Accused killer of six family members found dead in jail
SACRAMENTO (AP) — Nikolay Soltys, a Ukrainian immigrant accused in the bloody slayings of six family members, was found dead in his cell at the Sacramento County Jail early Wednesday, which officials said they will investigate as an “unattended death.”
Soltys, who allegedly used a knife to kill his pregnant wife, 3-year-old son and four other relatives last August, was found hanged in his cell, sheriff’s officials said.
He had been undergoing mental evaluations, his lawyer said.
“Right now I’m in absolute shock. I’m baffled how this could have happened, given that he was in isolation” with surveillance cameras trained on his cell, said his attorney, Tommy Clinkenbeard.
After what jail officials considered to be two suicide attempts “they were on notice,” Clinkenbeard said. “They had him under surveillance 24 hours a day.”
Following a 20-minute meeting with Sheriff Lou Blanas and jail officials, Clinkenbeard said that Soltys’ body would be taken to neighboring San Joaquin County for an autopsy and the cell was being treated as a crime scene. Blanas’ department runs the jail.
Sheriff’s officials will ask the district attorney to investigate, Clinkenbeard said.
The camera on Soltys didn’t record, Clinkenbeard said, so someone would have had to been watching the monitor to see his death.
“It’s very suspicious,” he added. “I’m not buying it. There’s something wrong here.”
Soltys used a rope made of cloth, possibly from his bed sheet or part of the cast he was wearing, and a plastic bag, Clinkenbeard said.
Officials said Soltys was found hanged in his cell at 7:10 a.m.
The area of the cell where he tied off the rope was out of view of the cell’s camera, Blanas said. Jail staff had last checked on Soltys an hour before he was discovered, he said.
Soltys had appeared in court Monday in a wheelchair, the result of a jump he took in December from a jail balcony. Jail officials said he jumped from the jail’s second tier after he was ordered back to his cell.
He was placed under a medical watch in October after he punctured his chest several times with a pencil. Clinkenbeard said he was merely imitating other detainees by giving himself a jailhouse tattoo, and he was returned to his cell after officials decided he was not suicidal.
“He could ask for God’s forgiveness or to hang himself. I guess he made his choice,” said Olga Kotserubova, a staffer at Sacramento’s Russian Yellow Pages. “I don’t know how this person could live for a couple of months thinking about what he did. I don’t know how a person could live with this even one day.”
Robin Shakely, a spokeswoman for Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, had no immediate comment, noting, “It’s not like we’ve had that many suicides of high-profile cases.”
Clinkenbeard said he and Soltys had been expecting to hear quickly whether Scully would seek the death penalty, but both had been proceeding under the assumption she would. Soltys had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing March 19.
Clinkenbeard previously said he was considering an insanity plea for his client, but declined to disclose his strategy after Monday’s hearing. He said he had just learned that a Sacramento County social services agency he declined to name had been tracking Soltys and his family, recognizing they were having difficulty before his alleged rampage.
He also had previously objected that Soltys’ statements to investigators after his arrest should be suppressed because he did not have an attorney present at the time and may have been confused because he doesn’t speak English.
“Oh my God,” responded Tanya Babiychuk, staffer at Sacramento’s Slavic Community Center upon hearing the news. She recalled the horrors of last summer’s murders and the days of searching for Soltys.
Soltys, 28, allegedly slashed the throat of his wife, Lyubov, 23, then drove to the home of his aunt and uncle, Petr Kukharskiy, 75, and Galina Kukharskaya, 74, stabbing them to death as well as two 9-year-old cousins, Dimitriy Kukharskiy and Tatyana Kukharskaya.
Then he showed up at his mother’s home before fleeing with his 3-year-old son, Sergei. The boy was found dead, his throat slit, one day later in a cardboard box on a trash heap about 20 miles away.
Soltys eluded an intense manhunt for 10 days as investigators reconstructed the slayings. He was finally captured after he shocked family members by showing up in the backyard of his mother’s home, which was under constant surveillance. Family members fled and he was captured minutes later, hiding under a table.
Soltys explained in a note he left in his abandoned vehicle that he killed his relatives because they were “poisoning” his reputation. He later told investigators his wife had been disrespectful. Their troubles began years earlier in Ukraine, where her family said he regularly beat her.