Murderer Gregory Bukhantsov: “I see demons”

An Inhumane Murder, or Soltys 2

Seven years have passed since the gruesome inhumane massacre in Sacramento, when a young Ukrainian immigrant, the son of religious refugees, Grigoriy Bukhantsov took a knife and stabbed three of his very own relatives – his young niece, nephew and his sister-in-law (the brother’s wife). In an attempt to avoid responsibility (murder warrants the death penalty according to California state law), Bukhantsov initially stated that he was innocent in regards to the death of his relatives, then subsequently claimed complete insanity. However, it was refuted by the jury panel, and the accused was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of early release. Although a conclusion had yet to be made – what exactly had provoked the emigre from an exemplary Protestant family to commit such a terrible deed towards his own relatives? In the following article we will attempt to resolve this matter on the basis of materials provided by court officials and law enforcement, which were not previously published in the local press.

Photo: Sacramento Sheriff’s Department

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So, we should recall the details of this tragic event.

In October, 2012, Denis Bukhantsov took in to shelter his brother Grigoriy within to his home in Rancho Cordova, wherein resided his wife, Alina, and their three children – three-year old Emmanuela, two-year old Avenir, and seven-month old Mark. The family’s father left his residence while his guest was laying asleep on the couch, and the young mother was cooking breakfast for the kids.

A half-day later Denis returned home and discovered his wife and two children stabbed. His youngest son, Mark, was found still alive in the family bedroom.

Knife wounds were on  the bodies of all three victims, which became become the cause of death. Alina had been cut over twenty times, including hands, neck, and the genital area.

Emmanuela had also been cut over twenty times: chest, stomach, and the crotch area.

grigoriy bukhantsov
Photo: AP

Similar wounds had been received by Avenir. All of the victims were found on the kitchen floor, where their breakfast still yet remained. This testifies to the fact that the murderer did his deed practically right after Denis had left his home.

Following the cold-blooded murder Grigoriy took the family’s minivan and fled the scene. The search for the white Chrysler led police to a 24-hour Denny’s diner in one of Sacramento’s suburbs – Rocklin. During his arrest Bukhantsov was wearing a sweater with blood stains on it and in his pockets were the keys for the stolen vehicle. He was unable to explain to the authorities the presence of such telling evidence on his clothes.

Mountains of Corpses and the Salvation of a Child

Here is what police officer Jeff Kennedy, one of the first on the scene, had to say:

“Entering the kitchen, we observed a little girl lying face-down on the floor under the table in a puddle of blood. There was also blood on her clothes. We then spotted the young wife, who also lay face-down in a large pool of blood. Her throat had been severed. Nearby was another child, in a pool of blood as well.” said Kennedy.

According to the police, the bodies of the murdered were pale and lifeless. On the kitchen table lay a big bloodied knife. Then the officer heard a child’s cry. He went through the house and came up to an infant lying in bed in the family bedroom. Fortunately, the child had survived the bloody massacre.

The victims’ blood was everywhere: on their bodies, on the floor, on the walls, on the tables, and even on the ceiling.

The arriving firefighter crew certified the death of the mother and the two children. Since the woman’s corpse blocked the doors between the house and the garage, the firefighters were forced to cut out an opening in the gate, in order to check the garage without disturbing the body.

The family’s father Denis Bukhantsov told detectives that several hours before the terrible incident his younger brother, Grisha, who had had some problems, had knocked on the door of his home. According to Denis, Grigoriy had arrived completely soaked (it had been raining that very same day), and the older brother had pity for him. After some slight hesitation, he had allowed Grigoriy in, who then took a shower and lay down on the couch.

Following his lunch, Denis Bukhantsov left for class at the college, and the younger brother stayed at home with his sister-in-law and young children. When Denis returned home in evening of the same day, Grigoriy was still lying asleep, as usual. The family members gave him a blanket, and the younger brother stayed overnight on the couch.

On the morning of the day of the murder, the whole family gathered together to pray. According to the head of the family, on that fatal day they prayed “a bit longer than usual”. Grisha himself did not join in the prayer. Afterwards the parents changed and dressed the children, and Denis’s wife Alina went to cook breakfast. Denis was unable to breakfast and therefore hastily put together a sandwich for himself, then for his daughter Emmanuela.

