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Calif. man charged in deaths of 3 family members

SACRAMENTO — A 19-year-old Northern California man accused of fatally stabbing his sister-in-law and young niece and nephew was formally charged with three counts of murder Friday at his first court appearance.

Authorities have yet to release a motive, but Grigoriy Bukhantsov’s lawyer said after the hearing that his client appears to have psychological problems and a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

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Bukhantsov faces the possibility of the death penalty, but Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District

Attorney Stephen Grippi said it could be several months before prosecutors decide whether they’ll pursue it.

‘‘That decision will be made after a much more complete evaluation,’’ Grippi said. ‘‘We have to do a full investigation of his background.’’

Bukhantsov was arrested early Wednesday, hours after his older brother returned to his suburban Rancho Cordova home to find his 23-year-old wife, Alina Bukhantsov, dead along with their 3-year-old daughter, Emmanuela, and 2-year-old son, Avenir.

The couple’s 6-month-old baby, Mark, was found unharmed in a crib.

Alina and her son both died of stab wounds to the neck and torso, the Sacramento County coroner’s office said Friday. Emmanuela died of stab wounds to the chest.

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