KILLING spree suspect's 3-year-old son found dead in cardboard box in northern California

Wednesday, August 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Police discovered the bloody body of a 3-year-old boy in a cardboard box in rural northern California as they searched for the toddler's father, a Ukrainian immigrant now suspected of killing six family members.

Nikolay Soltys, 27, is the target of an intense, nationwide manhunt that began after he allegedly stabbed his pregnant wife to death and went on to kill four other family members before fleeing with the child.

Investigators found a note scribbled on a family photo in his abandoned car that led them to the latest grisly discovery in the case. Under a light tower east of Sacramento lay the 36-inch television box with no lid that contained Sergey Soltys' body.

The discovery was ``probably the most distressing of all, because there was a great deal of hope throughout the department that we would be able to find this child safe and sound,'' said Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. James Lewis.

The cause of death was not determined, but authorities said he had been cut or stabbed.

A day earlier, the suspect was seen at both the suburban Sacramento home where his wife was found dead and the duplex of the other victims. The homes are about 20 minutes apart.

A warrant has been issued for Soltys' arrest on suspicion of five counts of murder. Lewis said investigators also believe he's responsible for his son's death.

Responding to dozens of tips, authorities intensified a nationwide search for Soltys. Officers were stationed at bus terminals and airports, and investigators appealed to Eastern European residents and offered a $10,000 reward.

Sheriff's officials planned to distribute fliers in Russian and English in some neighborhoods in the Sacramento area, which has approximately 75,000 Ukrainian and Russian immigrants.

Hundreds gathered Tuesday night to pray at the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church in Rancho Cordova, where some of Soltys' relatives are members.

Some churchgoers said they fear the slayings will taint people's views on Ukrainian and Russian immigrants.

``Most of the people, they are good people, Christian people,'' said Paul Rosptnyuk, a church leader. ``In any society, there are different kinds of people like this case.''

As details of the killings continued to emerge, experts tried to unravel what may have gone through the killer's mind.

``These are the methodical actions of a man who has made up his mind what he is going to do. He has a mission,'' said Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler in Virginia.

Authorities thought they got a break late Monday when they found Soltys' 1995 Nissan Altima parked behind a Sacramento home improvement store. A search of the area turned up nothing but the note, handwritten on the back of a photo of Soltys' wife holding their son and tucked into a car door pocket.

Police said Soltys stabbed Lyubov Soltys, 22, inside the couple's home, then drove to the other home where he stabbed his aunt and uncle, Galina Kukharskaya, 74, and Petr Kukharskiy, 75.

Authorities said Soltys then attacked two 9-year-old cousins, Tatyana Kukharskaya and Dimitriy Kukharskiy, the grandchildren of the slain couple.

Gravely wounded, the children ran from the home. Dimitriy died in his mother's arms, while Tatyana was taken to University of California at Davis Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.

About an hour after leaving Rancho Cordova, investigators said, Soltys arrived at his mother's house in Citrus Heights to pick up his son.

Soltys' mother told police her son seemed fine and showed no signs that anything was wrong. Police refused to release her name.

Investigators said they have no motive for the killings, but some family members said they were unhappy Soltys was unemployed and on government aid. Detectives are also investigating whether Soltys had a violent temper and if drugs or mental illness played a role in the killings.

In Ukraine, authorities said, Soltys was rejected by the national army for mental instability. He also had a history of domestic violence in Ukraine with his first wife. Soltys came to the United States almost three years ago and has no known criminal record.

Before arriving in the Sacramento area, Soltys lived for two years in Binghamton, N.Y., a city of 60,000.

Carol Aramowicz, director of the Refugee Assistance Program in Binghamton, said Soltys had briefly sought educational and employment services that her organization provides.

``Absolutely nothing about him stood out,'' Aramowicz said.