All in the Family

Murder is all around us. Sacramento’s long list of serial killers have reached out and claimed victims from all walks of life, some random, a few by means of opportunity, and others who were close at hand. It’s particularly troubling when this latter group–victims known to their assailants are family members.

Sacramento has more than a handful of notorious killers who have targeted their families in a most brutal fashion. We’re going to take a look at two in  particular, one is considered a serial killer and the other is a mass murderer, because the latter killed his family in a single spree, without a cooling off period in between killings.

Serial Killer Jack Barron first came to public attention in 1992, when his wife Irene died under mysterious circumstances, leaving a grief stricken husband and two small children behind. Irene was found in her bed by a neighbor while her husband Jack was at work.

Jack Barron was described as a controlling man, who had hinted that he wanted a divorce from Irene, but the medical examiner ruled the cause of death as “undetermined.” Within a few months, Jack’s girlfriend Starla moved in with him and the children. He would show a grief riddled front whenever people outside the family saw him. Starla reported that when the four year old boy, Jeremy was crying for his mother, Jack responded with, “If you don’t shut up, I’ll send you to where Mommy is.”

On February 3, 1993, eight months after the death of his wife, Jeremy was found in his bed, dead.

Large rallies and celebrity appearances began to occur, all to support the grief stricken husband and father. Jack Barron became obsessed with Wynona Judd and had a photograph taken with her and sister Ashley shortly after the boy’s death. Starla was forgotten by this point and she moved out of the house.

On August 4, 1994, Ashley, then four years old, was found lifeless in her bed in the family home. Still, there was no evidence to tie the girl’s death to Jack, or anyone else. The case of death was again, “undetermined.” Jack reported that Ashley did have a history of heart problems.

Six months later, on February 27, 1995, Jack Barron reported finding his mother, Roberta Butler, dead in her condominium. Neighbors said she was in bed, with a pillow over her face.

Five months after her death, the coroner ruled the death a homicide and jack Barron was arrested and subsequently charged with all four murders. Forensic evidence was scant during the trial and medial examiners testified that  “Asphyxial death by suffocation or smothering is a very subtle kind of death that frequently leaves no signs. And when signs are left, they are subtle, at best.”


The prosecution paved a trail of a controlling man, who took out insurance policies on his wife and children, and stood to inherit a substantial sum form his mother’s estate. Barron was convicted on three counts–the charge of the murder of his daughter Ashley was not sustained, partially due to the child’s documented medical history.

Jack Barron is known as the first man to suffer from Munchausen-by-Proxy, a mental condition where a caretaker harms or kills their spouse, or child to gain attention and sympathy. He is serving three consecutive life terms.

The second family annihilator was mass murderer Nikolay Soltys. For reasons that to this day, remain unclear, On August 20, 2001, Ukrainian immigrant, Nikolay Soltys stabbed his twenty-two year old pregnant wife, Lyubov, at their North Highlands home.

Twenty minutes later he drove to Rancho Cordova to his uncle’s residence where he killed his aunt and uncle, Galina Kukharskaya, and Petr Kukharskiy,  and two of their grandchildren, Tatyana Kukharskaya and Dimitriy Kukharskiy, both nine years old.

He then drove to his mother’s home and picked up his three year old son, Sergey. Nikolay’s mother said he seemed fine and showed no sign that anything was wrong.

Police found a note on the family’s car. The note, written in Russian, directing police to a remote location under a microwave tower. The note claimed the victims were killed because the had, “spoken out.” Investigators found the three years old’s body at the location, stabbed to death, hunched over a box of new toys.

Soltys avoided immediate capture and was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $70,000 reward. Remaining family members were under police protection.

393637 01: Two mug shots of suspected murdered Nikolay Soltys are displayed on an FBI Ten Most Wanted List poster on the FBI website. Soltys was added to the FBI”s Ten Most Wanted List on August 23, 2001. (Photo by Getty Images)

On August 30, 2001, in spite of the police protection, Soltys snuck into his mother’s backyard. His mother and brother saw him and ran outside. Two Sacramento Police officer’s were parked on the street and confronted Nikolay in the back yard, where he surrendered.

Nikolay Soltys was charged with seven counts of murder in his mass murder spree. He never stood trial for the crimes. Soltys hung himself in the Sacramento County Jail on February 14, 2002.

Soltys would inspire Joseph Ferguson to commit a series of murders one month later. Ferguson was obsessed with beating the body count racked by by Nikolay Soltys.  


  1. That was kind of depressing.

    1. I felt the same way writing this piece. It was a very sad series of events.

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