Is he a Utah rape suspect named Nick or an Englishman named Knight? UK court could help decide

An online obituary said Nicholas Alahverdian, of Rhode Island, died in 2020 surrounded by his family in a room "filled with the sounds of the end credits for the 1997 film 'Contact.'"

"His last words were 'fear not and run toward the bliss of the sun,'" the obituary read.

The announcement of his death at 32 came two months after he told local media he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Shortly after news of his death, tributes from politicians poured in for Alahverdian, an outspoken critic of of Rhode Island’s child care system.

But Alahverdian is alive, authorities said.

Alahverdian, a convicted sex offender wanted on a rape charge in Utah, faked his death to avoid prosecution and was arrested in Scotland last December after being hospitalized with COVID-19, investigators said.

Now, he faces extradition to the United States. A procedural hearing was scheduled for June 23 and an evidential hearing was set for July 7, Scotland's Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said Friday.

'We don't file charges against dead people'

Alahverdian, 34, was charged by Utah County Attorney David Leavitt's office in connection with a 2008 rape. At the time, Alahverdian went by the alias Nicholas Rossi.

The online tribute for Alahverdian claimed he died Feb. 29, 2020 and said his “earthly remains were cremated with his ashes scattered at sea.” But last year, law enforcement, his former lawyer and former foster family publicly questioned his death, according to the Providence Journal, a USA TODAY Network site that has produced extensive coverage of the case.

"We don't we don't file charges against dead people," Leavitt said. "We charged him because we knew he was alive."

The DNA collected at the time of the sexual assault wasn’t tested until 2017 as part of an effort to clear backlogged rape kits. In 2018, the DNA evidence came back as a match to a sexual assault case in Ohio, where Alahverdian was convicted in 2008 on two sex-related charges.

Leavitt said the fact that the case went uninvestigated for 12 years shows, "as a system, we don't take sexual assault prosecution seriously enough," but the search for Alahverdian sends a message to survivors.

"Hopefully, this victim will understand that, even though it is a delayed process, that finally there is an office that actually cares enough about what happened to her to take this case seriously," Leavitt said.

The Utah investigation, authorities said, found similar complaints against Alahverdian in several states.

The FBI said Alahverdian is also wanted in Ohio on charges he obtained credit cards in his foster father’s name and amassed more than $200,000 in debts.

Ohio sexual assault case: A woman in Ohio met Nick Alahverdian for lunch. Then he sexually assaulted her.

Nicholas Alahverdian, pictured in 2011.
Nicholas Alahverdian, pictured in 2011.

An Englishman called Arthur Knight

The man who calls himself Arthur Knight denied he's the American fugitive.

He was arrested on Dec. 13 at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where he had been placed on a ventilator with COVID-19. He was identified by hospital staff, authorities said.

The man, editor of "a news and opinion website," claimed they arrested the wrong person and said he's never even been to the U.S. He claimed to have been married two years ago to Miranda Knight, who has been by his side during interviews.

"Arthur Knight has been falsely charged by David Leavitt with the crime of rape," a press release from Arthur and Miranda Knight said. "Mr Knight has never been to Utah or the United States."

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A Scottish prosecutor, however, said the man was identified as Alahverdian through photographs of his tattoos. Leavitt said there's no doubt the person who claims to be Englishman Arthur Knight is Alahverdian.

Alahverdian, The Times of London reported, "disguised himself as a dapper university professor who wore bow ties" and spoke with "a cut-glass English accent."

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Suspect accuses prosecutor of sex crimes

Alahverdian, under the Knight alias, earlier this month accused Leavitt and his wife of being the "primary suspects" in a "ritual sex abuse ring" in Utah.

Leavitt denied the "ridiculous" accusations, saying "it's a new type of disgusting for me." The allegation came in the midst of Leavitt's reelection campaign.

"What's even more ridiculous is that my local sheriff has, you know, chimed in, is collaborating with him," Leavitt said.

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office last month announced it began investigating a “ritualistic child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking” case in April 2021, but did not specifically name Leavitt.

The sheriff's office public information officer, Sgt. Spencer Cannon, said in an email that "we are not collaborating with anyone in this investigation" and that the office will neither confirm nor deny any names that have come up during the investigation.

"I will not be dissuaded, I will not be intimidated, I will not be bullied," Leavitt said.

"At the end of the day, a jury of Utah citizens, hopefully, will be able to decide whether Nicolas Rossi is not only guilty of rape but whether Nicolas Rossi and Arthur Knight and Arthur Alahverdian and Nicholas Alahverdian are all the same person."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nicholas Alahverdian is rape suspect who faked his death, police say