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Man pleads guilty to first-degree murder in slaying of 3 relatives

Grigoriy Bukhantsov, then 19, appeared before Sacramento Superior Court Judge John P. Winn in a cage crowded with four Sacramento County sheriff's deputies on Friday, October 26, 2012.  He pleaded guilty to three murder counts on March 27, 2018.
Grigoriy Bukhantsov, then 19, appeared before Sacramento Superior Court Judge John P. Winn in a cage crowded with four Sacramento County sheriff's deputies on Friday, October 26, 2012. He pleaded guilty to three murder counts on March 27, 2018. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Grigoriy Bukhantsov will spend the rest of his life in state prison in the brutal October 2012 knife slayings of his sister-in-law and two of her three young children in their Rancho Cordova home, but will be spared the death chamber in a deal finalized Tuesday in a Sacramento courtroom.

Bukhantsov pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, allegations of committing multiple murders and of using a knife to commit them. He also pleaded guilty to a single count of committing rape by instrument – an act against his young niece as he killed her.

Sentencing is set for April 27 in Sacramento Superior Court.

Bukhantsov was to be executed if convicted of the crimes – trial before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White was still months away – but prosecuting Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Donell Slivka said it was his family who asked that he instead be committed to life behind bars.

“This was not a decision that was made quickly,” Slivka told White as an emotionless Bukhantsov sat with attorneys Jan Karowsky and Peter Kmeto. “First and foremost, these were particularly heinous and brutal crimes. He murdered a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old child.”

But Slivka went on to say that prosecutors also considered his age at the time of the slayings, his mental health and “psychosocial” issues and the wishes of his family, who despite the horrors he wrought, wanted his life spared.

“It was the family’s wish that this be resolved with life without parole. We felt this would be the appropriate plan,” Slivka said outside the courtroom following the hearing.

Bukhantsov was 19 years old when he appeared on the doorstep of his brother’s home and was taken in for the night. The next morning, Oct. 23, as sister-in-law Alina Bukhantsov, her 3-year-old daughter Emmanuela, and 2-year-old son Avner, were sitting down for breakfast, Bukhantsov set upon them with a butcher knife and a second blade stabbing each more than 20 times before fleeing the bloody scene in the family’s minivan.

Grigoriy’s brother, Denis, discovered the bodies when he returned home from work that day. Only the family’s 6-month-old son, sleeping in a bedroom’s crib, was spared.

Bukhantsov was later found sleeping miles away in the booth of a Rocklin diner.

On Tuesday, more than five years after the slayings, after jurors were called to determine whether he was mentally fit to stand trial, and at least one court hearing that saw a soiled and drooling Bukhantsov struggle to remain lucid, his defense counsel and psychologists said he was of right mind to accept the plea deal.

“We think it’s the most fair and just resolution for everyone,” Karowsky said before the plea hearing.

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