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Sacramento County Sheriff Discusses Soltys' Arrest

Aired August 30, 2001 - 13:28   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Take another look now at one of America's most wanted by the FBI. Shortly after he was caught, you'll see Nikolay Soltys slowly turn his head and look right into the camera. A few moments later when he was brought into jail, his head was bowed, his hands cuffed behind him.

He was found, again, hiding under a desk in his mother's backyard right at center of the area where police have been conducting a search for 10 days, looking for this man who allegedly killed six members of his family.

A news conference expected to begin in a few moment. Hear now from the sheriff of Sacramento County just about an hour after Soltys arrest.


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

We've 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're researched. 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 California Highway Patrol, Sacramento Police Department, FBI, U.S. Marshall, 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: So we should hear more in a moment how Nikolay Soltys reacted when he realized police had found him and were going to take him in. For now we'll turn it over to Lou.

WATERS: And -- are we going to New York again? OK.

Up in New York helping us out is Bill Daley, a former FBI investigator.

Still not much to talk about because Sacramento authorities haven't given us that much to talk about. We know Soltys is in custody after what the sheriff just said, with the biggest manhunt in Sacramento history.

Now there were a lot of law agencies involved in this. And the media has been given some kudos for help in that. What is that stew like, the pressures involved there?

BILL DALEY, FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR: Well, you know, when one of these incidents occur we need to get together a large group of law enforcement agencies, usually called a task force. You know, this, of course -- people positioning themselves as being the lead on it. In this case we know it was the Sacramento police because it was a capital offense. And the other agencies will add in as they can contribute to the case. Obviously, the FBI with their resources across the United States can alert not only the field offices but can also, you know, do other things that might assist them with regard to putting information in computers, going further out, alerting border patrol, et cetera. In other words, they can help widen the dragnet.

It is interesting, Lou, though, is that we've heard so far that the police were outside conducting a surveillance of the mother's home, and yet, the -- when they left, it drew attention to the fact that something was awry. And later they got the call from the -- from Soltys' brother.

You know, it's not that uncommon that fugitives will return home or to loved one or to a girlfriend, perhaps to feel they have to close out some business or something else. And it's -- one of the steps law enforcement takes is to actually conduct surveillance of known locations where people sometimes are creatures of habit and they show up at locations where they feel comfortable. And so it's not that uncommon. And it's interesting that here this has proven out to be the case, where police were on the scene conducting a discreet surveillance, and they too were alerted to the fact that something was wrong, something was different.

WATERS: I think the authorities were fearful that other family members of Nikolay Soltys also might be in danger, too, were they not? So we heard there were some protective-custody measures taken in the Sacramento area?

DALEY: Yes, I know that there were because there were come concerns that this man was deranged and we didn't know what his intent was and who else he might reach out for in conducting some harm.

WATERS: OK, we are waiting here -- we're a matter of seconds away, Bill, from this news conference in Sacramento. We're awaiting the sheriff, who's standing there at podium, to fill us in on not only the capture but how the capture was implemented and all the other questions that we still have unanswered.

This is Sheriff Lou Blanas in Sacramento County.

BLANAS: I'm Sheriff Lou Blanas. Good morning. I'd like to welcome you all here to our Rockingham Station in Rancho Cordova.

As you all know, this morning at quarter to 8:00 officers made up of a joint task force arrested suspect Nikolay Soltys, who's responsible for six brutal murders here in Sacramento that occurred approximately 10 days ago.

He was taken into custody without incident. We are going to have you talk to the arresting officers during this press conference.

You know, you talk about a joint effort from various law enforcement agencies, and also the community. A number of law enforcement agencies really stepped up to the plate and supported Sacramento County Sheriff's Department in trying to apprehend this vicious criminal.

I'd like to thank the various departments that participated: the Sacramento Police Department; the United States Marshals Office; the Federal Bureau of Investigation here in Sacramento; Sacramento County Probation Department; West Sacramento Police Department; Citrus Heights Police Department; Davis Police Department; the Sacramento County DA's Office; and the California Department of Justice; and also the California Highway Patrol.

You know, when I mean a community joint effort, I really got tell you, when these murders occurred a week ago Monday, about an hour and a half after the murders I got a call from the governor of the state of California, Gray Davis. He stepped up and said: What can I do to help you? What state resources can I give you?

The highway patrol stepped in to help us, and, as you know, a few days later the governor signed a reward for $50 thousand for the arrest and capture and conviction of this individual.