Grigoriy kept on laying on the couch. Denis approached him and invited to have breakfast while eggs are still hot, but the Grigoriy said nothing.

Having arrived at the college, Denis e-mailed couple of texts to his wife’s phone. It troubled him that Alina did not reply any single message. Normally she responded right away.

Having returned from the college after lunch, Denis noticed that their family van, which was usually parked near the house, was in fact gone.

Rushing into the house, Denis discovered Alina and Avenir lying on the floor. Both were cold and “stiff as a rock”. Alina’s throat was severed. The man headed to the bedroom and saw his youngest child, six-month old Mark, lying in the crib. The little baby was alive, but frightened and tried to hide under the blanket. Then the elder Bukhantsov returned to the kitchen and noticed his daughter Emmanuela, who was also lying lifeless in a pool of blood.

In utter shock, the young man hurried out of his home and knocked the neighbors’ door. After calling the police, they had nothing to do but wait.

Soltys # 2

Denis told the detectives who arrived on scene that his younger brother was drug-addicted and had threatened “to cut up and set on fire the family members and become the second Soltys” (in 2001 another immigrant from Ukraine, Nikolai Soltys killed seven members of his own family, was arrested and committed suicide in Sacramento County Jail – SlavicSac.com). Grisha drank, brawled, and systematically beat the members of his family (for example, he struck his brother and father on at least a few occasions), thus at a certain point the parents were forced to move to the Mid-West with other remaining children. They kept their whereabouts hidden, fearing that their dissolute son would find them and begin to cause trouble. The family of the older brother Denis, however, still lived in Sacramento, and Grigoriy somehow found out his home address.

Taking into account that Denis’s wife, Alina, felt sorry for Grigoriy to some degree seemingly, he was allowed into the house to stay for the night.

In the evening prior to her death, Alina told Denis that Grigoriy had informed her of his plans which could “lead him to five years behind bars”. According to her, Grigoriy planned to commit some sort of crime, since he wished to “change his life drastically”.

It is worth noticing that on that same terrible day the murderer was supposed to appear in court on account of a prior crime committed and had asked Denis to give him a ride to the courthouse, however the older brother turned him down due to a lack of time.

It has not remained unnoticed in case records that approximately one year before the murder Grigory had begun striking one of his sisters and got into a fight with one of his brothers. Grigoriy held some sort of bitterness in regards to the whole family: he told that he had been raped as a child by his father. As a result, the family once turned to the authorities, in attempt to procure a restraining order from the court.

It is also stated in the case that Grigoriy stole family possessions as well, seemingly to satisfy his propension towards drugs.

It is also worth noticing that within the court transcript the following dialogue is presented, having taken place between one of the murder’s lawyers and a witness, the sheriff’s deputy:

Lawyer: “He (Grigoriy) also confirmed that the minister raped him, yes?”

Sheriff’s deputy: “I don’t quite remember whether he spoke of the minister, but I think that his (Grigoriy’s) situation was connected with people from the church.”

The family members said that at a certain point in time the “Black Sheep” had been sent to an educational camp in New York for 18 months, and that, upon his return, “Grigoriy had changed significantly”, however he soon reverted back to his old self – once more he began drinking and brawling.

The Salvation of a Child. A Criminal Caught

As told by police officer Jeff Kennedy, who arrived at the scene of the crime with his partner, he noticed Denis Bukhantsov standing in front of the home in tears. Passing by the victims’ bodies and the pools of blood in the living room, he ended up in one of the bedrooms wherein was a crying baby lying in the crib. Kennedy handed the child over to his partner, Officer Gilmore, and returned to continue his search in the house.

After the stolen vehicle’s license plate number was given to the dispatcher, a large-scale man hunt for the suspect began, who was subsequently found by local police in Rocklin just Northeast of Sacramento. Alina’s Chrysler was parked at a Denny’s diner, where the escaped killer slept soundly at a table. The capture team burst into the building, put the fugitive on the ground, handcuffed him, and delivered him to the Central Investigative Police Department in Sacramento. The suspect didn’t resist.

While a vehicle search was being conducted, half-empty bottles of alcohol were found along with an empty cigarette pack, a pinch of marijuana, and a bloodied kitchen knife.

Despite his obvious involvement in the bloody crime, the fugitive initially denied any and all guilt in the matter. However, thanks to the work of investigators and the results of DNA analysis from the crime lab, law enforcement succeeded in proving Grigoriy’s direct relation to the murder.

