The first body found was mostly bones. A man looking for firewood in the lesopolosa, a rectangular “shelterbelt” or forested strip of land planted to prevent erosion, found the remains. While the area was only about 50 yards wide, with a path running through it, no one had seen this body until it was pretty well decomposed. There were small patches of leathered skin on some of the bones and some black hair hanging from the skull. The man who found the remains reported them to the militsia, the local authorities in this southern region of Russia
The body had no identifying clothing and had been left on its back, the head turned to one side. The ears were still sufficiently intact to see tiny holes for earrings, and those, along with the length of the hair, suggested that this victim had been female. It also appeared from her postmortem posture that she had tried to fight her attacker. It appeared that two ribs had been broken, perhaps by a knife, and closer inspection indicated numerous stab wounds into the bone. A knife had apparently cut into the eye sockets, too, as if to remove the eyes, and similar gouges were viewed in the pelvic region.
Whoever had done this, the police thought, had been a frenzied beast.
They did have a report on a missing 13-year-old girl, Lyubov Biryuk from Novocherkassk, a village not far away. Investigators called the uncle of the missing girl who had done an extensive search for her after she’d disappeared earlier in the month. He came to where the body lay to look at the remains.
Lyubov’s uncle, perhaps clutching to some small glimpse of hope, said his niece’s hair was not as dark and that the bones looked to him as if they had been there longer than she had been missing.
Major Mikhail Fetisov (police file photo)
A few hours later, Major Mikhail Fetisov arrived from militsia headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, the closest large city. He was the leading detective, or syshchik, for the entire region. He asked for records of other missing persons in the area and ordered military cadets in training to search the surrounding woods. He also ordered the remaining skin on the hands be fingerprinted.
The next day, the searchers found a white sandal and yellow bag containing the brand of cigarettes that the young girl had set out to purchase. Then fingerprints of the corpse and the schoolgirl’s book covers confirmed that this body was Lyubov’s. DNA analysis for body identification was several years away, but from what evidence they had, they could be sure it was the missing girl. The medical examiner hypothesized that warm temperatures and heavy rain had afforded the accelerated state of decomposition.
Despite a thorough search around the remains, no evidence was produced that could help to identify the person who had killed her, and the dress that Lyubov had worn was missing. That meant that no trace evidence could be collected from it. It was thought to be a random attack, nearly impossible to solve.
According to Robert Cullen, author of a well-known book on the case, most murders in that area of Russia fell into one of two categories: intimate killings, in which a person got into a rage or a drunken state and murdered someone he knew, usually a family member; and instrumental murders done to take something from the victim. But no one in the girl’s family was a clear suspect and she’d had nothing of any value on her person.
There was a path near the body that people traveled often, and a road only 75 yards away. This had been a crime of some risk, with evidence of overkill. Although sexual crimes were considered manifestations of self-indulgent Western societies, there were plenty of signs that this incident had been just such a killing.
It became clear later from the autopsy report that she had been attacked from behind and hit hard in the head with both the handle and the blade of a knife. Perhaps she’d been knocked out right away. At any rate, she had been stabbed at least 22 separate times and mutilated in other ways. (In Hunting the Devil, told by Richard Lourie partly from the killer’s perspective, the number of wounds was 41.)
The police came up with ideas and began looking for possible suspects: those who were mentally ill, juvenile delinquents, or someone with a history of sex crimes. They tried to find out whom Lyubov had known and how she might have encountered this killer.
One man, convicted in another rape, learned that he was a suspect and promptly hanged himself. That seemed to put an end to the investigation. There were no other viable suspects, and for all they knew, the killer had found his own form of redemption.
But then another victim was discovered.
The Division of Especially Serious Crimes
Less than two months after the discovery of Lyubov’s remains, a railroad worker who was walking near the train station for Shakhty, a small industrial town 20 miles away, came across a set of skeletal remains. It appeared to have been there for approximately six weeks and was soon identified as an adult woman. The body had been stripped, left facedown, with the legs open. What made investigators take note was a key similarity with the murder of Lyubov: multiple stab wounds and lacerated eye sockets. That was a rare manifestation of murder.
Since no one of this approximate size and gender had been reported missing, no identification was made.
Only a month later, a soldier gathering wood about 10 miles south of that spot came across more remains, also of a woman lying face down. She had been covered with branches, but close inspection showed the pattern of knife wounds and damage to the eye sockets. She, too, remained unknown.