Just about 30 minutes ago, the governor called here to congratulate all the agencies involved and also to personally congratulate the two -- the arresting officers involved in this case. So I'd like to thank the governor of the great state of California for his support in relationship to helping us capture this individual.

We have a number of speakers here, and the first speaker who I really got to thank, who is -- and I'm going to tell you something, I've been in law enforcement a long time. I have never seen anybody get on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list faster than we -- then the FBI got this subject on the 10 Most Wanted list. Largely responsible of Richard Baker, the special agent in charge here in Sacramento, who has been here a short time, but has already made an impact in law enforcement in the Sacramento community with his cooperation and effort to work with local law enforcement -- Special Agent Baker.



This sign over here is a direct result, obviously, of combined efforts by multiple agencies that Sheriff Blanas pointed out. Without that effort this couldn't have happened. Because of that effort there was such a relentless pressure on this individual that he had to go to ground. He couldn't sequester himself out of the area, he couldn't get help. It's just a great effort by law enforcement.

But I'd also like to thank the media for keeping this in the public's eye. And I'd also like to thank the Ukrainian community for having to put up with and to assist us into looking for someone in their community.

This is a day for celebration, but, however, as we celebrate the capture of this individual, let's don't forget the victims, and our hearts are still with them.

Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's now my pleasure to introduce our next speaker, the commissioner of the California Highway Patrol, Dwight Spike Helmick.


COMM. SPIKE HELMICK, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: Thank you very much. I'll just keep my comments very short.

Again, I'd like to compliment Sheriff Blanas, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, for an outstanding effort in bringing a person that absolutely does not belong in this community to justice.

I'd like to also thank all the additional departments that he's mentioned.

This clearly was a community effort and it shows that we can all work collectively together with the public's safety being our primary goal.

And then finally, two people I'd like to thank. First of all, as Lou has already mentioned, Governor Davis was very, very quick to step in and tell us to pull out all stop, any resources we could do to provide the Sacramento County to assist. And to each and every one of you. The media's played a major part in keeping the pressure on this particular individual, letting the public know what was the daily changes, and for that I am very appreciative.

Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The arrest team -- actually, the surveillance team that made the arrest on this subject was made up of member of the Department of Justice, members of the Sacramento Police Department, and members of the Sacramento Sheriff's Department.

And I'd like to (OFF-MIKE) for the Sacramento Police Department.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I think pretty much everything's been said about the collaboration that has taken place in this case, and actually, it's part of a collaboration that has been going on for us for quite a while. We were just able to focus it much more on this particular case.

Immediately after the homicides took place, I called the sheriff and made the offer of any resources that we had in the police department to facilitate the arrest and bringing to justice of Mr. Soltys. And I'm happy to say and very proud of the fact that some of our members of the Sacramento Police Department were part of that arrest team.

That arrest team, as he indicated, actually is comprised of multiple agencies. And working very close, cooperatively with the state and federal agents as part of that team, I think that's what you are seeing the result of today. It could not have been done by any single agency. It really required cooperation.

As the commissioner also mentioned, two other folks that really need to be tanked. One is the press. All of you really have kept it on the forefront, and that has been communicated, obviously, worldwide. But really to a more important group, and that is the immigrant community. There was a real sense of tragedy that was really felt throughout the Ukrainian immigrant community. And we have received a lot of information and a lot of cooperation from them, and so we also want to thank them as well. To the arrest team, I mean, we are really proud of them. And now, we need to move forward with justice, as the individual is brought forward.

Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, chief.

You know, there's a lot of behind-the-scenes operations that went on since the murders occurred a week ago Monday. One of those is we maintained a 24-hour command center in the first floor of the sheriff's department for 24 hours a day. At any given time, there was anywhere from a minimum of 10 people to 30 people working that command center. Not only made up of local law enforcement agencies and interpreter, but also made up of the FBI and the U.S. marshal.

And that brings us to our next person to introduce, is the assistant U.S. Marshal here in Sacramento. Jerry Anamoto (ph) is out of town. His assistant is Thomas Figmis (ph) -- Thomas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. On behalf of the United States marshals, I want to thank the sheriff, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in this community for allowing us to participate in this investigation. Our staff live and work in this community, and we try to support local law enforcement as much as possible. Our main investigative response to this would be fugitive investigation. We have a lot of expertise in this area, and we're glad to offer it to the local community.

Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And before I introduce the arresting officers, I just want to reiterate what a lot of the speakers said, I want to thank the press for their coverage, their fair analysis of this whole incident that occurred over the last 10 days, and I also want to really thank the Ukrainian community. This is attack on everybody. This just wasn't an attack within part of our one part of our great society, especially in the Rancho Cordova area, where four of the murders occurred a short few blocks from here. We receive a number of calls from the Ukrainian community in regards to sightings, they believe where the subject is hiding. I want to thank them personally, thank them on behalf of all the men and women involved in law enforcement. I want to thank them for their support and the phone calls they made to our communications and command center.