Police Interrogation, or An Inhumane Crime

grigoriy bukhantsov

During the preliminary questioning at the police station Grigoriy behaved rather strangely: he failed to recognize a photo of his very own brother Denis, then climbed onto the table, dropped his trousers and began masturbating – all of this caught on the sheriff’s tape.

“Will anyone ever help me in this life?”, complained the suspect in his conversations with investigators, as he continued to still play the victim, “Why is it that I am f*cked every time, as though I were accursed?!”

Concerning the question of who exactly killed his relatives, Grigoriy continually answered,”It’s strange. Why do you suspect me? I didn’t kill them.”

When the police pointed to the victims’ blood stains on the suspect’s sweater, he replied,”That’s soda.”

As indicated by Judge Steven White, the crimes were committed with acute perversion and cruelty. For example, Article 289(A)(1)(B) of the California Criminal Code, imputed to Bukhantsov, speaks in regards to “unlawful penetration with a foreign object into the genitalia of a child younger than 14 years of age”. In other words, the madman had been accused of raping one of his victims with a meat knife.

Is the Defendant Sane?

For the committing of the grievous crimes Grigoriy Bukhantsov, in accordance with California Law, faced the death sentence, however the last time the state court gave such a sentence was in 2006 during the case of Clarence Ray Allen, who had murdered three people. Since then the death penalty has remained a source of conflict among California residents, and this year the new state governor, Gavin Newsom, announced a moratorium concerning the use of more serious punishments. There are currently 744 murderers being held in the state’s prisons.

During the pre-trial hearings Bukhantsov did not admit guilt and continued pretend psychologically ill – lying with his face down on the table in the courtroom, drooling…

Here is how Karovski, a lawyer, describes one of his meetings in the prison with Grigoriy: “In February, 2016, Hayes Gable, also a lawyer, and I visited Mr. Bukhantsov. The latter was brought into the personal visitor room with the help of the sheriff. I immediately noticed that Bukhantsov’s hair was disheveled, his mouth was open, and out of it flowed an entire river of saliva down onto the metal table below. His eyes were wide open, and despite my attempts to speak with him, he didn’t even blink.”

The lawyer further testifies:

“Mr. Bukhantsov acted mindlessly, spoke indiscriminately with expletives, and his speech was unintelligible. He asked me if I was a Christian, and then began shouting at me. He then asked forgiveness for his lapse and requested that he be prescribed medication “so as not to be left speaking with himself”.

The prison nurses spoke to the fact that the patient complained about the “worms coming out his mouth and ears”.

“He feels worms wiggling around inside his stomach and head. The patient denies psychological problems…” they stated in their testimony.

Bukhantsov also refused to eat, believing that he got brain cancer and that the food he received was poisoned, thus further provoking his imaginary sickness. Bukhantsov ceased taking showers, a throughout his entire stay at the clinic “there arose from him a stench”, as it stated in the court documents. Fearing for his well-being (the patient had threatened to commit suicide), the prison’s medical personnel secured the “patient” with the help of sedatives and a straight jacket. Afterwards the prisoner more or less obeyed the prison wardens.

“We caught him naked on several occasions, and there were times when he would be openly masturbating… he informed us that he had AIDS due to the straight jacket.” wrote the nurses in their report.

“As a child I swallowed some of mother’s pills and died a few times.” raved Bukhantsov delusionally.

“Today Bukhantsov shared with us the fact that cars have their very own religion, and that he is an extraterrestrial,” says Dr. Roof,”He sees and hears people and demons in his cell. A terrible demon with horns.”

On February, 2014, security found Bukhantsov lying on the floor of his cell. His things were in full mess and garbage was all around. At the time the prisoner was being kept on Haloperidol. The patient was thus transferred to the local hospital, where he was found to have some cerebral edema. It is reported that Grigoriy ended up at the prison clinic a number of times in such a condition.

The criminal’s closer relatives testified the the fact that Bukhantsov, while he was yet a minor, he drank, smoked, and constantly threatened his own family, struck his father, and even masturbated openly in front of the family members.

“Bukhantsov’s conduct worsened, and he began to claim that he had been a victim of rape at his father’s hands.” writes Dr. Schaeffer.

