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Manhunt For Nikolay Soltys Continues

Aired August 21, 2001 - 13:03   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Police in Sacramento, California, are still on the hunt for a Ukrainian Immigrant suspected in five grisly killings yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, SHERIFF: We want to take you now to Sacramento County. The sheriff is holding a news conference about that search.

The manhunt -- we want to find this individual. We definitely want to try do our best to recover the young child. We hope that he has not been harmed. We have a number of officers out in the field, Russian-speaking officers.

As you know, every sighting almost dictates us to cordon off an area and conduct a search. Our officers have worked almost 24 hours to this point and have done an outstanding job. Sadly to say, we haven't recovered the individual, but I really believe that with this reward, it's going to hopefully get somebody to come forward.

We're trying to overcome as much of the cultural and language barrier that we have. Our officers have done a good job in relationship to that. Also, members of the Russian community have come forward in trying to help us recover the child and get the suspect arrested.

Thank you very much for your support and help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. We very appreciate the sheriff's department what they doing to recover the child. And we would like to ask anybody who knows how to find that guy, the Nikolay, if he's in a Russian's friends or somewhere, could you please just call us and give some information where to find.

We will appreciate it very much. Thank you.

SHERIFF: Say it in Russian.



SGT. JAMES LEWIS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: Thank you very much. I see a few new faces out in the crowd today. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to give you a brief recap of what transpired yesterday, I will also give you some information that we developed over the evening, and kind of get this all up -- make sure that we are all on the same page.

Shortly before 10:00 yesterday we were investigating reports of a stabbing in the North Highlands area. When we responded, we found a female that was a victim of homicide. She was found in an adjacent duplex next to her home. At the time of that investigation, while we were in the process of investigating that crime, we received additional reports that there were other victims in the Rancho Cordova area. This all transpired in about an hour, to an hour and 10 minutes.

When we responded to the address in Rancho Cordova we found a total of four victims, one of which was a nine-year-old girl that was found in the middle of the street. She was transported to the UC Davis Medical Center where she was ultimately pronounced dead.

At the home we found a 10-year-old boy on the walkway leading to the front door, he was pronounced dead on the scene. We also found an elderly male and female in the upstairs bedroom/bathroom area.

We have now learned and have an arrest warrant for a suspect that we believe is responsible for these horrific crimes. He has been identified as 27-year-old Nikolay Soltys. He is a Ukrainian immigrant here in the United States, has been here for about a total of four years, three of which were in the New York area. He lived in the home in North Highlands for about two months before this incident.

We believe the victims, as far as relationship, the woman was his -- I believe she's either 22 or 23, I may have said 27 yesterday. I think we now narrowed it down, she's either 22 or 23 years old. It was his wife. We have information from the family that suggests that she may have been three months pregnant at the time of her death, that will be something that comes out in an autopsy that is scheduled to be completed today. We haven't confirmed that medically, but we have confirmed it through the family.

The other victims, the elderly male and female are the aunt and uncle of the suspect, and the two children found at address in Rancho Cordova are their grandchildren. They are not brother and sister, they're actually cousins themselves.

At the time of the initial investigation, we put out be on the lookout messages across the state and across the nation looking for Nikolay and the vehicle he was driving, which was describes as a silver Nissan Altima. We have since located that vehicle, about 10:30 p.m. last night. It was parked behind a home improvement store in Sacramento. It was concealed amongst some storage containers in that parking lot there. It was obvious that he tried to conceal the vehicle. And we searched that area and did not come up with him. It was unoccupied. It did not really have a whole lot of evidentiary value in it, although we have impounded and we do have possession of that.

We've received a number of tips over the evening hours, somewhere between 30 and 40 calls to our communications center alone. In addition to that, we have received a number of phone calls through Crime Alert that we're sifting through this morning. We have also responded to half a dozen to a dozen sightings of people that they have seen Nikolay in apartment complexes near where the vehicle was recovered, and in that adjoining area.

One of the problems, and I don't have the photograph in front of me, but if you look at the photograph, one of the problems that we have is that Nikolay doesn't have any really distinguishing features that makes him look significantly different than the rest of the members of his community. I think most all of you have this photograph. So a lot of the tips that we're receiving are calls of people that think that he may be in the area, but it turns out it's someone that just resembles him in one way or another.

