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Sacramento Authorities Suspect Ukrainian Man of Killing Five Relatives During Rampage

Aired August 20, 2001 - 18:13   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now back to Sacramento, California. Sergeant James Lewis of the Sacramento police now briefing reporters once again about the rampage that took place earlier this afternoon.


SGT. JAMES LEWIS, SACRAMENTO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: ... and while we're in the process of investigating that homicide, we learned that there were additional victims here at the address here on Mill Station. So we responded here at about 11:10, I think is how it came out.

Originally, the call came in to the fire department as an auto versus pedestrian accident. They found the victims -- one of which is a 10-year-old boy that was found on the front porch of the residence -- two other victims inside the house, which have been described as elderly male and female -- they were in the upstairs bedroom-bathroom area -- and then a 9-year-old girl that was, as I now learn, she was in the street. And that's why the call came in as an auto versus pedestrian accident.

That victim, the 9-year-old female, was transported to the U.C. Davis Medical Center here in town and was pronounced dead there.

So we have a total of five victims: two elderly people here, two children here, and then what we believe to be the wife of the suspect at the other address in North Highlands.

The reason why we have linked these crimes together is because the suspect has been seen at both locations at about the time that the crimes occurred. He was seen leaving the locations at or around prior -- just prior to our arrival and shortly after what we believe to be the time of the crime.

The suspect has been identified as 27-year-old -- I'm going to have brain fade here -- Nikolay, N-I-K-O-L-A-Y, last name Soltys, S-O- L-T-Y-S. He's a 27-year-old. He lived at the address -- we believe he lived at the address -- on Scallop Court in North Highlands. And the reason why we are considering him a suspect is obviously because he was seen at both locations at around the time of the crimes. But he is only considered a suspect at this point. If he is not a suspect, we would sure love for him to come forward and talk to us so that we can iron things out.

But right now, we consider him a suspect. We consider him to be armed and dangerous. We don't know where he is.

He was seen driving a silver Nissan Altima, and the plate on that vehicle is 4 MSZ 683. And that was seen in both locations as well.

There is one child that is still outstanding, a child that we're looking for. It's a 3-year-old boy we believe is the son of the suspect. He was seen with the suspect earlier today, and because of that fact that they were together, we're a little concerned for his welfare obviously and we want to locate him as well.

As far as the relationship between the victims and the suspect here at, actually at both scenes, again, the female that was found at the original scene we believe is the 27-year-old wife of the suspect. We have not identified her, have not released her identity nor will we at this point. The victims here, the two children, are actually children of the suspect's cousins. And the elderly male and female are the grandmother and grandfather of the two victims' children. So I hope that's clear. It's kind of hard to describe when you have the families once removed like that.

As far as the search that's going on right now. We have put out bulletins throughout the nation identifying the suspect, identifying the suspect's vehicle, notifying all the law enforcement agencies across the nation what the suspect is wanted for, what he is capable of: obviously serious, significant violence. And we consider him armed and dangerous. And we are also looking for the public's help in trying to locate this suspect.

There have been vague reports about him heading toward the north -- the northwest area, like toward Oregon or Washington. We have not been able to confirm those, and but we are certainly not going to rule that out as a possibility either.

So anybody with information regarding this suspect, where he might be should get a hold of us at the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. And again, I would suggest that no one try to approach him as he is considered armed and dangerous.

Now, I'll open it up for questions.

QUESTION: Sergeant Lewis, do you have any witnesses that put him as more of a suspect than just the fact that he was at both locations?

LEWIS: We have him seen at both locations prior to officers arriving to the scene of both murders. So based on that, he's considered a strong suspect.

QUESTION: But witnesses to the actual acts themselves?

LEWIS: No, not actual eyewitness to the acts. Witnesses to his, you know, him being in the locations.

QUESTION: Where -- where was it that they were seen with the 3- year-old, here or North Highlands?

LEWIS: That was earlier, and it actually was at a secondary address, some other relative's address, and I believe it's in Citrus Heights. I'm not sure.

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that he may have planned this out, like he had packed up some clothing or other personal effects from the other location?

LEWIS: We haven't had an opportunity to really go through the scene there. Quite frankly, this is a really tedious task of documenting the evidence at the scene, obviously, for the court proceedings later. We have the victims at both locations are still there, because the detectives are in the process of going through and documenting the scenes, making sure that they collect and document all the physical evidence.

QUESTION: Do you have the rest of the family under protection?

LEWIS: We don't at this point. We are in the process of trying to contact any removed family, any, you know, once-removed obviously. These were once removed. So we want to get ahold of everybody. We want to account for all the family to eliminate the possibility they could be victims.


LEWIS: It's somewhat difficult. The culture and language differences, difficulties have been pretty much accounted for in that we have a Russian-speaking officer, an officer that speaks the Russian language who has been able to break down those language barriers. In addition to that, we have brought on interpreters to help us in that endeavor.

QUESTION: Do you know what the murder weapon was?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) possible motive at this point?