In August of 2015 Grigoriy was found by the jury to be sane and capable of standing trial. The defense moved in an attempt to overturn the decision and appoint another court in light of changed circumstances, namely Bukhantsov’s deteriorated state of mind.

Moreover, accusation represented by the Sacramento prosecutor’s office solicited the exclusion of several experts, who intended to give statements in favor of the defendant’s inability to stand trial, including the murderer’s representing lawyer, Yan David Karovski.

The defense even requested that the “particularly bloody photographs” of the victims’ bodies be absent, so as not to arouse any bias among the jurors.

The question then arose in regards to whether or not the defendant ought to appear before court in normal everyday attire, again, in order to avoid the risk of jurors seeing before them the image of a hopeless criminal, a situation which could potentially influence their decision regarding his adequacy. Or should they simply keep him as is, in the prisoner’s garbs?

Finally the experts were presented with three questions:

1. Does the defendant comprehend the nature and objective of the court process?

2. Does the defendant realize his status and position in the process?

3. Is the defendant capable of assisting his lawyers in the defense process or is he even capable of defending himself alone in a reasonable manner?

grigoriy bukhantsov

The experts hired by the defense, Dr. Minagava, Dr. Yevgeni Roder, and Dr. Schaeffer, reported, after investigating into Bukhantsov, that the latter was indeed not able to appear in court. Nevertheless, Dr. Schaeffer did attest the the fact that Grigoriy might be simulating his own psychological disorder.

As prison psychiatrist Jason Roof, of the University of California, located in Davis, wrote in his conclusion,“Mr. Bukhantsov agrees that he “sees demons, people in his room, a terrible demon with horns.”

Dr. Roof also writes that “the results of the mental examinations are within the normal limits, but the patient’s statements about new hallucinations suggest he is feigning”. His diagnosis is an “unspecified mental disorder (accompanied by simultaneous simulation)”.

The prisoner was prescribed 7 milligrams of haloperidol every evening. It is also noted that he had previously taken risperidone, long-acting injections of haloperidol, geodone (ziprasidone), valium (diazepam) and codeine, which, in the opinion of some experts, could be the very reason behind former’s physical and mental state.

As was recorded by Dr. Roof in his report,“the patient suffers from a mental disorder, an unspecified range of schizophrenia and yet another mental illness, including visual and auditory hallucinations, along with the inability to care for himself in relation to everyday life”. Therefore, Roof argued, the subject “is not capable of taking an effective part in the discussion [of his case]”.

When Bukhantsov was asked how he felt, he replied that he was “lonely” and therefore “was talked to himself”. When questioned regarding his mental state, Grigoriy answered that he was suffering from hallucinations and constantly hears “his family … every person… his mother, his father, his brothers, and sisters”. The defendant considered the dead family members to be still alive. He also stated that he “sees the spirits”. According to the prisoner, it began to happen around “7 months ago” as a result of the “attacks” on him.

When the psychiatrist asked what the defendant meant by “attacks”, Grigoriy replied, “Because of the trauma inflicted on me by the accusations.” When asked what charges were brought against him, the patient answered,“I am not sure. I believe one of them to be murder.”

“Mr. Bukhantsov also feels disoriented and confused,” Dr. Roof writes in his report,“When I asked him whether we last interviewed at the post office or at the dentist, he replied,’Yes, there’. When I asked if it would come as a surprise to him, that it was in fact in prison, he replied that it would be.”

According to the lawyer, from Bukhantsov arose a stench not like “a cesspool”. He often slept only a few hours a day.

“When he showed up in this morning, he drooled excessively. Traces of his saliva still remain on his prison uniform. It’s completely wet. It is practically impossible to sit next to him, as if it were a cesspool; perhaps it stinks from urine or physical excretions, or a combination of both. I tried to greet him today, yet he did not even recognize me nor Mr. Gable (Bukhantsov’s second attorney – SlavicSac.com).”

As a result, the judge ordered the sheriff’s department to ensure Bukhantsov would enter the courtroom “washed and clean”.

Grigoriy then stated that the police allegedly “raped him many times” and that this happened “everywhere”.

When asked about any suicidal tendencies, Grigoriy replied that he had none.

Dr. Robin Lin believes that Grigoriy Bukhantsov does suffer from “an uncertain range of schizophrenia and other mental disorders, in addition to feigning”.