The next two individuals I'd like to introduce -- now we had arrest team or surveillance team out there, so let me give you a little background. Since the homicides have occurred, we had a number of plain clothes officers working various parts of the investigation in trying to track these fugitives, not only the local agencies involved, but also the federal agencies. We've maintained 24-hour residence on the residences involved. On the residency down the street here on Mills Station, we had a uniformed squad car there, the fact that these individuals living over here may be potential victims. That is where four of the victims were murdered over here, on Mill's Station.

Since that time, we have tried to follow members of the family, not only to provide safety, but to hope that the subject would try to make contact with them over the course of our surveillance.

This morning, at quarter to 8:00, our graveyard surveillance team was in the presence -- or just about ready to get off. And the day shift was coming on, and at that time, the arrest was made. That team was made up of one of individual from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Sacramento police officers, and Sacramento deputy sheriffs.

I have two of the officers involved in that, and I'm going to have them come up, give their story of what happened, and then we'll open it up to a little question and answer of those officers. So bear with us.

From the Sacramento police department, we have sergeant Virgil Brown. Virgil? And from the Sacramento sheriff's department, we have detective Chris Joachim.


SGT. VIRGIL BROWN, SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT: As the sheriff indicated, my name is Virgil Brown. I'm a sergeant with the Sacramento police department. I'm currently assigned to the Crank, Rock Impact Project of Sacramento. It's a state-funded task force, which consists of Sacramento police department, probation and the sheriff's department. The grant is currently administered by the sheriff's department, and at this time, as I indicated, I'm a Sac p.d. sergeant, and I'm running the team.

We've been actively involved in the investigation almost from the beginning. My captain, Captain Brazil (ph), and Lieutenant Gregson (ph), went to the sheriff and asked if they needed some assistance, and at that point, we were asked to assist in this investigation. Lieutenant Lazido (ph) from the sheriff's department is my immediate supervisor, ad also indicated he needed our team to assist on the surveillance. That's how we got involved in this investigation.

As everybody has indicated earlier, this is not just an individual-type event here. This is a law enforcement community that came together to bring the suspect into custody. And this just says something about Sacramento in general, the fact that we work together as a unit to take care of our problems. And I'm just really proud to be a part of this organization. The fact that we all worked together, nobody put anything -- all the egos were put aside and everybody worked as a unit to take care of this problem.

And again, I have to thank the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. I have to thank the probation department, the sheriff's department, and SPD for giving us their support and doing whatever it took to take this person into custody. And basically, what that took was 24-hour work to take this person into custody.

DET. CHRIS JOACHIM, ARRESTING OFFICER: I will describe how the arrest occurred.

As the sheriff said, at 7:45 this morning, I was working the graveyard shift, and was getting ready to get off, and Sergeant Brown here was bringing his day shift crew on. We observed the family leave the residence in a very hurried fashion. And we began to follow them.

Shortly after that, we saw them arrive to a store, and the suspect's brother entered a store, and we realized that he had called 911, reporting that the suspect was underneath a desk in the backyard of the residence we were watching. Somehow, the suspect had arrived in the backyard of that residence on foot, undetected, in the cover of darkness while we were watching the residents in the area.

The patrolman assigned to the area did a fantastic job of immediately setting an outer perimeter so the suspect wouldn't escape, allowing Sergeant Brown's team and my team to do as we planned, and that was if he arrived at that residence to hit it, and effect an arrest as immediately or as fast as possible. So under the direction of Sergeant Lancaster, we had two teams converge on the residence from two different directions. We quietly approached, and we couldn't see a desk in the backyard at first.

Eventually, some of my partners were able to peer through the fence and find a desk just inside the gate to the residence, just outside a sliding glass door, next to an inoperable refrigerator. As we moved to maneuver through the gate, several of us could see the suspect's feet. He was maybe curled or lying on the ground, as if he had been resting or laying in wait in that location. As he heard us, he sprang to his feet and appeared as if he were to run, but the inoperable refrigerator's door was open, blocking his exit. We entered the gate. It was a very confined area. We were able to grab him, and he thrust his hands in the air as soon as I entered the gate. So I immediately saw he wasn't armed. I secured my weapon, was able to grab him, extricate him from that little small area. And Sergeant Brown was able to handcuff him, along with the assistance of several of our partners right outside that gate area. And we brought the family back to the scene who positively identified him.


