SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Nikolay Soltys, accused in the bloody slayings of six family members, has been charged with a seventh murder -- that of his unborn child, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully made the announcement just hours before Soltys stood under heavy guard for his first court appearance since his capture last week.
Shackled and clad in orange jail garb, Soltys kept his head bowed throughout the six-minute arraignment, never glancing toward a group of surviving relatives watching solemnly from the courtroom's two front rows.
As Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette read the seven counts against Soltys, a translator repeated them to the onetime shoemaker, a Ukrainian immigrant whose English is limited. Soltys did not enter a plea and was ordered to return to court Oct. 2.
Prosecutors have not decided whether to push for the death penalty, but because Soltys is charged with multiple murders, he is eligible for execution or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"We will follow our standard procedure" in deciding which penalty to pursue, Scully said. "We will look at the defendant's background, the facts and circumstances of the case, whether there is a criminal history."
Soltys, 27, is accused in the Aug. 20 stabbing deaths of his pregnant wife, 3-year-old son and four other relatives. Placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, he dodged a nationwide manhunt before he was arrested last Thursday, barefoot and disheveled, in his mother's suburban Sacramento back yard.
Under the state's fetal homicide law, prosecutors can charge Soltys for his unborn child's murder if they can show the fetus was seven to eight weeks old, Scully said.
Autopsy reports confirming the age of Lyubov Soltys' unborn child were not yet available, Scully said, but detectives have said she was three months' pregnant at the time of her death.
Elisabeth Semel, director of the death penalty clinic at the University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school, said a homicide charge in the death of a fetus is "rare but not unique."
"In this case, it's hardly surprising," Semel said. "Whether they ultimately pursue (the charge) remains to be seen."
Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's hearing, Soltys' court-appointed public defender said his client was examined by a psychological expert over the weekend "to assess his state of mind."
The attorney, Tommy Clinkenbeard, would not comment on Soltys' mental competency to stand trial but noted that an insanity defense was "of course" among his options.
Another option, he said, is a motion to suppress the confession sources say Soltys made during an interrogation shortly after his arrest. Clinkenbeard said he has "serious concerns" that his client's rights were "in jeopardy" because he had no lawyer present during the questioning.
Sheriff's officials insist that Soltys' right to counsel during the interrogation was made clear to him, in English and Ukrainian. But Clinkenbeard said "language barriers and major cultural differences" might have confused his client.
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