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The Hunt for Nikolay Soltys Ends

Aired August 30, 2001 - 13:00   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin in California, where the manhunt for alleged serial killer Nikolay Soltys is over. We are waiting for a news conference by the sheriff's department any minute now.

Here's a picture of him right after he was caught in the suburbs of Sacramento. He was found a couple of hours ago at his mother's house in Citrus Heights just northeast of downtown Sacramento. Authorities were tipped off by Soltys' brother. The sheriff says Soltys was hiding under a desk in the backyard.

Soltys is accused of killing his wife, who was pregnant, their son and four other family members 10 days ago. He quickly became one of the FBI's most wanted.


SHERIFF LOU BLANAS, SACRAMENTO COUNTY POLICE DEPT.: Because of the coverage -- and I've got to give the media a lot of credit -- and the community -- we haven't had really many verified sightings outside of Sacramento County. So we continually believed, along with a lot of our Russian -- our Ukraine officers -- that he was still here in town.

We had a number of calls from the Ukrainian community in regard to this individual. And I have to commend the community for their calls. We've had interpreters on the line. Every call, we have researched. There's some of the calls -- you know, obviously, at this point, we have him in custody. But every call we followed up diligently.

Our officers, along with the California Highway Patrol, Sacramento Police Department, FBI, U.S. Marshal, the state Department of Justice, just have done an outstanding job in regards to this manhunt. This is probably one of the biggest manhunts in the history of Sacramento County. And it came to a happy ending today. We don't have any -- to our knowledge, there's no other victims. We took the suspect into custody without incident.

And we're very happy about that.


ALLEN: There was a $70,000 reward posted for Soltys' arrest. Again, it was his brother, according to the sheriff, who called 911 and turned his brother in.

The sheriff said some of his family were terrified of him, especially the brother. The case had Sacramento's Ukrainian community on edge, as authorities warned Soltys was considered very dangerous. Again, we expect to find out much more at a news conference beginning in just a few minutes.

And CNN will provide live coverage.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We expect that to happen in about 10 or 15 minutes. We are going to check in -- we have the benefit of a very fine news organization in Sacramento, television station KCRA. We are going to listen to a bit of their coverage to see if we can pick up anything new here.

CAPTAIN JOHN MCGINNIS, SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: ... Soltys was in the backyard of the home on Bonham Circle and that he was hiding under a desk, but nothing really more than that.

Of course, he was excited and concerned. I think they had the reaction that I would expect anyone to have. If you look in your backyard and see a very violent, vicious murderer hiding under a desk in your backyard, I think you are going to do just exactly what they did.

They did, I think, two things. First of all, they were very smart to get out of the area. And then they did the right thing by contacting us right away.

UNIDENTIFIED KCRA ANCHOR: And at this point, you are reasonably confident that no one had been harboring Soltys during this time?

MCGINNIS: I think that's pretty safe. I think that's pretty safe. But we are going to complete our investigation and make sure absolutely certain that that is the case.

UNIDENTIFIED KCRA ANCHOR: All right, Sheriff McGinnis, we understand that officers will be holding a press conference here in Rancho Cordova shortly.

And do you have any idea what they are going to be discussing right off the bat here? I mean, obviously, there's questions about the arrest and how it came about. But is there new information that is going to be talked about right off the bat?

MCGINNIS: Probably -- we were hoping that we would have a lot more detail by this time. But, as you can imagine, it's a lot of chaos and confusion. So we'll hopefully have some more details. Coincidentally, we had planned a 10:00 press conference at the Rockingham station to talk about a new traffic enforcement program in conjunction with the Highway Patrol. So we'll just kind of use that opportunity to fill in this gap as well.

UNIDENTIFIED KCRA ANCHOR: I think you are going to get a lot of questions about Soltys and not a lot about the other.

MCGINNIS: I don't think traffic enforcement is really on anybody's mind today, Kevin (ph)?



Sheriff McGinnis, anything more that you can tell us at this point? Obviously, this is going to be a lengthy questioning period for Soltys. We saw him being taken into the back of the sheriff's administration office -- a number of hours, I take it.

MCGINNIS: Oh, I think every bit of that, unless he invokes and doesn't want to talk to us. But I have a feeling he probably will want to talk because he has got issues in his own mind, obviously, that prompted him to do this. My guess is that he may very well provide us with some information that will answer a lot of questions we've been wondering about.

UNIDENTIFIED KCRA ANCHOR: Captain McGinnis, have you been able to talk to anybody in the Ukrainian community at this point?

MCGINNIS: Not as of yet. I think the word has gotten out into the local immigrant community of his arrest. In fact, as I drive down the street away from the location, I get a lot of thumbs-up from passersby. So this -- I think this is something that has caused a lot of concern for the community...

WATERS: We are going to get to the news conference now, which apparently has begun. Sergeant James Lewis of the Sacramento County sheriff's office is talking with reporters.