We are responding to all those calls as if they were the legitimate tip that's going to lead to his capture. So, as you can well imagine it's pretty labor intensive, tracking down that type of information.

Rather than to continue to ramble on here, I think it's probably best if I open it up to question, because I'm sure that you folks have questions that would

LEWIS: As you can well imagine, it's pretty labor intensive tracking down that type of information. Rather than to continue to ramble on here, I think it's probably best if I open it up to questions, because I'm sure you folks have questions that could be beneficial to the group.

QUESTION: James, you have a report on the mass murderers before. But you guys never offered a reward yourself. Why this time?

LEWIS: I think due to the gravity, the violent nature with which the crimes were committed, the fact that we really believe that there needs to be additional motivation to get someone to come forward in this case. We understand there is reluctance in the Russian community to come forward to law enforcement, because they are distrustful of law enforcement based on experiences in the old country. And so we're hoping that this reward will actually build a bridge between us and them, so that we can get that information to ultimately lead to his capture.

QUESTION: You think he's in the area?

LEWIS: Well, we're basing that on the fact that the vehicle was recovered in the Sacramento area. We don't have information to suggest one way or the other, whether he's still in the area. We do have relatives. We have identified relatives in Seattle, Washington. We have also identified relatives in the New York and North Carolina area, so it's entirely possible he could be anywhere. And I know that sounds like a cop-out. But we really don't know where he is, so we can't exclude anything as a possibility.

QUESTION: Is it a possibility that somebody is hiding him?

LEWIS: That is also a possibility, although in talking to the investigators just not too long ago, and I think actually Valentine (ph) might be able to speak to this as well, I think the Russian community has come together to cooperate with law enforcement to bring him to justice. I doubt very seriously, if they are aware of the fact he's wanted by law enforcement, that they would harbor him. There is also that outside possibility, though, that they just don't know that law enforcement is looking for him, because of the language barrier or cultural barrier that they haven't actually seen the news reports, which, you know, may sound astounding based on the number of cameras here today, but that is entirely possible.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to the pastor?

LEWIS: Yes, absolutely -- Valentine.

QUESTION: Sir, what is your reaction? Do you know this man?

VALENTINE: Not personally. We saw him at the church. He came several times and he wanted to be a church member, and as we usually go to the parishioner, if you came from the other church from the other place, and we had some questions. He was kind of suspicious. He wouldn't want to answer some questions, and we have the pastors working with him to talk to him and see what he's up to, how he lived before, what his background check.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on that? What questions would he answer sufficiently?

VALENTINE: Well, like basically, we asked him where he came from, which church he came from, and how the church -- how do you leave that church, in peace, or did you have troubles there? He don't say anything how he left the church, as he have no recommendation from the pastor. We hold out on his membership, and we was going to check his background before we can have him as a member in our church.

QUESTION: And, sir, how long ago was that?

VALENTINE: It was on the 12th of July.

QUESTION: Were you able to find anything out about him being abusive towards his wife?

VALENTINE: Lately, yesterday night we spoke with the pastor. He said that Nikolay have some problems in the Ukraine. They called to the Ukraine and they find out.

QUESTION: What kind of problems did he have?

VALENTINE: He'd been abusing his wife in the Ukraine, yes.

QUESTION: And have you learned anything more about his attempt to join the military there and why he was denied?

VALENTINE: No, no. We have no information about that.

QUESTION: Because of what you know about his past, is anyone reaching out to try to help him now? VALENTINE: We have almost all the Russian community, all our church, is trying to help us with any information they can. They call the Ukraine, they looking for anybody who knows him to find any information about his life back there and here in the United States.

QUESTION: Prior to this disappearance?

VALENTINE: Before that. The pastor visit him probably two times maybe three. I don't know.

QUESTION: So there were no alarm bells?


QUESTION: The pastor visited a family, like, this a couple days ago, is that correct?

VALENTINE: A few days ago, he was actually yesterday in the Rancho Cordova with the family.

QUESTION: But did he visit family before this happens?

VALENTINE: Yes, he visited family before that happens.

QUESTION: A few days ago?

VALENTINE: Yes, I don't know, I didn't ask him.

