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Authorities hunt for killer of 81-year-old Russian immigrant

Investigators worked the scene of the apparent Needham murder on Thursday. Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

The search for those responsible for the apparent murder of an elderly Russian immigrant at a Needham apartment complex continued Friday, aided by the recovery of the victim’s beloved Ford Fiesta on a Dorchester street.

The body of Laura Shifrina, 81, was found in her Linden Street apartment by her daughter Wednesday night. Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said the victim died from “some form of sharp trauma.”

Morrissey, whose office is overseeing the investigation, appealed to the public for help in locating Shifrina’s red 2011 Ford Fiesta, a car she doted on. Boston police located the car in Dorchester on Thursday afternoon.


The vehicle was taken to the Needham police station for forensic testing.

Dorchester residents and business owners said the Boston neighborhood was flooded with police on Thursday, when Shifrina’s vehicle was towed from Dorchester Avenue and Banton Street.

“The district attorney put great weight on the recovery of the vehicle,” said David Traub, spokesman for the Norfolk District attorney’s office. “We are pleased that is now accomplished.”

Traub said State Police detectives assigned to Morrissey’s office and Needham police are trying to piece together Shifrina’s final days.

“Needham and State Police are continuing to conduct interviews and do forensic work,” Traub said, declining to provide specifics.

Shifrina had lived in the quiet Needham public housing development since 2001 and was likely killed a couple of days before her daughter made the discovery, authorities said. Shifrina’s family has declined to speak with reporters.

On Friday, Shifrina’s friends struggled to understand how this could have happened.

“She was a very nice woman, very intelligent. ... It’s just unbelievable,” said Rena Knubovets, who was part of the Massachusetts Club of Russian Speaking Scientists where Shifrina was a member. “She had no money, no treasure. I can’t understand how it’s possible.”


Shifrina was a Jewish refugee who immigrated to the United States about 15 years ago with her daughter and her family. She worked for the Moscow Aviation Institute as a computer software engineer before coming to America, the club’s president, Aleksandr Yufa, said Thursday.

The victim was an active member in the science club and edited a bulletin called “Intellect.” Knubovets said Shifrina was an “outstanding” editor.

Vladimir Foygelman, president of Center Makor, a Jewish education and cultural organization, said Shifrina wrote an article about him and his father when he became the leader of the group. “She was a very bright woman,” Foygelman said.

Knubovets said Shifrina was from Moscow and said it had been “impossible to live” in Russia.

“We wanted to get out of Moscow,” she said. “She was so happy [in Needham]. She loved the place where she lived. She had a lot of friends, and all of our people loved her.”

Police officers were stationed Friday on Linden Street outside of the building where Shifrina lived. A Needham police officer stopped a reporter from knocking on a neighbor’s door at the four-unit building.

Traub said no one is in custody and that “detectives continue the process of interviewing neighbors and others.”

Residents have described the area as a safe neighborhood. The last murder in Needham was a decade ago.

Paul Dumouchel, executive director of the Needham Housing Authority, said he was unaware of any security issues at the complex.

But Ilene Hoffman, who has lived in the development for five years, said neighbors have suggested that the building that Shifrina lived in was less secure than others.


“They have two entrances, they don’t have a doorbell system,” she said. “The way they’re built is less secure.”

John Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this story. Jan Ransom can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Jan_Ransom. Catie Edmondson can be reached at