SERGEANT JAMES LEWIS, SACRAMENTO SHERIFF'S OFFICE: I'll let the dignitaries that are present announce that first. The first half of today's press conference will be specifically about the partnership -- the announcement of the partnership and the addition of CHP officers to sheriff's stations.

Following this press conference, we will have about a five- to 10-minute break. And then we will get into the Nikolay Soltys case.

So before we get started, I'll have...

WATERS: All right. They're taking care of some local business first. And as you heard him say, after this CHP announcement, they will be getting to the Nikolay Soltys case.

Where are we headed? OK. While we're waiting for that press conference to reveal whatever it will reveal about the Soltys case, we are going to call upon the many years of experience in this type of work. Bill Daley joins us from New York. He is a former FBI investigator.

I don't know about you, but the first reaction I had to this is: How could this guy elude authorities, with such an intense dragnet out for 10 days, in his own backyard? BILL DALEY, FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR: Well, Lou, we don't know whether he was in the backyard for the 10 days. We do know that he was on the loose. At one point, he was in a jeep which everyone was out looking for.

The question is: What happened to that vehicle? Where did he drop that? Was he living on the street? And how was he able to support himself? How was he able to eat every day?

I think there are -- certainly, there are questions with regard to where he was during this period of time since, apparently, he didn't go very far away from that community in that area. But it is very interesting. I think it's very supportive to all of us in this country to know that we have law enforcement agencies that do work closely together, and that by use of the media to get out there and get people to respond -- as they said, they got a very good uptick in the number of reports from the community out there -- a community that, in the past, the police were concerned may not want to provide information to police, just because their background, coming from Russia, may inhibit them from doing that.

But I think all these things are very positive. And, you know, Lou, also, one other thing is that we tend to live in this world right now where we think everything is a "60 Minutes" investigative show...

WATERS: Right.

DALEY: ... where we turn around and we get answers right away. This goes to show you that it takes good police work.

WATERS: Yes. The reason I asked about remaining in the Sacramento area is because there are some conclusions being drawn by authorities, included today, that Soltys was not harbored or aided in any way within the community. How do you suppose those kinds of conclusions can be drawn already?

DALEY: I don't know what the police have as far as knowing that he hasn't been harbored. They apparently had some sightings, whether those sightings are confirmed. That would suggest he was living on the street and evading them just by being on foot and going to various hidden locations. I'm not too sure why they would know that for sure.

Of course, that's always the concern when somebody has been in a confined area for a period of time -- you know, a locale -- and has not been discovered. You say: How was he living? How was getting on every day?

And then also the question is: Why all of the sudden does he show up at his mother's home? Was there some other malintent that was about to be committed?

WATERS: There are a lot of answers we need -- Sacramento authorities apparently keeping everything close to the vest until this news conference, which begins in about 10 minutes or so.

What we do know is that Nikolay Soltys is believed to have committed six murders within his own family. The FBI, it was involved in the case, was it not? How is the connection between local authorities and the FBI worked out in a case like this?

DALEY: Well, in this particular case, the local authorities still have jurisdiction. This is a -- you know, this is a capital offense. This is an investigation into murders. The FBI assists because of the assumption at some point that he may have crossed state lines. And as a result, the other FBI field officers, as well as the other agencies that were mentioned -- the U.S. Marshals and other state agencies -- get involved.

And they provide support, not only from a forensic standpoint in helping to go out and do an on-the-scene investigation with manpower, but also alerting their network and putting information through NCIC, which is very helpful to police should he be caught some other place in the country.

WATERS: There's a lot more of that kind of cooperation these days, is there not. I mean, with television programs like "America's Most Wanted," it seems like the hunt is on for every known criminal these days.

DALEY: Exactly, Lou. And you know, it's interesting, if we go back, put a little backtrack on what happened earlier this year, we had fugitives from Texas who were found in Colorado. Well, they were identified from somebody who lived in the trailer community where these seven individuals were hiding.

So it goes to show you that the community and that the population at large are now brought more and more into these stories, which I think is very good. You may get people who call in with information that's extraneous, that's off the track. But, you know, the track record of shows, like you mentioned, "America's Most Wanted," goes to show you tat some of this actually does lead to people being caught.

WATERS: We were also watching the reward jackpot in the Soltys case and in other cases we watch also continue to climb in the past 10 days. It got up to around $120,000. How effective is the incentive for reward money in a case like this and others?

DALEY: What we found people are usually driven by more of a conviction to have someone like this found out and be brought to justice versus the dollar amount. I think what the dollar amount does is it draws attention to the case. It draws -- it puts a spotlight on it and says it's very important, and then maybe some reward if someone does come through. But I believe that people, when they do communicate, it's with the intent of doing the right thing, cooperating with law enforcement, versus just going after the money as if it's a bounty.