Well, this is -- I would say there is no words to say what is really happened. This is very, very hurting for our Slavic community, and we pull up together. We sure are going to be watching more each other and try to protect everybody as much as we can.

LEWIS: Any other questions?

QUESTION: I have a quick question.

LEWIS: Sure.

QUESTION: I don't mean it to sound flippant or anything. Obviously all of the victims related to the suspect. Do you have reason to be concerned for the greater community at large who are not his relatives?

LEWIS: Yes, we haven't developed any information to suggest that the greater public is in danger. Although, we do certainly consider him armed and dangerous and would highly recommend against anybody trying to approach him. As you know, all the victims were family members. It appears they were the specific target, not a random attack, and based on that, we can't really establish he is a danger to anyone else.

QUESTION: What about the relatives in the distant states? Are they being protected in some way or relocated in any way?

LEWIS: Not that I'm aware of at this point. Those are certainly things we look at as we go on through today. There's, again, nothing to suggest he is going to target additional family members. We don't have motives for the attacks that are here, so we don't know what would cause him to want to go somewhere else and to attack somewhere else.

QUESTION: Finding the car and developing information, do you have information one way or the other to believe his son is with him still or is not with him?

LEWIS: We don't know. The last time he was seen he was seen with 3-year-old son at his mother's home, which would be the grandmother of the child, in the Citrus Heights area of Sacramento County. But beyond that, we don't have information one way or the other.

QUESTION: Anything else found in the car that helps out in the investigation?

LEWIS: Nothing.

QUESTION: Reports stolen cars in the area at time.

LEWIS: Not that we've received, no.

QUESTION: Jamie, what's the 3-year-old son's name?

LEWIS: I believe it's Sergei.

QUESTION: And did they have clothes and food and toys or just the kid?

LEWIS: As far as I know, he just had the kid. And I should say, too, he went and picked up the child from mother's residence, and the way that she described the contact while he was there was just a normal everyday, him stopping by to pick up his child. There was nothing extraordinary about it.

QUESTION: Jamie, we heard reports from the suspect had heart trouble? Any reports that he was on medication of any kind?

LEWIS: Don't know about that. That information was linked to the Ukraine and that was also linked to the possibility of one of the reasons why he may not have been selected for the military there. But we haven't been able to confirm any of that.

QUESTION: Where are the parents of the two deceased children?

LEWIS: As I understand, the fathers of both children lived in the adjoining duplex, and I suspect, based on the spectacle it was yesterday, that they are probably with other friends, family or relatives, as opposed to being there at scene. As you can well imagine, it would be very difficult to have to be there, especially because some of it was out in front of the house.

QUESTION: In all the talks with the family, still no reason or motive, still haven't or found anything that would have triggered his action?

LEWIS: Nothing, and that's one of the really bizarre aspects of this investigation, quite frankly, is that there is nothing that preceded this. There was nothing that suggested that this was going to occur or that brought this on that we can figure on. You know, he has been described as having a violent temper, but having a violent temper and taking it to the new level of killing five people is pretty far stretched, as far as I'm concerned.

QUESTION: Do you have to look at this with the possibility there is drugs or alcohol or mental instability, what kind of role that played?

LEWIS: We certainly can not rule that out as a possibility. Just out of own personal experience, we look at those things first, because it's not normal for someone to be involved in such violent attacks, on their own family especially. And again, I talked about it yesterday, where if it was domestic violent-related, it was a crime of passion, it would be isolated to a single incident, as opposed to an attack on his wife, and then driving some 15 miles to a secondary location and killing some four other people. That's just, you know, make it as simplistic as possible, that's just not normal. So we are certainly exploring the possibility there is mental instability issues there, that there may be drug issues as well?

QUESTION: When was the last time you had something like this in the county, five murders, two locations?

LEWIS: It's been some time. We've had notorious crimes in the past. But in my experience, this is one of the more significant, one of the more shocking crimes that I've ever experienced.

QUESTION: Do you have a time frame on the release of the coroner's information.

LEWIS: The coroner's office, I believe, has released the information from the victims, and you can object the information from the coroner directly. I don't have it in front of me, or else I would give it to you.

Are you conducting a search, or a cordoned-off search, or have you done that?