The linkage was obvious. A serial killer had claimed at least three victims. But no one was admitting that, especially not to the press. Officially what they had were three separate unsolved murders. (They actually had seven that year, Richard Lourie says, but they would not know that for some time to come.)
Major Fetisov organized a task force of 10 men to start an aggressive full-time investigation. He intended to get to the heart of this and stop this maniac from preying on any more female citizens. Among those he recruited was a second lieutenant from the criminology laboratory named Viktor Burakov, 37, and his perspective is presented in Cullen’s book. He was the best man they had for the analysis of physical evidence like fingerprints, footprints, and other manifestations at a crime scene, and he was an expert in both police science and the martial arts. Known for his diligence, he was invited aboard the Division of Especially Serious crimes in January 1983. Little did anyone realize then just how diligent he would prove to be and would have to be.
Viktor Burakov (police file photo)
That same month, a fourth victim was found. She appeared to have been killed about six months earlier and was near the area where the second set of remains was discovered. She, too, had the familiar knife wounds, but some female clothing was found nearby and assumed to be hers. She was possibly a teenager.
All they knew at this point was that the killer—whom they now called the Maniac—did not smoke (or he’d have taken the cigarettes found near Lyubov), and that he was a man. He had some issue with eyes, but whether it was based on superstition or a fetish or some other consideration authorities had no idea. At any rate, as Cullen points out, gouging out the eyes indicated that the killer spent some time with the victims after they were dead.
With no definite leads, the unit decided to look back in time and see if there might be other victims. Burakov’s first real task was to head an investigation in Novoshakhtinsk, a farming and mining town in the general area, where a 10-year-old girl had just been reported missing.
Olga Stalmachenok had gone to a piano lesson on December 10, 1982. No one had seen her since. Burakov questioned her parents and learned that she got along with them and had no apparent cause to just run away. However, the parents had received a strange postcard from “Sadist-Black Cat” telling them their daughter was in the woods and warning that there would be 10 more victims that coming year. Burakov dismissed this as a sick prank, but still feared that the girl was dead.
Then on April 14, four months after her disappearance, Olga’s body was found in a field about three miles from the music conservatory where she had gone for her lesson. Her nude body was lying in a frozen tractor rut on a collective farm. The police left her in place until Burakov could arrive to see the crime scene for himself. Because she had been killed during the winter, the snow had preserved the corpse, so the pattern of knife wounds was clearly visible on her bluish-white skin. The skull was punctured, as were the chest and stomach. The knife had been inserted dozens of times, as if in a frenzy, moving the organs around in the body cavity. The killer had especially targeted the heart, lungs, and sexual organs. And as with the others, this offender had attacked the eyes with his single-bladed knife.
Without a doubt, Burakov knew that he was looking for a vicious, sexually-motivated serial killer who was attacking victims at a quickening rate, drawing no attention to what he was doing, and leaving no evidence. There were no resources that Burakov was aware of to utilize. Men who killed in this manner were supposedly few and only top-ranking officials knew the details of those investigations.
Burakov, who followed the long route from the conservancy to the place where the body was left, believed the killer had a car. He also felt sure the man did not frighten people when he approached. There was nothing overt in his appearance that would alarm women or children. That would make him harder to find, though he surely had some sort of covert mental disorder that hopefully some people noticed.
They decided to focus fully on investigating known sex offenders in the area, specifically where they were on December 11. Then on released mental patients, and then men who lived or worked around the conservancy who owned or used a car. Also, handwriting experts came in to compare the Black Cat card against samples from the entire population of that town. It was tedious work, with no promise of yielding a single clue. Yet doing nothing was guaranteed to provide no clue, so at least they had a start.
What they did not know, according to Lourie, was that a 15-year-old boy had also been killed in a similar manner near Shakhty, then left to be covered by snow. He would not be found for some time.
For the next four months, nothing turned up of any value, although they realized that snow could easily cover what might have occurred, and then it was discovered that the killer had struck again. In another wooded lesopolosa near Rostov-on-Don, a group of boys found some bones in a gully. Again, they could find no missing-persons report, and an examination of the bones not only linked this crime with the others but revealed that the girl (it seemed) had had Down’s syndrome. That made things a little easier, despite the horror of realizing the killer had lured a mentally retarded child with no possibility of defending herself. They could check the special schools in the area to make an identification.
A 45-year-old woman was also murdered in the woods over the winter, but no one linked her to the lesopolosa series. That would come later.