WATERS: Bill Daley, former FBI investigator, thanks so much.

Natalie, what's next?

ALLEN: Well again, it was his brother who turned Nikolay Soltys in. Police received a 911 call and headed to Nikolay Soltys mother's home in Citrus Heights. That's a suburb northeast of Sacramento.

We're going to now listen to one of the police officers who responded and was part of the team that arrested him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first call I got was the surveillance team that was on the house was activated. The family came out of the house, got into a car, and moved rather hastily. That obviously piqued their interest. They followed the family. They went to a nearby retail store. And what we didn't realize was that they were going to get to a phone to call 911 to report that Nikolay was in the backyard hiding under desk.

We have the advantage of officers being right in the area as a result of the stakeout team. That coupled with the officers who had followed the family, things came together very quickly, fortunately very safely and effectively. The suspect was now taken into custody. He is going to be interviewed shortly by Russian-speaking detectives from the sheriff's department, and I think we've got an incredibly good case. And of course the best news of all is that there's no additional victims.


ALLEN: And according to the sheriff, Soltys was pulled out from under a desk. He didn't try to run or fight. He was combative at all. Again, we will hear from the sheriff in a few more moments when that news conference begins.

But let's take you back to day that Nikolay Soltys alleged crime spree began and how it was carried out. It was August 20th. There are reports that shortly before 10:00 a.m., he allegedly stabbed his pregnant wife at their home in North Highland. That's a Sacramento suburb. Twenty minutes later, he arrived at his relatives home in Rancho Cordova, where he allegedly killed his aunt, and uncle and two children, two 9-year-old cousins. An hour later, he arrived at his mother's home in Citrus Heights, and he apparently took away his 3- year-old son, Sergey. That is when the search began for Soltys and his son. Police holding a news conference, desperate for information that would lead them to Soltys before this little boy was perhaps hurt.

But apparently after 8:00 p.m., Soltys allegedly killed his son. He took him to an abandoned area, a trash area, according to police, where he lured son to a trash pile, a box using children's toys, and from there he left a note, helping police go to the little boy's body, and that was when the intense search began. Again, Nikolay Soltys was on the FBI's most wanted list. He's been -- he has a big captured banner over his face today, as we've been showing.

We are going to continue to standby for live coverage from the Sacramento County sheriff's department. While we wait for the news conference to begin, they are doing other business right now, as you can see. We will rejoin our affiliate and their coverage, KCRA from Sacramento, see if we can get some other details. DEIRDRE FITZPATRICK, KCRA REPORTER: They say when found that 3- year-old boy, it just felt so hopeless, and so it made it much more important that they bring him in as quickly as they could.

JENNIFER BOWKER, KCRA REPORTER: Deirdre, I know you interviewed a woman earlier, who said she had come down to check out the action because it had really hit home for her. She has children, and she knows other people who have children who are just devastated by this case. Are people actually driving down there to see what's happening, or are they pretty much just coming out of where they work around that area?

FITZPATRICK: I think it's for the most part just pedestrian traffic. We have a lot of the state offices within a couple blocks of where we are right now, so I think people are just wandering out, taking a break just to come down and just to see a little bit of the activity. We've had our own live trucks here for the last week. We've had national media here following this story. So there's been kind of a show here every single day. But today, it's the resolution. It's what everybody's been hoping for the last 10 days. Finally it's here.

UNIDENTIFIED KCRA ANCHOR: Deirdre, thank you very much.

KCRA's Deirdre Fitzpatrick, in front of sheriff's department headquarters, and again, we have a live look there at the administration office, where Nikolay Soltys is being held at this hour, as detectives attempt to question him about these murders of a week and a half ago.

We have a picture right now we can show you from the Internet. And it does show you apparently Nikolay Soltys after he was captured. You can see that the FBI has already updated their Web page. He was at the top of their 10 most wanted list, and it didn't take long for them to but the red flag across his photograph. He now has been captured, as the caption says, and is in custody. Obviously, a big sense of relief for the FBI and other law enforcement personnel.

Now we do understand that the sheriff's department will be answering questions here momentarily in Rancho Cordova about the arrest of Nikolay Soltys. We do have a lot of the basic facts already. The fact that he was arrested in his mother's home in the backyard this morning after she and his brother fled the home, went to a phone booth and called 911. We have a lot of other questions, obviously, about where he's been in the ensuing week and more details surrounding the arrest.

WATERS: KCRA in Sacramento. Their coverage continues over the capture of Nikolay Soltys in the Sacramento area. We are About to hear from the authorities and the capture and any other information reporters can get out of them. That news conference that's scheduled for 1:00 has been delayed by some local business taken care of by the Sacramento sheriff's department. They are taking break now for about 10 minutes. We are hearing 1:30 Eastern Time. That's about 10:30 in the morning Pacific Time. We will carry that live.



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