The alleged victims of Nikolay Soltys, the Ukrainian immigrant suspect of killing his wife, 3-year-old son, aunt, uncle and two young cousins, were laid to rest Sunday in a Sacramento, Calif., church.
Police, fearing that Soltys might attack more members of his family, guarded the funeral as more than 5,000 members of the area's Russian and Ukrainian community attended the service at Bethany Slavic Missionary Church.
Five white caskets stood open at the front of the church, with a smaller white casket for Soltys' son, Sergey, as church leaders speaking in Russian and English called the deaths "horrible" and "something fearful," and blamed them on selfishness.
"Today is the day of our trouble, the day of our sorrow that is inexpressible," said Rev. Vladimir Lashchuk in Russian. "No one thought their lives would end so quickly."
On Saturday, Soltys' mother asked her son to give himself up to the FBI in a three-minute taped statement aired on a Sacramento cable station, telling him that his family loved him very much. The mother planned to attend Sunday's funeral.
In Soltys' former hometown of Shumsk in the western Ukraine, residents remembered a shoemaker with a violent and unpredictable streak.
Petro Nakonechnyi, brother of Soltys' slain wife, Lyubov, said that although he considered Soltys a friend, he had opposed to the couple's marriage because he thought Soltys had "an unbalanced temper." After they married, Soltys frequently threatened to hang himself, Nakonechnyi said.
"He beat her when she was pregnant, and once pushed her out of a car on low speed," he said.
Nakonechnyi claimed that Soltys tried to attack his wife's brothers with an ax when they came to try to take her back home.
After that incident, Soltys left to join his parents in California in 1998, and ended up jobless and on welfare. He frequently phoned his wife, urging her and their newborn son to join him. She and Sergey moved to the United States last year.
Neighbor Sofia Kosik said he was kind and quick to help.
"It must be that something happened to his brain, or somebody tripped him up," Kosik said.
But Polina Horbonis, who taught Soltys the Ukrainian language at the local school before he entered vocational school to become a shoemaker, said: "This child had such a character that you never knew what to expect from him in the next moment."
Many Shumsk residents are afraid that Soltys may appear in the town. Some said Soltys called a woman in the nearby Myrove village last week, asking for her husband's phone number in the United States so he could ask him for help. She hung up in panic, residents say.
Shumsk is a religious town by the standards of the post-Soviet Ukraine, with four churches for its 5,000 residents: two Orthodox churches from different branches, one Roman Catholic and one Christian evangelical. Orthodox icons hang over many intersections.
Soltys and his parents belonged to the evangelical congregation. They later joined a wave of Ukrainian members to emigrate to the United States.
The manhunt for Soltys was shifted into overdrive Saturday as police hoped to snag the fugitive by casting a wide but tight net.
Police stopped people on streets and detained airport passengers who resembled the 27-year-old suspect. Anyone driving a green Ford Explorer, the last vehicle Soltys was seen in, was pulled over. Though tips place Soltys all over the country, authorities believe he remains in the Sacramento area.
"Anybody who's going to have a few cocktails and drive over the weekend, don't do it in a green Ford Explorer. They are all being stopped," said Sacramento County Sheriff's Capt. John McGinness.
The manhunt got a boost Thursday when Soltys was added to the FBI's Most Wanted list and as the reward for his capture has grown to $70,000. The case was profiled on television's America's Most Wanted Saturday night.
Police have placed his remaining relatives under protective custody.
"He does appear to get some satisfaction by what he's done," McGinness said. "There are easier and simpler ways to commit a murder. I think he enjoys it."
Soltys' rampage of violence began Monday morning when he allegedly slashed the throat of his pregnant wife, and then drove 20 miles to the home of an aunt and uncle, where police say he tried to rob them Instead, he stabbed them to death, as well as their two young grandchildren, Soltys' second cousins.
Soltys then picked up his son at his mother's house. She has maintained that Soltys showed no outward signs that anything was wrong. But police say Soltys must have been covered in blood from the killings when he showed up at his mother's house.
"We never believed [her]," McGinness said.
After the slayings of his wife and relatives, Soltys was seen with the toddler and authorities had hoped the boy would be recovered alive. But the boy's slashed body later turned up at a rural trash heap.
Despite the flurry of sighting and tips, law officers said the investigation was still being hampered by language and cultural barriers and the immigrant community's distrust of police and government.
Although the area's Ukrainians and Russians claim they are cooperating fully and trying to learn more about Soltys' background in the former Soviet republic, investigators are increasingly frustrated by what they call a slow pace of cooperation from relatives and other members of the community.
"It goes to the level of trust, their trust of us and their loyalty to him," McGinness said. "What's perceived as loyalty may actually be more fear of him than loyalty to him."
Police suspect Soltys may have owned his Ford Explorer without registering it, may have access to other unregistered vehicles, had a criminal background including extortion and violence in the Russian underworld both in the Ukraine and the U.S., and had a history of domestic violence.
Police think he pressured elderly Sacramento immigrants for a portion of their monthly aid money and was involved in an auto-theft ring.
"He's a thug," McGinness said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report