A BLOODY INQUEST INTO THE MUTILATION CAPITAL OF THE COUNTRY
By Maury Z. Levy
ON SUNDAY THE TURKEY BUZZARDS flew low to the pines. You could hear their wings flapping a few hundred yards away as they swooped down into the garbage that hid in the trees. They are big, lazy birds, the turkey buzzards.
They were not an unusual sight to the people who lived in the dirty white cottages on Oakwood Drive or to the people in the wooden piney shacks on Crescent Avenue. Oakwood is a straight arrow off Route 571, a dead-end turn from the Phillips 66 station. Crescent is a big loop from 571. You pass the shacks first, the ones with the Russian names out front in this strange settlement called Rova Farms, where the people are peasants who live off the land, eating from little vegetable gardens fertilized by the dust of the road that passes a few feet from their doors.
It’s a very insular community that revolves around the big church around the corner on the Cassville-Freehold Road, a stately structure topped with big golden onion domes. Behind the church is a nice clean cemetery where the Russian peasants have buried their dead for almost 100 years.
You can see the tips of the golden onions from the point where Oakwood and Crescent run into each other and end. There are traces of a crude dirt road leading off that intersection into a hole in the woods. It’s a street with no name, a road that’s the width of one car, if you’re crazy enough to try to drive it. It’s murder on your wheels.
You curve past old beer cans and rubbish and you wind around the giant worn-out truck tires to the blond wood Emerson television set with the busted picture tube that sits two blocks back in the middle of the road that goes nowhere. Dead end.
These woods have been the dumping ground for a lot of things. The trees are very tall and very thick. So most people didn’t give a second thought to the turkey buzzards. Maybe an early season hunter had left his prey to rot or maybe there was something edible in the roadside trash.
But by Wednesday in what had been a very hot and humid week, things began to get a little strange. The humidity put a heavy lock on the air and a terrible smell started coming from the woods. The radio dispatch room in the Jackson Township police station got a couple calls about it. They sent a man out in a car. He drove up Crescent and down Oakwood. He smelled it too.
ON SATURDAY Steve Soltys brought the family down from Jersey City. Soltys finished work at 5:00 and came home and changed to get the blood off his clothes. He and Helene put the two kids and the dog in the car and drove to their summer cottage on Oakwood Drive, about eight miles west of Lakewood and a short holler from Toms River, the Ocean County seat.
While the family unpacked, Soltys let the collie out. But Yukee started charging through the woods after rabbits. Steve Soltys, 34, had to run out and get him. He got close enough to see the dog had something in his mouth. It wasn’t a rabbit. He came up closer and it looked like an arm, it had fingers and everything. First he thought it was part of a doll. And then he saw the fingernails. They were long and well-manicured and were covered with very bright red polish. It was a human arm. Read the rest of this entry »