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The Manhunt For Nikolay Solstys Continues

Aired August 21, 2001 - 12:30   ET


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: It's being called a family massacre. Now, a manhunt is underway for a man suspected of killing his pregnant wife, nine and ten-year-old cousins, and two elderly relatives.

And the big question: Where is the suspect's three-year-old son?


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news stories story we're getting now to the CNN Newsroom. This is: Sacramento County Sheriffs' officials are looking now for a man suspected of stabbing a woman.

SGT. JAMES LEWIS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: We're looking for a 27-year-old man. He is considered the suspect at this time. He is considered armed and dangerous.

LIN: We've just received confirmation now from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department confirming the deaths of at least four people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are shocked with this. The whole -- our community is shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our units were out patrolling the area, and they found the suspect vehicle. We've checked the vehicle, it is not occupied.

LEWIS: If anybody has any information as to his whereabouts or where he may be, we need that information as quickly as possible.


VAN SUSTEREN: Hello, welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF. A national manhunt is underway for a 27-year-old Ukranian man who is suspected in the killing of five family members in Sacramento, California.

Nikolay Soltys allegedly stabbed his pregnant wife, then drove to a nearby suburb and killed four other family members. Authorities believe one family member survived the slayings, the suspect's three- year-old son.

Now, police have located Solyts' car at a strip mall in North Highlands, California, but neither the suspect nor his son was in the vehicle.

Joining me today from Sacramento is radio talk show host Tom Sullivan of KFBK. From outside the sheriff's office in Sacramento, public information officer, Sergeant James Lewis, and KFBK radio reporter, Kami Lloyd. From Houston, we're joined by former FBI special agent Don Clark. And here in Washington, Peter Cassidy, criminal defense attorney Ron Sullivan and Erik Hodge.

Sergeant James Lewis, first to you. What do we know about the discovery of the car?

LEWIS: Well, patrol officers patrolling the area actually located the car parked behind a home improvement store. It was secreted in, amongst some storage containers. It appeared as though the suspect had parked it there, trying to hide the car. We searched the car, it was not occupied, it did not have a great deal of evidence in it, but we now know that he is not in that vehicle.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do we know, sergeant -- let me ask you this: When was the car discovered?

LEWIS: It was about 10:30 last night.

VAN SUSTEREN: I assume there are ways to detect, for instance a hot engine, whether or not it had been recently left there. Was there any way to tell how long the car had been there, an estimate?

LEWIS: Only just by the touch. It was cold to the touch. It was very possible that he might have driven it there directly after the attacks and parked it. We really don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: What can you tell me about the area where the car was? How far was it from the scenes of the two homicides?

LEWIS: It's actually in between the two different scenes. It's probably about 12 to 13 miles from the Rancho Cordova seen, another five miles from the North Highlands scene. It's in an industrial area, but directly adjacent to some residential properties, some of which are occupied by Russian immigrants.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did the police then, I assume, go house to house and warn the people in the area?

LEWIS: We actually did a canvass last night. We stopped a number of people just to see if anybody had any information as to how long the car had been there or if they saw anybody leave it. That didn't reveal anything that was that beneficial. We will be furthering those efforts today.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sergeant, is the area where the car was located, is it accessible or near, for instance a bus station, train station or the airport, so that he has another means of getting out of there?

LEWIS: Not really. It's -- you know, near a major thoroughfare and near a major highway, but it's not really adjacent to any train stations or anything like that. VAN SUSTEREN: Kami, let me go to you now. You've been covering this story. Is there -- can you tell me a little bit about the murder scenes? Do we know, for instance, how it was discovered, that the murders had occurred?

KAMI LLOYD, REPORTER, NEWSTALK 1530 KFBK: Well, the call came in from the sheriff's department. They were out at the North Highlands scene, and they received a 911 call about additional victims in Rancho Cordova. At the scene today, there is still a very large blood spatter on the white stucco wall, which is a very graphic reminder of really the brutal crimes that took place in Rancho Cordova.

Neighbors immediately surrounding the house this morning seemed to pointedly not look at that house, not look at the blood stains. They tried to busy themselves by putting out the trash. One woman was raking her lawn and repeatedly trying not to look at this house, where there is still a very graphic reminder of the deaths of four people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kami, why is it that Nikolay Soltys is the suspect? Did anyone see him leaving the scenes of either homicide?

LLOYD: Law enforcement has said that he was seen by witnesses at both locations, driving this silver Nissan Altima, and that is why officers are looking for him at this point. He is also related to all of the victims.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any history, at least as far as we know -- I realize it's early in the investigation, Kami, but has your reporting suggested any sort of motive?

LLOYD: We don't really have a motive at this point, but we can tell you what relatives, as well as law enforcement chaplains, have said to us. That is that there was a history of mental illness within Mr. Soltys. That there was also a history of domestic violence between the couple in the Ukraine. He did not have any criminal history in the United States, and that is all we know at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is -- the elderly people that were killed, are they related to his wife or to him?