“A diagnosis of feigning is given when there are signs present of intentionally creating fake and clearly exaggerated physical and psychological symptoms, further driven by more external stimuli, such as the avoidance work or prosecution,” writes Dr. Lin,“Although it does seem odd that these diagnoses do not mutually exclude each other, for psychosis and simulation can indeed exist simultaneously, and there are, after all, rather convincing signs of both.”

Another doctor who examined the prisoner considered that “most likely Bukhantsov does not feign mental illness, as there is no reason to simulate symptoms before arrest (alleged violent acts by the father, open masturbation and conversations with imaginary conversation partners)”.

The observations of Dr. Lin therefore coincide with that opinion held by some of the employees at the prison clinic, who believe that Bukhantsov’s awareness and motor skills could be, at least in part, actually the sedatives.

It is also noted that at some point the defendant went into a coma following the excessive consumption of water.

The case indicates that Bukhantsov was aware of what he was accused of, understood the role of the judge and lawyers, could list his victims by name, and, upon reading the legal guide, also knew that he could avoid from the court if he played the role of a madman. The state prosecution was under the impression that Grigoriy pretended to suffer from a mental disorder, playing with people with ease.

Forgive Me, I Do Not Wish To End Up In Hell

It is also worth noting that when Bukhantsov appeared at his court hearings, he peed himself, preventing attempts by the lawyer and court staff to fully communicate with him, but when he needed medical help or new clothes, he easily obtained these items in prison. Apparently, so as to maintain the legend of his mental inferiority, the prisoner got bouts of hallucinations once every day whilst in the prison hospital. These and other observations forced psychologists to take a closer look at the behavior of the feigned.

At one point, Bukhantsov, through his lawyers, addressed the judge, which in itself is extremely rare in the American courts during preliminary hearings. The court court ordered to give him the floor.

“I cannot make my body and brain work as they should. And I can not kneel down to pray and wash. Forgive me. I have to stay in court without having washed myself. It is difficult for me to live. I ask that you give me more time, that you save my life. I don’t want to go to hell. Please forgive me everything. Help me. I am not guilty. Your honor is a judge. This is all some kind of madness.”

Having listened to Bukhantsov’s convoluted speech, the judge promised to help somehow.

In addition, as Dr. Kim points out, in order to calm the defendant, the prison medical staff had pumped him for a long time with tranquilizers, which do significantly slow down a person’s ability to think. One of the nurses described his condition as catatonic.

Dr. Kim writes that his patient described “black and white hallucinations”, which is abnormal for schizophrenia patients.

At the same time, though, Bukhantsov did everything in his power to disrupt the process of his examination, opposing visits in every way possible and refusing to leave the cell to attend court hearings. In the end, however, the presiding judge, Stephen White, issued a decree to take the prisoner out of the cell “by any means considered reasonable”.

In the summer of 2015, twelve jurors, appointed by the court (selected from 70 candidates), gathered to resolve the one important question: Should the defendant be considered mentally fit for the court? For several days, the jury was deliberating, discussing the Bukhantsov’s condition and, from time to time, requesting the transcripts from court sessions from time to time.

Despite the fact that several experts confirmed Bukhantsov to be insane (the prosecutor’s office found unreliability in the assessments given by these specialists), the jury considered that he was able to participate in the trial.

A Guilty Verdict and the Punishment

It is worth noting that Grigoriy Bukhantsov had already been imprisoned before for break-in in 2011, and the latter was also prosecuted for beating his relatives.

grigoriy bukhantsov
Photo: The Sacramento Bee

In March last year, the prosecutor’s office in Sacramento, the same city in which this inhumane crime took place, offered Bukhantsov a deal: in exchange for a confession of guilt, he would be able to avoid the death sentence. The offender agreed to these conditions and signed a murder of three relatives confession.

As a result, Grigoriy Bukhantsov was sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility of parole, as well as the payment of restitution in the amount of $26,374 to the relatives of the victims. Since the inmate is poor, he will have to pay out this debt over the course of the next 78 years, paying 50% of his prison earnings to the family of the dead. Additionally, Grigoriy must, by law, reimburse all the legal costs, the sum of which is more than $1,000, however the lawyer asked that the court to exempt his client from paying this amount.

Today, Grigoriy Bukhantsov resides in a penitentiary medical facility in Vacaville, California.

Ruslan Gurzhiy, SlavicSac.com