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Thursday, April 21, 2011

NY: Cabbie recalls 'bizarre' drive with Russian 'Rambo' in wake of wife, step-daughter double murder

The taxi driver who unwittingly drove the getaway cab for a Brooklyn double-murder suspect says the man behaved erratically during their hurried ride to JFK Airport.

"After he got in the car, he started talking about hunting in the forest," the cabbie said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with the Daily News.

"It was bizarre," said the Russian immigrant, who gave his name only as Anatoli and spoke through an interpreter. "It was strange."

A nervous Nikolai Rakossi - sporting a huge bandage over his nose - told the driver to step on it because his wife was ill as he climbed inside the cab Sunday morning.

The truth was far more macabre, authorities believe: The Russian national was running for his life - and his wife was already dead.

Authorities believe Rakossi fatally stabbed his wife and stepdaughter one night earlier. The Russian, who escaped aboard a Moscow-bound flight, remained the target of an international manhunt, officials said.

The cabbie said Rakossi's odd demeanor continued once they finished the trip from Sheepshead Bay to Terminal 4 in Queens.

"When we pulled up to the airport, he asked me if I could help him get his tickets," the cabbie said. "I said, 'No, I cannot park my car.'"

The cabbie said he asked a passing woman to help the 56-year-old immigrant, and then drove off. Despite his weird actions, Anatoli said he never suspected there was a killer in his cab.

"I had no idea," he told the News.

When Rakossi rode off inside the Empire taxicab about 11 a.m. Sunday, the bodies of his wife, Tatyana Prikhodko, and her beautiful, blond daughter Larisa, 28, were lying dead in a blood-spattered Brooklyn apartment, officials said.

Rakossi, described by friends as a Russian "Rambo" who served with Army special operations in his homeland, remained on the lam as U.S. officials angled for his arrest.

State and Justice Department officials were working through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which has FBI agents on staff, to press the Russians for an arrest.

But the lack of a formal extradition treaty was likely to delay or even derail efforts to return him to Brooklyn.

A friend of the fugitive double-murder suspect said Tuesday that Rakossi was an elusive target who did tours in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Africa.

"If he doesn't want to be found, he will never be found," said Rustam Zaripon, manager of the Russian Baths in Sheepshead Bay. "As far as soldiers go, he was the elite of the elite. He's gone."

In addition to the hunt for Rakossi, police were still seeking a motive for the vicious stabbings.

Police sources theorized he first killed his wife of 12 years, 56-year-old Tatyana Prikhodko, and then butchered her daughter Larisa when she walked in on the slaying in the E. 13th St. apartment.

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