LLOYD: I know that they are Soltys' aunt and uncle. I also do know that before he came to the United States he did try and apply with the Ukrainian army and was rejected because he was mentally -- deemed mentally unfit.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sergeant, let me go back to you. In the event that someone has something to report, having perhaps maybe even sighted him: What is it the sheriff's department ask that person do?

LEWIS: Well, we're certainly looking for any help that we can get. We have a crime alert tip line here in Sacramento, area code 916-443-HELP, and a 1-800 number of 1-800-AA-CRIME. Any one of those numbers, if somebody has information, we'd love to hear it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had any had any tips so far, are people using those tip lines? LEWIS: Through our communication center here at the sheriff's department we've had between 30 and 40 calls over the night. In addition to that, we're checking with Crime Alert now to try to come up with any information that they may have. So, we are getting some calls. We are in the process of sorting through those now to determine what's good information, what is not.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sergeant, is the last sort of spotting of him -- I realize it's not Nikolay himself -- but is the last clue that you have the automobile that was found?

LEWIS: Yes, that's the biggest piece of evidence that we've located as far as his last location. We did have a report from his mother, that's the grandmother of his three-year-old child, that about noon, some time around noon yesterday, he went to his mother's house and picked up the child. So, that's the last time he's been seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do we have any information at all about the condition of the child? I assume not.

LEWIS: Not at this point, and that's, quite frankly, our primary concern is for the three-year-old child. We can't do a lot for the victims that were killed, but we can certainly would like to prevent any possibility that there would be further victims.

VAN SUSTEREN: Obviously, if this man indeed is the man who committed these murders, he is dangerous. At the moment, is your department putting out a notice that he is armed and dangerous? I mean, do you have fear that he has weapons or might kill again?

LEWIS: Yes, we absolutely consider him armed and dangerous. There's not been anything to suggest that he would target anybody other than his family. There -- nobody has developed any information to that effect. But just based on what we know he's capable of, he's considered dangerous. We would strongly recommend that no one try to approach him.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. We're going to take a quick break.

Up next, cultural pot holes in the search for a suspected killer. Don't go away.


FBI agents arrested Eric Franklin Rosser, an alleged pedophile who was one of the FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives, in Bangkok today.

The arrest came after Rosser was featured on "America's Most Wanted". Rosser faces six charges related to the production and distribution of child pornography.



VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back. We're going to interrupt BURDEN OF PROOF for a second to take you to Kelli Arena, justice correspondent, who has breaking news -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Greta, sources tell CNN that the FBI will announce that it has made arrests in an alleged scheme to defraud McDonald's Corporation by rigging its recent Monopoly game.

Now, sources say the FBI will say that at least eight people who worked for a company that McDonald's hired to run the Monopoly game are implicated in the alleged scheme. Seven of the eight are in custody. Sources say the eighth is still being sought. More arrests, though, are anticipated in this scheme.

The investigation involved FBI field offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Memphis, Indianapolis and South Carolina. Again, in a nutshell, the FBI will announce -- they have a scheduled press conference at 2:15. And sources tell us that that will involve a scheme to defraud McDonald's Corporation -- Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kelli, for those of us who haven't been playing the McDonald's Monopoly game, at least of recent day, can you give us a little idea -- do we know, at least, at this point, what the rigging was, what the game involved?

ARENA: No details, Greta. I am hot on this story, trying to get as much as I can for you. But there are no purchases involved. If people have been into McDonald's, you get little game pieces, and you have a board. And it's basically like the regular Monopoly board. And you put your pieces on the board. And when you get enough, you win.

Of course, I have a 3-year-old, so I spend a lot of time at McDonald's. But that is -- we don't know exactly how the scheme worked. We don't even know if the company that McDonald's hired -- we don't have a name of the company yet. We're trying to find that out. We don't even know if the company itself is implicated. That's not clear at this point. But we do know that at least eight of its employees have been indicted.

And seven of those are in custody. And one other, I am told, is supposedly on vacation. And the FBI is trying to track that person down.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Kelli Arena, with breaking news, thank you very much for joining us.

Ron, before we go back to our manhunt in Sacramento, you did consumer fraud in your prior life. What do you make of the McDonald's problem?

R. SULLIVAN: Well, initially I thought it was McDonald's that had done something. But it appears from the report that it's a third- party company that McDonald's outsourced to, that provided, I guess, the game pieces for this Monopoly game. So this appears to be just a traditional scheme to defraud, a criminal violation, a violation of the Federal Criminal Code for which individuals at this third-party company are going to get prosecuted. So it appears that...


VAN SUSTEREN: So the victims in this case are McDonald's and any of the -- perhaps the players -- the kids, the kids.

