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  • Randall Benton /

  • Randall Benton /

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Yuriy Merkushev, 21, faces charges of resisting arrest and possession of stolen property. Police say he helped the Glukhoy twins in a burglary, then fled with them until their BMW crashed.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Wearing a suicide watch jacket, Roman Glukhoy responds after his name was called as he and twin brother Ruslan are arraigned in the Placer County Jail courtroom Friday.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Wearing a suicide watch jacket, Ruslan Glukhoy looks toward friends and relatives in the gallery as he is arraigned with his twin brother, Roman, in the Placer County jail courtroom Friday. The charges include homicide.

  • Jose Luis Villegas /

    Belem Alvarez is embraced her sister Anahi Corona-Tovar , left, at the vigil for daughter Anahi Tovar, 14, and her husband Jose Luis Barriga-Tovar, 35, at Kaseberg Park in Roseville.

  • emailed by Principal Karen Calkins

  • Rénee C. Byer /

    Destini Vassar, 14, left, and Stephaine Kapaun, 14, close friends of Anahi Tovar, write on a memorial banner at Cooley Middle School in Roseville on Thursday for the girl killed in a Wednesday crash.

  • José Luis Villegas /

    A family photo shows Jose Luis Barriga-Tovar, above, with bride, Anahi, taking their wedding vows in Mexico. He and his 14-year-old daughter, also named Anahi, at left, died Wednesday when a pickup truck slammed into their sedan as police chased burglary suspects, later identified as Roman and Ruslan Glukhoy. The widow is left with a daughter, 9, and infant son.

  • Randy Pench /

    Officials investigate a crash that killed two people Wednesday when their car was hit by a stolen pickup. The truck was pursued by Placer County deputies along westbound Antelope Road at Antelope North Road.

Parents of twins in fatal car chase express sadness for victims

Published: Sunday, Apr. 6, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 6, 2014 - 9:50 am

They came to Sacramento in search of the American dream. Andrey and Natalya Glukhoy had high hopes for their twin sons Roman and Ruslan, who excelled as high school wrestlers and dreamed of one day becoming professional mixed martial arts fighters.

That dream ended Wednesday morning in a crash in Antelope that claimed the lives of an innocent man and his daughter and left their sons facing two counts of murder.

The deaths of Jose Luis Barriga-Tovar, 35, and his 14-year-old daughter, Anahi, also destroyed the lives of another immigrant family, leaving a widow and two young children.

In an exclusive interview with The Sacramento Bee at their Foothill Farms home Saturday, Andrey and Natalya Glukhoy expressed their sorrow at another family’s tragic loss.

“I know we can never pay back what they lost. My heart is full of pain. It’s like losing my own brother and daughter,” said Andrey Glukhoy, trying hard to hold back his emotion.

He had this message for the widow, Anahi Corona-Tovar: “Be strong, be close to God.”

And they grieved also for their sons – whose futures once held such promise.

“Our family, our life has just stopped,” Andrey Glukhoy said. “We don’t know how we will live in the future. We will live with this pain every day.”

The Glukhoys said they had not spoken with their 19-year-old sons since the collision. The pair remain in the Placer County jail, on suicide watch. The parents also said they did not know what their sons were doing in Auburn or why the twins allegedly tried to evade police.

The Glukhoys came to Sacramento from Ukraine in 2001. They said it was difficult to adjust to life in the United States because they spoke no English. But the family soon put down roots, with the father starting his own trucking business.

“Everyone wants to have a better life, so they come to America,” said mother Natalya Glukhoy, breaking into tears.

The parents, along with Amira Matin, Roman Glukhoy’s former girlfriend, spoke with a Bee reporter Saturday in the living room of the family home. Natalya Glukhoy clasped her hands and looked down, occasionally seeking comfort from Matin.

Inside their carefully decorated suburban home, the family’s dog Sam, a German shorthaired pointer, could be heard barking in the background.

The twins were home-schooled for most of their high school years by mother Natalya Glukhoy. The brothers’ bedrooms were simple and tidy, with a bed and bookshelf. In each room was a poster of a wrestling competition bracket.

In Roman’s room, there was a box of old photographs containing pictures of him and Matin. The couple dated for more than three years.

