Killer found hanging in Stillwater cell

  • Article by: ALEX EBERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 15, 2010 - 7:48 PM

Seventeen years after his first attempt in a suicide pact, Zachary Persitz, 59, seems to have succeeded.

Awaiting trial for separate murders, two Hennepin County jail inmates passed summer days in 1992 planning to kill themselves. After almost 18 years, it appears they both have succeeded.

Zachary Persitz, 59, was found hanging in his cell at the state prison in Stillwater Friday morning, the Minnesota Department of Corrections said in a statement Tuesday. Foul play isn't suspected.

He was serving life for killing and dismembering his friend and stockbroker Michael Prozumenshikov, 37, in 1991.

In 1992, while held in the Hennepin County jail, Persitz and fellow inmate Russell Lund, a millionaire charged in the shooting death of his estranged wife and her lover, agreed to suffocate themselves with plastic bags. Lund succeeded, but deputies removed Persitz's bag before he lost consciousness.

"I did it like we planned," Persitz told a psychiatrist afterward, according to court records. "I spent time talking with Lund while he was here, only he succeeded."

Persitz lost money in a stock market downturn in 1987, and he blamed Prozumenshikov. Persitz, then a dam inspector for the state Department of Natural Resources, shot Prozumenshikov and dismembered him with an ax before dumping his body in a compost heap.

The two Russian immigrants and their families were close; one of the slain stockbroker's children stayed overnight at the Persitz house the Friday and Saturday following the killing.

In 1993, a jury denied Persitz's plea of insanity, and he was sentenced to life in prison. He would have been eligible for consideration of parole in 2021.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner will officially determine the cause of death after toxicology reports are completed, a spokesman said.

This would be the first suicide inside the state correctional system this year, according to Department of Corrections data through May 31.

Alex Ebert • 612-673-4264

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