LEWIS: Right now, we are in the process of developing what's called a track flier, which would be very similar to this, in fact, almost identical. We're also in the process of developing these in Russian. We will be working in the community, posting them so that people know and understand what it is we are out there trying to accomplish. It will have information about the reward on it. We're hoping that people will see the news broadcast and come forward with valuable information. We understand that some of the information that comes out of these type of events is what someone considers to be useful and later is determined not to be. But we're going to look at every piece of information that we can to make sure we don't lose anything of sufficient value.

QUESTION: Copies of that and the warrant as well?

LEWIS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Copies of that and the warrant as well?

LEWIS: We are in the process of working on it, and I don't know where that is. They're working on it. They'll have them sometime today. I'll have a stack of them at front counter, and you guys pick them up from there.

I should say, too, that there is a warrant in the system for his arrest, for homicide, so if he is contacted by law enforcement across the nation, he can be arrested for homicide.

QUESTION: The crime is so unique in that she was scheduled to start a new job, he was scheduled to start school. Do you take anything from that, possibly something went wrong in of those two areas?

LEWIS: We'll look at that. One of the things that was described is there was some intolerance by the family because he was not employed, he was not a breadwinner from the family, on aid from the state or something to that effect. That has come to us as secondhand information. I don't know that we had an actual source in the family that provided. But that's certainly something that could lead to a motive, although at this point, we really don't know.

What we really need is we really need to talk to somebody who has specific information about his mental state prior to the attacks that will lead us to some type of a motive.

ALLEN: A man who went on a killing rage allegedly yesterday in Sacramento, California is still on the run today, and we just heard from Sacramento police, saying they are offering a $10,000 reward for assistance in the arrest of 27-year-old Nikolay Soltys, the Ukrainian immigrant who's been in this country four years. He fled the scene yesterday with his 3-year-old son Sergei after allegedly killing his pregnant wife and four other relatives.

Police recovered his car late last night, but that's where the trail ends apparently. They've had many tips as to his whereabouts, nothing checked out.

Let's talk with CNN's Rusty Dornin who's on this story for us in Sacramento.

Rusty, do police still think he's in the Sacramento area?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, they're really not sure, because when they found the car, there was very little physical evidence and no indications of the whereabouts of Nikolay Soltys, and apparently the car was cold. When they found it, he was gone maybe for several hours. As you might have heard them say, the possibility someone in the Ukrainian-Russian community might be harboring him, but if they are, they may be doing it unknowingly;; because of language and cultural barriers, they don't know there is a national manhunt for the suspect right now.

And I think you could see from the news conference that investigators are somewhat stymied also from the close-knit nature of this community. It's very difficult to get people to talk to police. Many people have emigrated from the former Soviet Union. They are very suspicious of police or any government official. It's very difficult to get them to speak candidly to police. They did have a family representative there who pleaded in English and also in Russian, asking anyone who knows information to please come forward.

Also talked about the fact that the suspect was a church-going person, that he -- there was no indication, no unusual behavior, you know, in recent months, and that's what police are saying, that this is very bizarre, that they cannot seem to find a motive for this, that it was -- while a crime of passion may have been when he murdered wife who was pregnant, a crime of passion usually does -- not someone does not leave that -- travel 12 miles and kill four other people for some unknown reason.

So they are trying to get background on him. Apparently, he is known to have a violent temper, and he was -- there was some incidence of domestic abuse in the Ukraine with his former wife. He was also rejected from the national army there.

But other than that, they're really having trouble putting the pieces of the puzzle together, mainly because of cultural and language issues.

ALLEN: And you talk about the issues with the Ukrainian community there. How big is this community in Sacramento?

DORNIN: There's an estimated 100,000 Ukrainian immigrants in the Sacramento area, so it is huge. And apparently, where the car was found, is an area that is inhabited by a large population of Ukrainian, and police going back out there today with pamphlets and flyers in Russian with his picture on it, distributing those, and talking to people again, and seeing if they could get people to talk more about whether they've seen him. Apparently, there have been about half a dozen people in that area who have reported to police they had some sighting of Soltys.

ALLEN: Rusty Dornin on the story for us in Sacramento, we'll keep in close contact with you. And again, today Sacramento police offering $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Nikolay Soltys, and we'll continue to follow it along and bring you any other developments.



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