QUESTION: Sir, did he say anything?

JOACHIM: He spoke no words that I heard during the entire incident?

BROWN: The whole time he was very stoic, didn't say anything to us. He didn't really respond immediately when we took him down. We told him to get down. We had to forcibly take him down, although he didn't struggle with us.

QUESTION: He thrust his hands in the air as if he surrendered?

JOACHIM: I believe so. I was looking at him through the fence, as he appeared to turn and run, but the refrigerator was blocking his way. So officer Brad Warner pushed the gate open for me, because I was armed with the shotgun. I entered the small area, and as soon as he saw me he thrust his hands in the air. I took it as a surrender. I was happy to see that he was unarmed, so I was able to secure my weapon and extricate him from the area.

QUESTION: Detective Joachim, given the fact that you have the house under 24-hour surveillance, how surprised were you that he showed up in that backyard?

JOACHIM: Well, that's why we had the house under surveillance. We believed this is one of the likely places he would have arrived at. It's a very difficult -- surveillance is a very difficult thing to do, especially at nighttime, when it's dark. And you could see vehicles arrive, but people on foot in the darkness -- he was wearing dark clothing -- he could have entered the place over back fences.

And in fact, earlier in the day we did see somebody approach on foot to the residence, but the family had cell phones to dial 911 directly to us. They had a panic alarm in the house. We received no alarm, so we didn't fear for their safety at that time.

Apparently, if that was him, he laid in that backyard until the family saw him and evacuated the house.

QUESTION: How long do you think he'd been there?

QUESTION: What did he look like?

JOACHIM: Well, basically he was wearing a blue T-shirt with yellow writing on it. He had on a dark colored to black type of jogging pants. He was very dirty. His feet were dirty. His whole body was basically dirty, like he'd been camping out. He had a two or three-day growth of a beard. Just very disheveled. Again, he looked like he had been camping out.

QUESTION: You said that the family left in a hurry. Do you take that to mean that they were fearful, that they'd just discovered him themselves?

JOACHIM: At first, when we saw the family leave, we didn't know what they'd seen. We were simply watching them. They didn't use their 911 cell phones or their panic alarm.

Five to six family members -- first of all, the garage door flew open. Detective Macateeb (ph) was watching at that point. The garage door flew open, he radioed to us that the family was entering the car in a hurry, backup lights, and it left in a really quick hurry. Once we realized that they -- when we followed them to the store, once they made the 911 call, it was obvious to us why they were leaving in such a hurry. They had just discovered him and went to report it.

QUESTION: Just the two people? The mother and the son, or how many people are we talking about getting in that car?

JOACHIM: There were several.

BROWN: Yes. We're talking about his brother, his mother, the brother's wife, a younger male juvenile, and an older female juvenile. And the female juvenile was the one we saw actually kind of run into the vehicle, that really gave us some indication that they were in a hurry to get out of there.

QUESTION: Since they called 911, will they be getting the $120,000 reward?

BROWN: Well, that's something you have to talk to Sergeant Lewis about. I'm not really sure on that.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea where he's been the past couple of days, before he was under the desk?

JOACHIM: Well, the investigation obviously is continuing, and it's in its preliminary stages now that they have an opportunity to talk to him. But, as Sergeant Brown said, he was disheveled and looked like he may have been camping out.

QUESTION: Are you sure he came in overnight in the darkness (OFF-MIKE)? JOACHIM: Well, technically, I guess he could have been there, but it wasn't a very great hiding place. I'm sure the family would have seen him if he hadn't come in during the night.

QUESTION: Did he have anything with him?


JOACHIM: He had a...


BROWN: Yes he -- when we took him down, we searched him. At that point he had a, I'd say about a four to five-inch potato peeler, a metal potato peeler with him. He also had a folded up map. I'm not sure exactly what the map was of.

JOACHIM: It was of the Sacramento area, I'm being told.

BROWN: That was the only property that he had on his person. Behind the fence where he was hiding, there was a backpack and a sleeping bag.

QUESTION: Any weapons?

QUESTION: Do you believe the potato peeler was the murder weapon?

JOACHIM: No, I believe he was maybe peeling potatoes if he was camping out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found a knife in the...

JOACHIM: They...

BROWN: Yes, right. As we're being told, there was a knife in his backpack. We're not really sure if it is the murder weapon. But it is a knife similar to what we think might have been used.

QUESTION: Any indication how he survived all this time? Did he have cash in his backpack?

