, 11, Steven, 9, Joshua, 6, and Jesse,
Galina's sister, Nadia Anisimov,
attended a small Baptist Church in Apalachin, N.Y., with Peter Messmer,
and began engineering a letter-writing friendship between the two.
Peter Messmer wrote the first
letter, sight unseen, on March 25, 1999. He and Galina became mutually
consoling pen pals in grief.
Another of Galina's sisters,
Lubov Heinrichs, translated their letters between Russian and English.
A few months later, Galina
visited Anisimov. She was introduced to Peter Messmer, but she returned
to Fresno and to her children's gravesite.
One day at their markers, she
heard "a soft spiritual voice":
"My child, do not be sad. Your
boys are safe with me. No one will ever hurt them again."
She heard Alexi: "Mama, don't
cry. We are so happy now."
She felt a wave of peace.
She remembers going for solace
to the Rev. G.L. Johnson at Peoples Church. She remembers people telling
her she was like Job in the Old Testament. And she says today that, like
Job, she found her life restored by God after a most bitter trial.
Finally, Galina decided to visit
Anisimov and her family again in New York. Anisimov and
Peter Messmer welcomed Galina at JFK International Airport in New York.
She stayed with her sister, and makes clear today that her old Russian
Baptist morality ruled.
Peter Messmer worked on his
dairy farm 90 minutes away in Interlaken, N.Y.
After she returned home, there
were visits back and forth between Fresno and New York. Friendship
turned to something more.
At her children's gravesite on
Valentine's Day 2000, Galina and Peter were together. Peter acted on
"It was a beautiful, sunny day.
The sun was in her eyes. There in the sunshine I proposed to her."
He put two hands to her cheeks,
and asked directly: Would she be his wife?
"Sure," she said, a big grin on
her face, that Russian lilt to the word "Sure."
They were married on March 25.
Faith and a second life
Galina Messmer returned this
week from New York on the 10th anniversary of an indescribably painful
tragedy to remember and, remarkably, to rejoice. She rejoices in God and
a second life that God brought her.
She doesn't understand how God
works. She says nobody can. But she has absolute faith that whatever
happened followed God's plan and that she and her murdered children will
be reunited in heaven forever.
She observed a private ceremony
Thursday at the gravesite.
She spoke about ultimate evil,
suffering and new life. She is the mother now of Peter's children, Eva,
20, Steven, 18, Joshua, 15, and Jesse, 13.
"It is hard to understand,"
Jesse says, "hard to relate."
He enjoys his new mother.
"She is funny," Jesse says. "She
thinks a lot of things are funny. She's very joyful, and that sums it
She is also strict with her new
children in the old Russian custom, Messmer said.
She has moved from Old Russia,
born in St. Petersburg, to Fresno and now to upper New York state, a
dairy farm and serene pastoral beauty.
"I believe that God grab me, put
me in new place," she said. "Money was gone. Peter love I never, ever
"I so grateful for his love, to
be loved and see how wonderful this life can be after horrible tragedy
-- if you believe in God."
Mother of slain
children visits Clovis graves ten years after the tragedy