(MCT) — SACRAMENTO, Calif.—So disturbing was the scene on De Soto Way on Tuesday afternoon that chaplains were called in to counsel the deputies who first arrived.
On the quiet Rancho Cordova street, a young mother and her two toddlers had been found brutally slain, their bodies discovered, authorities say, when the children’s father arrived home at the family’s duplex.
Still alive and apparently unharmed was the couple’s youngest child, a 6-month-old baby boy, found in a back room after deputies followed sounds of his cries.
As the sun set on the emotional scene — where family members had gathered, whimpering and wailing in clusters — authorities called in a second team of homicide detectives to assist in the investigation.
They were expected to continue processing the scene, described as “very violent,” late into the night.
By Tuesday evening, authorities had released no information regarding a suspect. However, they announced they were looking for a white van they believe was stolen from the duplex at the time of the crime.
The van is a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with a California license plate of 6LFY276. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jason Ramos said the van belonged to the family and is unaccounted for.
The children’s father made the gruesome discovery when he came home about 3:30 p.m., Ramos said. Without a phone, he ran to a neighbor’s house for help, screaming that his family was dead.
Deputies arrived to find the man waiting outside the duplex, “completely distraught” and “just beside himself,” Ramos said. Inside, deputies found the bodies.
Ramos said he could not say where in the home the bodies lay, but said they were together and in a room separate from the surviving baby boy.
Paramedics pronounced the boy’s mother, who was in her 20s, and the toddlers — a 2-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl — dead at the scene.
The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office had not publicly identified the victims as of Tuesday night, but public records indicate that Denis and Alina Bukhantsov live at the duplex. A video on a Christian website called GodTube shows the couple exchanging vows in 2008 before a large church audience.
Ramos said he could not say how the mother and children had been killed but that they had suffered “extreme trauma.”
“It’s a very violent scene, obviously,” he said.
Until a social worker arrived in the evening, a deputy was seen cradling the surviving baby boy, who drifted in and out of sleep in his arms.
“Many of us have children as well,” said Ramos, who got emotional speaking to reporters at the scene. “It’s extremely traumatic. … We’re all human.”
Ramos said the father and the neighbor who called 911 had been detained for questioning and were cooperative. However, neither was considered a suspect, Ramos said.
Outside the crime scene tape, dozens of neighbors gathered quietly, looking shocked and concerned by the day’s events.
“We wouldn’t even think this kind of stuff would happen,” said Sandra Sida, 27, who lives across the street. She said she did not know the family well but that they appeared friendly, exchanging waves and greetings in the driveway.
“I’ve never seen them angry,” Sida said. “We’ve seen them all the time in their church clothes.”
A woman who lives in the other unit of the duplex said she went to Cordova High School with the mother but that they had lost touch until she moved in two years ago. The woman said their families exchanged food on holidays.
“They didn’t look like trouble people,” said the woman, who declined to give her full name given the violent nature of the crime. “This is a (big) surprise to come home and see this.”