R. SULLIVAN: All the kids. That's right.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's go back now to our manhunt story.

Ron, we're lucky that you had this other life.

Let me go back to the manhunt story. Let's go to Don Clark in Houston.

Don -- former FBI agent, special agent -- you tracked down the railway killer. Is you're advising the sheriff's department in Sacramento, how do they find this -- is this a needle in a haystack?

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, I don't think it is a needle in a haystack, Greta.

There are always clues that are going to be out there. This is the type of case that I think that the FBI and the local police can really work together to try and get as many clues as they can so they can bring it to a conclusion. Most of the FBI field offices across the country are engaged in task-force-type operations with the local police. I suspect they probably have such out in that area.

And I also suspect that they have to look beyond the state of California, even as large as it is. We can go intrastate now so quickly that they really have to look beyond that. And so in doing so, the FBI has those capabilities that it can reach out and touch other areas perhaps a bit quicker than a local department can. So I'm sure that they are probably working together out there, using all of their resources to see what clues are there and how can they best turn these clues into viable leads.

VAN SUSTEREN: I tell you, Don, it seems to me that sort of the old-fashioned gumshoe is the best way, at least -- I asked the representative from the sheriff's department about the area. It's not near a bus station or a train station. It's sort of an industrial area -- lots of Ukrainians living there.

It seems to me that knocking on the doors in an area would be the quickest and fastest way, at least to get some information, if somebody either saw him or is housing him.

CLARK: Well, I think we ought to make you an FBI agent, too, Greta, because you are absolutely right, is that knocking on those doors the get the information.

But keep in mind, there are couple of problems there. One is a language barrier. And that's going to have to be dealt with. And I know that the FBI can help in that, because they will have some people that will speak the language there.

And second, there's a cultural difference, too. And that has to be of concern. But that notwithstanding, they've got to do that. And I'm sure the best way to solve any crime is to go back to the initial scene and try to start from there, developing what information that you can, and then try to reach beyond that to get -- to locate the suspect that you are looking for.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ron, do those people have to -- do they have to answer the door to FBI -- who live in the area, if the FBI come knocking on the door?


No citizen has an affirmative obligation to talk to the FBI if they don't want to. If they do have information and they want to share information, the one thing you can't do is lie to the FBI. So if you start talking to the FBI, you have tell to them the truth, because there's a federal law that says you can't lie to federal agents when they're conducting their business.

But, no, people could just not answer the door, or open the door and refuse to talk.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's go back up to California, Tom Sullivan.

Tom, can you tell me sort of the -- give me sort of a rundown, sort of maybe the cultural differences in the Ukrainian community there, where -- near where the car is parked, whether or not they might be fearful of the FBI in this investigation.

T. SULLIVAN: We have talked to a number of members of the Russian community, Ukrainian community. And it's about 50,000 strong here in the Sacramento area.

And in talking to them, there were two things that came out, kind of a common thread to all the conversations I've had with people from the community. One of them is, it's a very tight-bound ethnic group. And they are -- they have used words like, "We are embarrassed; we are upset," as if they themselves -- somehow it reflects upon the community at large.

And the other thing was about the fact that a number of them commented about, after 70 years of communist rule, a lot of these people have come from a training and an upbringing where they are taught to be silent, to not talk, to not divulge -- and the KGB idea. So as much as -- in fact, one of the previous guests was talking about the language barrier. That's there. But the cultural barrier is very, very strong.

And it's an area that the police have had difficulty with. Even with Russian translators and Russian-speaking police officers in the area, they've had a hard time getting these people to be forthcoming, and when the door gets a knock, to actually tell them what is really going on.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tom, I'm struck by the large number of Ukrainians in the area. Maybe that isn't a large number. But it seems like a large number concentrated, to me.


VAN SUSTEREN: Why the attraction to that part of the country?

T. SULLIVAN: There's a long history in this area. The San Francisco, Napa, Sacramento area was originally settled long, long ago by the Russians. And so they came across from Siberia, down the Pacific, and found Northern California.

And so there's a long history. We even have a big river that goes by the Bay area that called the Russian River. So the Russians have lived here a long time. It's about -- Sacramento is just shy of two million people. And, again, it's about 50,000 are estimated to be Russian immigrants. And a lot of them have been here for some time and have assimilated into local U.S. customs quite easily.

But it's those ones that have been here for less than five years that are -- that have a very difficult time. And many of them get jobs in -- labor jobs, where they can't -- they have a language barriers. So they have to do things with their hands: the auto industry, auto repair, body shops, things like that. That's mostly what the new immigrants do in this particular community.

VAN SUSTEREN: We are going to take a break. When we come back, we are going to talk more on the manhunt.

Stay with us.



A: On this day in 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia stole what famous painting?

