Authorities say killing suspect preyed on fellow Ukrainians |

Authorities say killing suspect preyed on fellow Ukrainians

Staff and wire reports

SACRAMENTO – A Ukrainian immigrant sought in the brutal slayings of six family members had a history of strong-arming members of his cultural community for money, police said Thursday.

Nikolay Soltys is believed to have stolen several thousand dollars from the home where he slashed to death his aunt, uncle and two young cousins Monday, said Sacramento sheriff’s Capt. John McGinness.

That and money he extorted from others – as much as $10,000 to $15,000 – may be helping him avoid a nationwide manhunt, McGinness said.

Authorities said the 27-year-old Soltys showed up bloody and disheveled at his mother’s house shortly after Monday’s slayings, where he picked up his 3-year-old son, Sergey – who was later also found with his throat cut.

That conflicts with the mother’s earlier reports that her son was calm and clean.

”We never did believe it,” McGinness said. ”She saw a less-than-comfortable son who came to her house and cleaned up, and took his son. She’s still reluctant to say she saw blood, but she did.”

Despite reports suggesting Soltys may be heading to the Southeast, police believe he most likely remains in the Sacramento area.

McGinness said no measures are being taken to specifically track major thoroughfares out of the city such as South Lake Tahoe.

More than 100 officers from his department, California Highway Patrol, Sacramento City Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are concentrating their efforts in the state capital and cities where family members live such as Seattle and New York City.

Soltys left a cryptic note on the back of a photograph suggesting he killed his family members to punish them and other family members for speaking outside the family.

However, police suspect Soltys may have gone to his relatives’ home in Rancho Cordova looking for money to help him flee after killing his pregnant wife, Lyubov, in what may have been a fit of domestic violence earlier that morning at their North Highlands home a few miles away.

Though both Soltys and his wife were unemployed, Soltys frequently handed out $20 bills to relatives, including 9-year-old cousins Tatyana Kukharskaya and Dimitriy Kukharskiy, whom he is accused of killing along with their grandparents. Police believe he may have pressured elderly immigrants for a portion of their monthly aid money.

”He’s a thug,” McGinness said.

Tight-knit immigrant communities facing language barriers and cultural isolation are especially vulnerable to such threats and extortion, said McGinness and Marouf Jwanmery of the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, D.C. Immigrants, now 25 percent of California’s population, will often pay cash to avoid beatings, Jwanmery said.

Because their experiences in their homelands lead them not to trust police or banks, immigrants are doubly vulnerable, he said. ”Instead of having checking and savings accounts, they have cash under the mattress.”

Fearing retaliation, immigrants often don’t report crimes, said Jwanmery, who heads the council’s Outreach to New Americans program.

Soltys had been known as a cruel man even toward his own parents, the Ukrainian newspaper Fakty reported Thursday.

In an interview, Soltys’ father-in-law, Ihor Nakonechnyi, said Soltys attacked his wife with an ax in their village in western Ukraine’s Ternopil region.

The Nakonechnyi family was in Kiev to get U.S. visas to attend their daughter’s funeral. A memorial service has been scheduled for Sunday for the slain family members at 10 a.m. at the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church outside Sacramento.

Hearing Lyubov Soltys has been killed, the family hoped Sergey was alive, Nakonechnyi said. ”We took care of him since he was a baby, and today we found out our grandson is dead.”

Police in Sacramento County and Charlotte, N.C., where Soltys once lived, are protecting his relatives. He also has family in Seattle and New York state.

Soltys likely has criminal associates helping him avoid capture, police said, but they added they have no reason to believe he is associatd with organized crime.

Organized criminals from the Ukrainian and Russian community are more associated with auto thefts in the Sacramento region, said McGinness. Soltys may have had access to unregistered cars, such as the mid-90s emerald green Ford Explorer in which he was last seen.

”Cash transactions for automobiles are extremely common in immigrant communities, and they’re not always that prompt in reporting them,” McGinness said. However, Soltys was not mechanically inclined, he said, and hired a mechanic Monday night to remove the Explorer’s roof rack.

That was the last confirmed sighting of Soltys, and the last time his son was seen alive. The boy was wearing a T-shirt featuring a teddy bear – the same shirt he was wearing when he was found face down in a cardboard box on a trash pile Tuesday afternoon.

Because he has killed with such ease and brutality, McGinness said, Soltys is likely to kill again. ”He does appear to get some satisfaction by what he’s done. There are easier and simpler ways to commit a murder.

”I think he enjoys it.”

McGinness denied the theory Soltys has committed suicide.

“I’m inclined to doubt it with this one. His weapon of choice is a knife, and they usually don’t use it against themselves,” he said.

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