LEWIS: We don't have a motive at this point. That's something that we're trying to establish. It does not appear to be a random attack, obviously. I don't think that the general public is necessarily in danger. It appears as though the family members or the people that were associated to him were specifically targeted.


QUESTION: ... 3-year-old? Did he go to his school to pick up his...


LEWIS: As far as the murder weapon is concerned, we do not believe that it is a gun. It is possibly an edged weapon, possibly a blunt object. Those are things that, as the detectives have an opportunity to document the scenes, we'll have a better understanding for, but we may not know that until after an autopsy. HEMMER: That's Sergeant James Lewis. He's with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, briefing reporters, once again, courtesy of KCRA, our affiliate in the area.

Again to recap what police have determined thus far at this time, the wife of the suspect, 27-year-old Nikolay Soltys, was killed earlier today, they say. In addition, two elderly adults were also killed. And according to Sergeant Lewis, a 9-year-old girl and what appears to be a 10-year-old boy also are dead, bringing the total fatalities to a number of five. They also indicate a 3-year-old boy, said to be the son of the suspect, is missing at this time.

James Hattori of CNN now arriving on the scene there in Sacramento. Let's go to James now for more on the manhunt and the rest of the fallout thus far from this story that again is only a few hours old.

James, good afternoon to you in California.


You're indeed right. The story continues to unfold. Police have an alert out for the suspect, who they described as a Ukrainian immigrant. As was mentioned earlier, he's 27-year-old Nikolay Soltys. He's described as armed and dangerous, wanted in connection with the deaths of five family members, his wife, two children, who are his second cousins, as well as his aunt and uncle, who are at the -- who were found dead at the house behind me.

With me -- and as you mentioned, his son is missing and believed possibly with the suspect.

Now, with me is Captain John McGinness, one of the investigators. How difficult is this, because there is apparently a language and cultural problem? Does the suspect, do we know, speak English even?

CAPTAIN JOHN MCGINNESS, SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: He does apparently speak English. To what extent we don't know.

But frankly, there are a couple of big challenges. First, the language barrier, obviously. There are some cultural issues. I think there's an issue of trust of police in general, so we're trying to establish some rapport with the extended family. And frankly, he has silenced our best witnesses. So in terms of those people who were present at the time the crimes were committed, unfortunately, none of them survived.

So we're really going on physical evidence and then any other anecdotal information that family members, friends, neighbors, associates can provide as the investigation continues. That will be welcome and we can use it very well. However, in the initial stages, we're really going to be looking at trying to locate him, and of course, bring that young boy to safety.

HATTORI: You mention physical evidence. I'm told this is a very grim scene. These are victims of stabbing -- some sort of stabbing incidents.

MCGINNESS: Yes. Suffice it to say it is an extremely violent crime scene here, and I have not been to the initial crime scene where his wife was murdered, but certainly, the nature of the crimes themselves, extremely violent.

HATTORI: Have there been sightings of the suspect that you're pursuing at this point?

MCGINNESS: There has been in -- information has come in without any real specific detail. So while we don't discount anything -- we'll take any information we can get -- some information suggested that he may be en route to Oregon. Now, the exact source of that, frankly, I don't know, but we're not going to dismiss it. So we're concentrating our efforts on that northern corridor, up that direction.

Also, information about a sighting of a man with a young boy in a car, a silver Nissan. But you know, there are so many such vehicles with that combination of people inside of it that you really can't commit a lot of resources to that.

HATTORI: I know the investigation is still unfolding. You have no clue as to any kind of motivation at this point? It would seem to be some sort of family-related thing?

MCGINNESS: That's probably a pretty safe bet, but in all honesty we don't know, and quite frankly, if we did have that information at this point, we'd probably withhold it. But in all condor, we don't know what prompted.

As the investigation continues and we get a chance to actually establish some good communication with family members, hopefully we can turn some of that up. But the information we're trying desperately to find right now is anything leading to his whereabouts, potentially. So we can get that -- his own son, obviously, is the person for whom we have the greatest concern right now, because of what it appears he was capable: he, the suspect, was capable of having done to other relatives.

We're very concerned about the welfare of his son, obviously.

HATTORI: Captain John McGinness of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, thank you for being with us.

Bill, a very violent crime and an investigation that's still unfolding. Back to you.

HEMMER: Absolute, absolute tragedy.

James, quickly here, have police indicated or said what they know about the history of the suspect? Some say he came to the U.S. within the past year. What more do we know about that?

HATTORI: There's not a whole lot of information. I believe someone was asked if he had a previous criminal record, and there was no indication at this point of that. Again, because they're Ukrainian immigrants, there may be some language problem, it makes it doubly hard to get any kind of information at all.

HEMMER: And James, out of curiosity, is there a big Ukrainian population in that part of California, or do we know?

HATTORI: Offhand I don't know. I know there are pockets across Northern California. This neighborhood just from, you know, reckoning here as we arrived does not seem to be overly populated with Ukrainians, but I could be wrong.

HEMMER: And I understand you've just arrived on the scene there, James. We'll cut you loose, get some information. We'll talk to you later this evening.

James Hattori there in Northern California, just outside of Sacramento.



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