Q: The Mona Lisa. The painting was recovered i November 1913 and Peruggia served seven months of a one-year sentence.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nikolay Soltys is believed armed and dangerous, and he's on the run.

Ron, suppose you got the call -- he doesn't speak English -- but through someone else, he wants to talk to you? What do you tell him? He's on the run.

R. SULLIVAN: I arrange for him to meet me someplace. That's always a difficult -- that would be a difficult proposition given entire country is looking for him. I arrange to meet him someplace and then discuss with the authorities how and when to surrender Mr. Soltys.

VAN SUSTEREN: That sounds great. But the problem is that here's a Ukrainian who doesn't speak -- his English apparently is poor, maybe nonexistent, so he's going to have to through an intermediary, and you're a stranger. How do you get him to trust you? You're about to turn him over to someone, as Tom says, think it's almost the KGB.

R. SULLIVAN: It's very difficult, and some would even say impossible, in this kind of circumstance, because there's no prior relationship. For all the factors that you mentioned, the level of trust is not going to be implicit. What you are going to have to convey in very clear terms is, look, you're in a lot of trouble, a lot of people are looking for you, it's in your best interest to have a lawyer on your side and to surrender yourself, because you don't want to get hurt in the process of someone trying to bring you in.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tom, do you know anything about -- I mean, are you hearing any reports about him personally. We know that he seems a disturbed man. Do we have any information on his occupation or anything?

T. SULLIVAN: He's unemployed, and it goes to this whole cycle we talked a lot of people in mental health business about, this whole process of spousal abusers. They're very insecure, and he did not have a job, and did not have the language, and he did not have a lot of comfort, and then...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is their proof he was a espousal abuser? Are people saying that he beat his wife?

T. SULLIVAN: Not necessarily beat, but it could have been just he started off with mental abuse that could lead to physical, or it could have been going on, but there's this history that is being reported from the sheriff's department. With that you get to the point she was supposed to start a job yesterday morning, and that may have been the straw, where he did not have a job, and she was going to be the financial support, and many times when you get into these situations, we hear that that will cause the insecurity about don't go out and be independent, don't go out and get your own money, don't go out and meet other people, don't go out and see other men, those sorts of things that can get through people's heads.

VAN SUSTEREN: Of course, you can see a lot coming. If that were indeed the story, there would be quite a trail of activity between his wife and himself.

Don, the big concern right now is the 3-year-old child. How does the FBI -- how do you -- with kid gloves, I imagine, you talk to him, but get him on the phone, get into a hostage situation, how do you deal with this problem?

CLARK: Well, it's a delicate situation. because it could be kidnapping, it could be hostage-type situation, Greta, but one of the things I think they need to do is they should go to a place like New York City, other places, where the FBI, where do have a number of speakers who speak the language, and not only can they speak the language, but people who know negotiating and have negotiating techniques, because that's the type of technique that it's going to take for a person on the phone to try and convince the suspect that, look, you need to turn yourself in so no harm comes to you. And certainly if the kid is still alive, that no harm comes to the kid, and that is what needs to happen, and I suspect that's a good thing having the FBI involved in this, because they have access to those type of resources, and that's what is going to take once they get the person on the phone.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is different than the Railway Killer, serial over many months, assuming he did it, a spree killer in a sense. Is he easier to track down? I mean, it seems to me he's going to call somebody.

CLARK: Well, Greta, I'm not certain he's easier to track down, and I was thinking about that myself. With the rail car killer, we suspected that he might kill again any particular time, so they kept that trail really hot on him. With this type of a person, you don't know if he just might not lay low someplace or try to hideout someplace, but the other thing that's on law enforcement side in this case, is that he may be stranger enough to this country, that hiding out would be very, very difficult, and I suppose that if they continue this attack and if we, the media, give it enough attention, the nation will be alarmed, and make hiding out very difficult for him, especially one not accomplished in American traditions.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Ron, no sympathy for this guy, but, boy, he's entitled to a lawyer, right?


VAN SUSTEREN: And the lawyer will take lot of heat to represent him.

R. SULLIVAN: Definitely.

VAN SUSTEREN: And he doesn't speak the language.

R. SULLIVAN: It will be a difficult representation, but these are the sorts of cases that require the best lawyers. Lawyers in my view have a duty to take the case that nobody else wants to take, to take unpopular client, and to take the unpopular cause, because that's the only way the system will work and it's going to work correctly.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Sorry, Tom, we're out of time. I appreciate you joining us and our other guests, and thank the viewer for watching.

And today on "TALKBACK LIVE," what would you ask if you could interview Congressman Gary Condit? Send your e-mail to Bobbie Battista and tune in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. And tonight on "THE POINT:" scoring the big interview, how journalists have lured the most sought after guests in our generation, and the ungettable guest. That's tonight at 8:30 Eastern and we'll be back tomorrow with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.



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