Andrey Glukhoy said his sons were once the “best kids anyone could ever have.” He brought out boxes filled with trophies and medals the two earned as wrestlers. Roman, for instance, won a state championship in 2010.

He pulled handfuls of medals from one box and held them up. “Everyone wanted sons like mine,” he said.

The parents said that things began to change for the sons in 2011, when they were severely injured in a car accident while on their way back from a wrestling training camp.

Benched for several months, their sons developed a reliance on prescription painkillers, they said.

“After that, his heart was broken,” Matin said of Roman. “He couldn’t do what he loved most – wrestling.”

The parents said their sons began to move in a different direction: hanging out with the wrong crowd and continuing to struggle with drugs. They were questioned in a series of car break-ins in 2012. Roman later was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and stolen property, according to court documents.

Andrey and Natalya Glukhoy said they fought to get their sons back on track. Andrey Glukhoy said he tried to get them away from trouble, taking them on his cross-country trucking trips.

And the twins seemed to be responding.

On Facebook, Roman wrote last November, “it’s gonna feel good being sober.” A day before the crash, Roman had told his mother that he was going to move out of Sacramento and start a new life.

Tuesday night, just hours before the fatal crash, Roman and Ruslan stayed up late to watch television, their mother said.

“Roman kissed me good night, and Ruslan just said good night” when I went to bed at 10:30 p.m., Natalya Glukhoy said. She awoke briefly at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday and found the boys sound asleep in their rooms.

Sometime after, the brothers and their friend, Yuriy Merkushev, 21, went to Auburn, where authorities said they were involved in a burglary.

Auburn police began a pursuit of the Glukhoy brothers’ BMW at 5:10 a.m. Minutes later, the speeding BMW failed to navigate the offramp at Horseshoe Bar Road in Loomis and police say all three suspects bailed out of the car. Merkushev separated from the Glukhoys and was arrested later in a Loomis parking lot.

Around 5:20 a.m., Natalya Glukhoy said, she got up to let the dog out but did not see her sons in bed.

Within 10 minutes, she said, police officers showed up at her home and told her the twins had been involved in a crash and that authorities were searching for them. The police left without searching the home, she said.

Meanwhile, the Glukhoy brothers were miles away in Loomis, where authorities say they stole a Ford F-150 pickup on Becky Way. The pickup’s owner reported the stolen vehicle to Placer sheriff’s deputies, who started a second chase on I-80 that reportedly reached more than 100 mph.

At about 6:30 a.m., Barriga-Tovar was taking his daughter Anahi to a friend’s house to get ready and eat breakfast before going to Cooley Middle School, where she was an eighth-grader. He was turning left from Antelope Road onto Antelope North Road, authorities said, when his white Kia was struck at high speed by the stolen pickup. He and his daughter were killed instantly.

The twins ran from the scene but were arrested later that morning.

Police called Natalya Glukhoy and told her what had happened. She called her husband, who was driving his truck on I-80, returning from a trip to Nevada.

“My heart almost stopped when I came to Auburn,” he said. “My body felt like it had 1,000 needles.”

On Saturday in their living room, the Glukhoys questioned why the second chase was carried out, given that deputies had the license plate of the BMW and had contacted Natalya Glukhoy at 5:30 a.m., an hour before the crash.

“The cops knew about Roman and Ruslan already,” said Andrey Glukhoy. “The cops should have thought about other people.”

Omar Gonzalez, an attorney hired by Corona-Tovar, the widow, has indicated that a lawsuit against the Placer County Sheriff’s Office may be in the works.

Placer County sheriff’s officials have declined to comment on criticism of the chase.

The Glukhoys said they have cried for days, mourning not only for their sons but for the victims.

“I know we cannot go back and change what happened. I am very sorry,” Andrey Glukhoy said.

Gonzalez said the family appreciates all condolences, but the episode has been a tragedy. “The fact remains that an awful wrong has been committed. Justice must be served,” he said.

The Glukhoy twins will make their next court appearance Wednesday, when they are expected to enter pleas. The two face penalties of 25-to-life or 15-to-life, depending on whether a jury finds first- or second-degree murder, according to the Placer County District Attorney’s Office.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

Read more articles by Richard Chang

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