SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The 3-year-old son of a man suspected of killing his pregnant wife and four relatives was found dead in a cardboard box Tuesday, confirming the fears of authorities who were led to the body by a note found in the suspect's car.
The body of young Sergey Soltys was found in a large carton beneath a light tower in a rural area about 15 miles north of the capital. Authorities said the toddler appeared to have been bludgeoned to death.
Investigators were still searching for Nikolay Soltys, a Ukrainian immigrant who is accused of killing his wife Monday morning in the couple's home in a Sacramento suburb and then driving to a duplex 20 minutes away and stabbing his aunt, uncle and two related children.
"This is probably the most distressing of all," said a clearly saddened Sgt. James Lewis of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. "There was a great deal of hope throughout the department that this child would be found safe and sound."
Authorities stepped up the nationwide search for Soltys, who reportedly has a history of domestic abuse and mental illness, even as they pounded the pavement in the county's checkerboard of Russian and Ukrainian neighborhoods. The county offered a $10,000 reward and spread the word in multilingual fliers distributed throughout the area and on a Russian-language TV station.
The focus remained on an enclave of apartment buildings circling a home improvement store in suburban Citrus Heights, where Soltys' silver Nissan Altima was found abandoned late Monday.
Tucked in the car's map pouch was a smiling picture of the man's wife, Lyubov, 22, holding a then-infant Sergey in a blue jumper and black tennis shoes. On the back of the picture, scrawled in Ukrainian, were directions that yielded the first big break in the case.
In a few short words, the note suggested that the boy could be found in a box at the end of Watt Avenue, a busy northbound thoroughfare cutting through the heart of Sacramento County. The box, the note said, was near a tower on top of some trash. Authorities rushed to the spot early Tuesday morning and conducted a search, but found nothing.
Investigators took the note to Soltys' mother, who lives in Citrus Heights. She said the handwriting was her son's, prompting police to broaden the search into neighboring Placer County.
Authorities were initially optimistic that the boy might be found alive. "There was nothing in the wording to suggest he was not alive," Lewis said. They searched frantically, but could find nothing at the location described in the note.
But at 4 p.m., searchers found the box with the dead boy inside.
"He was such a sweet little baby, with such a cute little face," said Olga Kopets, a neighbor of Soltys in North Highlands. "Everyone loved him."
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