NEW YORK - To say Lara Prychodko was in good spirits the afternoon of July 10, 2018, would be an understatement. In less than 24 hours she anticipated regaining custody of her son. Plus, the World Cup was on and France, Lara's favorite team had beat out Belgium in the semi-finals. The 48-year-old had the Tuesday off so she watched the game alone at a sports bar not too far from her Union Square apartment.
At 4:10 p.m., Lara was seen entering her building at 1 Irving Place. A 911 call was placed just 30 minutes later. The super at Zeckendorf Towers had found a mangled body in the garbage compactor. Lara Prychodko had somehow plunged 27 flights to her death down the trash chute just steps away from her front door.
"I knew right away it was a murder," Lara's best friend Vesna Todorov says, "I knew right away it was not an accident."
Yet 'an accident' is the only explanation investigators have for this tragedy. A spokesperson for the NYPD says, "there is no criminality suspected in this case."
The New York City Medical Examiner deemed Lara's cause of death, "multiple blunt impact injuries." It also notes Lara was extremely intoxicated at her time of death, with a blood alcohol level of 0.29. But the manner of death is listed as 'undetermined.'
For the past two years, Lara's family has been left trying to fill in the blanks on their own.
Lara's father, Nicholas Prychodko refuses to accept this was some sort of drunken mistake. "Why would she? And how could she get herself into it? And why? Even if she wanted to commit suicide," he says, "who would do it that way?"
The trash chute at Zeckendorf Towers is about 15'' by 18'' and Lara was 5'10 and about 130 pounds. "It’s simply impossible," Prychodko says, "it’s ridiculous, and what baffles me is the only people that seem to give this preposterous idea some credence are the investigating authorities."
The bizarre circumstances surrounding Lara's death caught the attention of New York City's former medical examiner, Dr. Michael Baden. "I’ve never seen a drunk person be able to go into a narrow chute and go feet first down 27 stories, that’s extremely unusual," Dr. Baden explains. He agreed to take a look at the autopsy report pro bono. "My opinion is that there’s enough information that is should be investigated as a homicide," Dr. Baden concluded.
Gruesome crime scene photos show a pale line around Lara's neck with blue coloration above or cyanosis. Dr. Baden says that suggests Lara could have been strangled to death before being put into the trash chute. Autopsy photos also show very little internal bleeding anywhere but Lara's neck. Suggesting the 48-year-old was dead before reaching the compactor, according to Dr. Baden's report.
Loved ones describe Lara as enchanting. A strong and beautiful presence that everyone gravitated toward. But her personal life was complicated, to say the least.
She's been romantically linked to the former CEO of WebMD Wayne Gattinella while both of them were still married.
Lara was also embroiled in a bitter divorce and custody battle with her estranged husband David Schlachet. "She had a very difficult last two years of her life dealing with lawyers, and fighting with her ex-husband," Todorov explains, "there were a lot of nasty text messages sent and capital letters used."
Lara lost custody of their son at the end of 2015 following a DUI in Southampton. A meeting with the counselor to officially grant Lara overnight visitation again was scheduled for the day after she died.
The pair also fought over millions of dollars worth of assets. Two homes in the Hamptons, an apartment in Chelsea, a penthouse in Williamsburg, a loft in Toronto, and more. "My daughter had no enemies, except for one person who wanted money," Prychodko says. He also says Schlachet took control of all properties immediately after her death and drained all of her bank accounts.
In an email to FOX 5 New's Kayla Mamelak, Schlachet wrote the following:
"I can only say that my divorce -like so many- was a painful and sad experience to go through with someone I had loved so deeply. But that does not diminish the grief and trauma my son and I have experienced by the tragic loss of our wife and mother, Lara. It is a pain that we are both still learning to cope with and which we will both carry with us forever."
The office of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, declined to comment.