Uncle charged in triple-murder had troubled ties

Associated Press Modified: October 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm •  Published: October 24, 2012

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. (AP) — A 19-year-old man accused of killing his sister-in-law and her two small children in an attack that stunned authorities for its brutality had a strained relationship with his family, police in Northern California said Wednesday.

"Something bad was brewing" between Grigoriy Bukhantsov and his relatives before the slayings Tuesday in Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County sheriff's Sgt. Jason Ramos said.

Authorities had not indicated exactly what they think prompted the attack.

Bukhantsov was picked up at a Denny's restaurant hours after midnight Wednesday. He had fallen asleep in a booth in front of a plate of chicken-fried steak with gravy, where police said they found him after locating a minivan that had been stolen from the home in the Sacramento suburb.

He was booked into the Sacramento County Jail without bail. Ramos said he was the only suspect. The father, who discovered the scene, is not a suspect. He was distraught and has been cooperating with authorities, police said.

Bukhantsov had been hopping between the homes of various relatives and "just didn't have a good relationship with family members, and there have been suggestions that something bad was brewing for some time," Ramos said.

Ramos said Bukhantsov's drifting may have included possibly the tidy duplex in the Sacramento suburb where his brother's family lived. Records show Bukhantsov was on probation after spending about seven months in jail for felony burglary.

"But I don't think anybody, obviously, could have foreseen an act like this," he added.

Ramos said the victims suffered extensive trauma, likely after a "violent encounter."

He said the manner of the attack was a stabbing, slashing or slicing, but he declined to say what kind of weapon was used or go into further detail pending a coroner's report. The coroner's office identified the victims as 23-year-old Alina Bukhantsov, her 3-year-old daughter, Emmanuela, and her 2-year-old son, Avenir. The causes of death have not been released.

Another child, 6-month-old Mark, survived the attack and is with family, police said.

Ramos said the attack was "shocking, even to veteran law enforcement."

The crime has rocked a large community of Slavic immigrants who came to the area in the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The slain mother and her husband were members of the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church, a 6,000-member evangelical Pentecostal denomination on the outskirts of Sacramento that was founded by "immigrants from the former Soviet Union," according to the church's website.

Church secretary Valentina Bondaruk said Alina Bukhantsov had been baptized at the church and grew up attending Sunday school there. Bondaruk said the woman taught Sunday school at one point and regularly helped out during church functions.