- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
May 28, 2004

Haglund Murder: Police, embassy not giving up information in killing of US citizen

After a week of investigation, police are not saying if a motive has been uncovered in the killing of United States citizen Joshua Haglund. Police are, however, calling the crime “premeditated murder”.

Haglund, 33, was found with stab wounds in the backyard of his Yerevan apartment in the evening of May 17. He died of the wounds while awaiting emergency medical aid. He is believed to be the first American to be murdered in Armenia.

The U.S. Embassy has not released any information about Haglund, who was in Yerevan to teach at the Brusov Linguistic University as part of a U.S. State Department language fellow program.

He was a native of Minnesota, and was scheduled to return there next month.

Police are investigating Haglund’s personal life, but investigators and the embassy are being tight lipped about the crime. Meanwhile rumors swirl, including speculation of a “contract killing”, put out by someone jealous of Haglund’s attention toward a certain girl. Others speculate that it was a “hate crime”, carried out by a person or persons who objected to aspects of Haglund’s personal life. One rumor even has Haglund as a CIA operative and that the murder took place on the eve of a departure to Iraq.

In any case, ArmeniaNow has learned that the fatal wounds were consistent with those often inflicted in so-called “crimes of passion”. Typically, that means that the attack is more brutal, suggesting that the perpetrator has been enraged by some conflict between the two parties.

A theory that Haglund knew his attacker(s) is supported by evidence from his apartment, where police found three glasses and a recently opened bottle of wine. Blood stains were also found in the apartment, suggesting that the confrontation either started or was entirely centered in Haglund’s home.

Marietta Yeranosyan, who lives in front of the apartment Haglund was renting, says that the day before the murder there was party at his home. And when she heard the noises on the day of murder she thought another party was in progress.

Residents of the building also say that Haglund (who was not fluent in Armenian) socialized mostly with English-speaking acquaintances.

“We heard several men’s loud voices but it was not clear if it was a quarrel or just talk, as they were speaking English,” Yeranosyan said. “Then his door opened as if people left.”

Yeranosyan says her husband was coming home around that time and saw two men quickly running in different directions.

Yeranosyan believes that Haglund might have been pursuing his attacker(s) when he collapsed in the yard, around 10:30 p.m.

Elmira Harutyunyan, a neighbor, says Haglund was alive when she and others found him.

“He was trying to say something, but no one understood it, because he was speaking English. Then it seemed he showed ‘three’ with fingers and died,” she says.

Though known in the expatriate community, Haglund’s American acquaintances are not commenting publicly on the murder, saying that they are under obligation to restrict comments to the police investigation.

It is believed that in the hours before his murder, Haglund visited the Wheel Club, a restaurant and bar popular among expats on the opposite end of the street where Haglund’s apartment was located.

Haglund’s social life in Armenia included association with members of Armenia’s gay community. One theory being advanced is that he became a victim of a “hate crime” based on that association.

Last Sunday, about 100 mourners attended a memorial service for Haglund at the American University of Armenia.

“I was fascinated with his sensibility and sense of humor. We share everything, good and bad," said Amelia Weir, a friend who spoke to the assembly. "Something that struck me - he was fully present in this life. He wanted us to be dedicated to what we do."

Haglund had finished the semester’s lectures at Brusov on the morning of his murder. His students (though reluctant to give their full names) characterize him as a kind and respected professor.

“We all were shocked when we learned what happened,” says Silva, a third-year student of the University. “We completed his course ‘Speaking Skills’. We said goodbye to each other and a few days later learned he was killed.”

“He was a very qualified professor,” says Arevik, another student. “His lessons were interesting, he was polite with everyone and never offended any of us.”

His hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ( reported that Haglund had lived for extended periods in Japan, India and Puerto Rico.

His mother, Maxine Haglund-Blommer, told the newspaper that her son had been offered a job in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and that he would relocate there after visiting Minnesota.

She said Haglund told her he would take the job in UAE, after which he would move back to the States to live near his family.

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