SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Police launched a national manhunt for a Ukrainian immigrant who allegedly went on a family killing spree, stabbing his pregnant wife to death and slaying four more relatives before fleeing with his toddler son.
Nikolay Soltys, 27, was described by friends and authorities as a quiet man who grasped for a new life in America but could not shake the demons that followed him from overseas.
Authorities said he was seen leaving his suburban Sacramento home Monday morning after stabbing his 27-year-old wife, who stumbled to a neighbor's doorway and collapsed. He then allegedly drove to a duplex 20 miles away where he killed an aunt, uncle and two young cousins, police said. They had no motive for the killings.
Officers were stationed at bus terminals and airports in the Sacramento area on Tuesday in hope of finding Soltys and the 3-year-old son. Detectives also were investigating reports that Soltys headed to Oregon, where he may have relatives, said Sacramento County sheriff's Sgt. James Lewis.
Late Monday, sheriff's deputies found Soltys' 1995 Nissan Altima in a Sacramento parking lot behind a home improvement store. The car was empty and a nearly three-hour search of the area using helicopters and dogs turned up nothing, authorities said.
"He could be in the area or he could be in another vehicle," said sheriff's Lt. Steve Ahee. "We don't know."
In Ukraine, Soltys was rejected by the national army and had a history of domestic violence and mental instability, according to sheriff's department Chaplain Frank Russell, whose office counseled relatives after the killings.
Soltys came to the United States more than a year ago and has no known criminal record. His wife reluctantly joined him about five months ago, Russell said.
After reuniting with his wife and son, Soltys apparently began trying to refashion his life.
Unemployed, he began taking English classes full time and was set to start attending American River College on Monday, the same day his wife was to start a new job, said Sheriff Capt. John McGinness. Last month, Soltys also tried to join Bethany Slovak Missionary Church -- just like many of the city's approximately 75,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Authorities said Soltys' rage was demonstrated by the fact that he drove 20 minutes to commit the second set of alleged slayings.
"To carry that rage to a second scene, to a second location, really speaks to the amount of danger we're dealing with," said Lewis. He said detectives anticipated charging Soltys with five counts of homicide.
Oleg Bogush, a 19-year-old neighbor, said he has known Soltys since the suspect arrived from Ukraine by way of Binghamton, N.Y.
Bogush said Soltys didn't talk much -- neither to neighbors nor in the English classes he took five days a week with his sister.
"The teacher would ask him questions and he would just sit there silently," Bogush said. "It was like thoughts just drained out of his head."
Zoya Zukharsky, a neighbor who was close to the couple and their son, was equally mystified.
"The last time I talked to him was on Friday. He was very happy; nothing seemed wrong at all," Zukharsky said. "His wife had just gotten a job and was supposed to start today. She seemed satisfied with life. It was absolutely unexpected."