Five dead, suspect sought in Sacramento stabbing spree
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – A 27-year-old man allegedly stabbed his pregnant wife to death Monday and then drove to a home in a nearby suburb and killed four more relatives before fleeing with his 3-year-old son, authorities said.
Nikolay Soltys, an unemployed Ukrainian immigrant, was being sought for the slayings of his wife, aunt and uncle, and two young cousins, Sacramento County sheriff’s Sgt. James Lewis said.
Soltys has no known criminal record, but he does have a history of mental instability and domestic violence, according to family members and a sheriff’s chaplain who counseled the family Monday.
Soltys had been rejected by the Ukrainian army as mentally unfit before he moved to the United States, said Chaplain Frank Russell of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. There also was a history of domestic violence between the couple when they lived in Ukraine, Russell said.
The wife came reluctantly to the United States about five months ago, Russell said. She was about three months pregnant and was set to start a new job Monday, according to Russell, family members and neighbors.
Soltys was seen leaving both crime scenes in a silver Nissan Altima. Officers also were searching for Soltys’ 3-year-old son, who was seen with him earlier Monday at another relative’s home.
A national manhunt was under way, with officers stationed at bus terminals and airports in the area. Detectives also were investigating reports that Soltys is headed to Oregon, and that he has relatives there, Lewis said.
”We will not rest until the coward responsible for this murderous rampage is apprehended and brought to justice,” said Gov. Gray Davis, who ordered that all available resources be provided to the Sacramento sheriff’s department.
Neighbors of Soltys’ 27-year-old wife called police before 10 a.m. Monday. She was stabbed inside the couple’s home in North Highlands, then stumbled to a neighbor’s doorway and collapsed.
The other relatives were killed at a duplex in Rancho Cordova, 20 minutes away.
A 9-year-old girl was stabbed inside and then ran into the street, where she was found by neighbors. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
The body of a 10-year-old boy was found on a walkway outside the complex. Police covered the body with a blanket. A blood stain remained on the wall above him.
Their grandparents, Soltys’ aunt and uncle, were found slain in the second story of their home.
”It’s really uncommon and it’s alarming that he would be in such a fit of rage,” Lewis said. ”To carry that rage to a second scene, to a second location, really speaks to the amount of danger we’re dealing with.”
The victims’ names were not released by the sheriff’s department.
The older couple lived in half of the duplex, and their sons lived with their families in the other side, neighbor Vasilima Pchelkina said.
Soltys picked up his child at his mother’s house about noon, Lewis said. His demeanor was ”normal,” Lewis said. There was ”nothing significantly alarming about his demeanor, his appearance,” Lewis said.
When she asked where he was going, Soltys told his mother he was ”headed home.”
Soltys was to start attending American River College Monday, but didn’t show up for classes, said Sheriff Capt. John McGinness.
Zoya Zukharsky, a neighbor who was close to Soltys and his wife, said she was dumbfounded by the slayings.
”We were very close friends; our kids loved his boy. Why this happened, we have absolutely no idea,” she said.
”The last time I talked to him was on Friday – he was very happy; nothing seemed wrong at all. His wife had just gotten a job and was supposed to start today. She seemed satisfied with life. It was absolutely unexpected.”
Language problems between family members and police slowed authorities’ ability to gather information.
”Everybody’s Russian – neighbors, relatives, everybody,” Lewis said.
Sacramento, California’s capital with 1.2 million people, is home to more than 75,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, mostly from Russia and Ukraine.
Much of the community revolves around the area’s Eastern European churches, one of which Soltys tried to join, said Leonid Bondaruk, head pastor at the Bethany Slovak Missionary Church.
Soltys met with the church’s board of directors July 12 for an interview required of new church members, Bondaruk said. Pastors there got stuck on one question – ”Did he leave his old church in peace?”
They didn’t like Soltys’ answer, Bondaruk said.
”He comes here and he pretends everything’s all right,” Bondurak said through a translator. ”From their eyes, it looked like he’d had a problem with the old church.”
Bondurak said he believed that’s why Soltys came to the United States without his wife, who followed him months later.
Oleg Bogush, a 19-year-old neighbor, said he has known Soltys since the suspect arrived from Ukraine by way of Binghamton, N.Y., more than a year ago. He said Soltys’ wife moved to the Sacramento area a few months ago with their child.
Bogush said Soltys didn’t have a job, but took English classes five days a week with his sister. He said Soltys didn’t talk much to his neighbors, and apparently didn’t speak up in class either.
”The teacher would ask him questions and he would just sit there silently; it was like thoughts just drained out of his head,” Bogush said.
On the Net:
Mug shot of Soltys: http://www.sacsheriff.com
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