JOACHIM: I looked in the backpack briefly when I first saw it. I left it for the investigators to further search, and they found the weapon that he was describing. But there was a soda bottle, some water in there, a sleeping bag that I saw immediately. So I believe that indicated he may have been camping out.

QUESTION: Can you describe that knife?

JOACHIM: I did not see it myself.

QUESTION: Is there a rural area adjacent to where he was found (OFF-MIKE)? BROWN: To the north there is a wooded area that could be used for camping, yes.

QUESTION: Is it a park (OFF-MIKE)?

BROWN: No, it's not really a park. If I'm not mistaken, I'm not really familiar with the area, but from what I understand it's like a creek area.

QUESTION: Have you talked to the family at all since this happened, and has the brother said anything to clarify exactly what may have happened?

BROWN: The suspect hasn't given us any information, hasn't talked to us. The family is, at this time, hasn't provided any information, and at some other time, later I'm sure, the homicide investigators might have additional information to provide to you.

BLANAS: OK. We're going cut the press conference off. We got AeroJet setting off a rocket here in about 60 second, if you remember, and it's probably going to be quite loud.

Again, you can't say enough about the cooperation of local law enforcement. And as more details come forward, Jamie Lewis will be available later on.

I know some of you asked on the 911 tape of the brother. We're going to try to see if we can put that together for you.

There was a knife found in the backpack. The knife is consistent, we haven't positively identified it, but from what homicide tells me, it's consistent with the murder weapon.

QUESTION: Sheriff, just one more thing. You had -- there had originally been reports that the Ukrainian community and the family might not be cooperative. But, you found that not to be the case?

BLANAS: Yes, that's correct. It appears that, as Sergeant Brown and Chris Joachim have indicated, it appears that this person had been living out along the parkway or bike trails in Citrus Heights.

There's still the question of: How did he get from where he dropped his car off, which is on Auburn Boulevard, to out to that location on Bonham, which is several miles.

We are still conducting further investigation on this. We will be available after the press conference, but again, I want to thank each and every one of you in the press. And I also want to thank the Ukrainian community who've done a great job with respect to helping us capture this violent murder suspect. Thank you.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: There you go. A sense of relief from the Sacramento sheriff who's been in charge of this investigation, with congratulations all around to the many agencies involved. I counted 12 in all. It broke down to good, old fashioned police work, which began at a stakeout. The family home, belonging to Nikolay Soltys' mother. Five family members inside, they quickly left the house at 7:45 a.m. pacific time this morning. That alerted police who have been watching the place.

There was a call from a brother, the brother of Nikolay Soltys just a short while later, a 911 call telling police that Nikolay Soltys was under a desk in the backyard at that house.

Two teams from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office and Sacramento police converged on the backyard. Sure enough, under the desk in the backyard, Nikolay Soltys, who raised his hands. He was taken to the ground, but other than that put up no resistance.

The family was brought back in to identify him, positively, as Nikolay Soltys, the man that police had been searching for, for 10 hectic and furious days.

Yes, that's him. There was a backpack found, and we just heard, the last bit of information from the sheriff himself, that there was a knife inside that backpack, which he says is consistent with the murder weapon.

Six murders in this case, of family members of Nikolay Soltys. There's a further investigation not only of the forensics concerning that knife, but also how Nikolay Soltys got around the Sacramento area.

Again, Nikolay Soltys in custody. When the arraignment will be, we don't know. The man has not talked yet with police. We continue following the story, further developments in just a moment.

ALLEN: Again, the international manhunt for Nikolay Soltys began after the discovery of grisly killings August 20th. It was shortly before 10 a.m. that police found the pregnant wife of Soltys dead; her throat slashed at their home in North Highlands -- that's a Sacramento suburb.

Twenty minutes later Soltys arrived at his relatives' home in Rancho Cordova; that's also just outside Sacramento. His aunt and uncle, both in their 70s found fatally stabbed, along with his two 9- year-old cousins, a girl and a boy.

Then it was one hour later that Soltys arrived at his mother's house in Citrus Heights where he was found today. And later that evening they discovered his son, his 3-year-old son Sergey, whom Soltys had taken from his mother's home.

Police described in excruciatingly sad detail how they believed the killing of this boy, Sergey, took place as Nikolay allegedly lured him to a box in a trash area, a dump site with toys and then slashed the boy's throat.

Again, many, many leads, tips went nowhere. There were no hot leads for police as they searched for him in the Sacramento area. As we just heard, they believed all the while that he was staying close by.

And again today, Nikolay Soltys is in jail. We'll continue to bring you any more developments.



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