Murder trial begins in case of UNC-Charlotte coed Irina Yarmolenko

Irina "Ira" Yarmolenko
(CBS/WBTV) GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - In May 2008, the body of college coed Irina Yarmolenko was discovered along the shore of the Catawba River in Gaston County, not far from where her car was found.

Monday, jury selection took place in the trial of Mark Carver, one of two men originally charged with the murder of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte student, reports CBS affiliate WBTV.

A coroner determined that Yarmolenko died of asphyxiation. A bungee cord and a ribbon was found tied around her neck, the station reported.

One of the two suspects, Neal Cassada, died of natural causes the day before his trial was scheduled to begin last year. Defendant Mark Carver is his cousin. Opening arguments could take place as early as Tuesday.

From the beginning, Cassada and Carver both maintained their innocence, according to WBTV. They said they were in the area fishing that day, but that they never committed the homicide.

Cassada's family has told investigators he simply didn't have it in him to commit the murder. They also blame the stress of the charges and court case for his sudden death last year.

Cassada's defense attorney has said DNA evidence was found in Yarmolenko's car, but that none was actually found on the murder weapon.