The girl turned out to have been 13, attending a school for children with her condition. No one had missed her, since she often left, so no one had reported her. But her case took a back seat to the next body, discovered in September in a wooded area near Rostov’s airport, two miles from victim No. 6. However it was an 8-year-old boy. He had been stabbed, like the others, including his eyes, and it turned out that he had been missing since August 9. Like the little girl going to piano lessons, he had ridden on public transportation.
This new development puzzled everyone. With what little was known about killers, the basic analysis was that they always went after the same type of victim. This man had killed grown women and young children, girls and boys. The investigators wondered if they might have more than one killer doing the same kind of perverse ritual. It seemed impossible, but so did the idea that so many victim types could trigger the same type of sexual violence in one person.
Then Burakov learned that the killer had finally been apprehended. It was over. He went to the jail to learn what he could about this man.
The suspect was Yuri Kalenik, 19. He had lived for years in a home for retarded children and had then been trained to lay floors in construction. He remained friends with older boys in his former residence and one day when they were riding on a trolley, the conductor caught them. Grabbing one boy, she wanted to know what he knew about the recent murders and he told her that Yuri had done them. So based on the squirming accusation of a mentally slow boy who was trying to free himself from punishment, the officials believed they had broken the case.
Yuri was arrested and interrogated. He had no right to a lawyer or to remain silent. He barely knew what was happening to him. Nevertheless, he denied everything. He had not killed anyone. Yet the interrogators kept him there for several days, believing (according to Cullen) that a guilty man will inevitably confess. It soon became clear to Yuri that to stop being beaten he would have to tell them what they wanted to hear, so he did. And then some. He confessed to all seven murders, and added four unsolved murders in the area to his list. Now all the police needed was supporting evidence. This young man was quite a catch.
Viktor Burakov accepted the task of further investigation. Yuri seemed a viable suspect, because he had a mental disorder and he rode on public transportation. And why would he confess to such brutal crimes if he did not do them? At the time—and even today—there was little understanding of the psychology of false confessions. Less intelligent people tend to be more susceptible to suggestion, especially when fatigued, and they will tell interrogators whatever pleases them—usually supplying whatever clues they hear from the questions. Sociologist Richard Ofshe recounts case after case of suspects who admitted to things they did not do, despite the harsh consequences, and Wrightsman lists several studies of people exonerated by DNA evidence who had confessed to the crime for which they were imprisoned. Most juries do not believe people will confess falsely and they accept a confession as the best type of evidence against someone.
Even better, when a suspect can lead police to the site of where someone was murdered, that’s considered good confirmation, and Kalenik did just that with several of the incidents. Nevertheless, Burakov was not convinced. He saw that Kalenik did not go straight to a site, even when he was close, but appeared to wander around until he picked up clues from the police about where they expected him to go. Burakov did not consider that to be a good test. Upon examining the written confession, he was even less convinced. It was clear to him that Kalenik had been given most of the information that he was expected to say, and had then felt intimidated.
It was difficult to know just how to proceed, but then another body was found.
In another wooded area, the mutilated remains of a young woman were found. Her nipples had been removed—possibly with teeth, her abdomen was slashed open, and one eye socket was damaged. She had been there for several months and her clothing was missing. Kalenik could have been responsible for this one, whose identity remained unknown, since he was free at the time, but not the next one, found on October 20.
She had been murdered approximately three days earlier, while Kalenik was in custody. He definitely did not kill her, but her wounds were similar to those of the other victims. Whoever had killed her was growing bolder and more frenzied in his surgical removal of parts. This victim was entirely disemboweled, and the missing organs were nowhere to be found. However, her eyes remained intact. She might not be part of the series, although she did ride the trains. Perhaps the killer had changed his method or had been interrupted.
Four weeks later and not far away from that site, a set of skeletal remains was found in the woods. Her death was estimated to have occurred some time during the summer, and her eyes had been gouged out.
It wasn’t long before the 10th unsolved murder turned up, just after the turn of the year into 1984. This one was a boy, found near the railroad tracks. He was identified as Sergei Markov, a 14-year-old boy missing since December 27. For the first time, thanks to winter’s preservative effects, the detectives, led by Mikhail Fetisov, were able to see just what the killer did to these young people.
He had stabbed the boy in the neck dozens of times—the final count would be 70—and he had then cut into the boy’s genitals and removed everything from the pubic area. In addition, he had violated his victim anally. Then it appeared that he had gone to a spot nearby to have a bowel movement.
Clearly the jailed Kalenik was not responsible and the maniac who was perpetrating these crimes was still very much at large. In their rush to close these cases, the police had made a mistake.
Fetisov decided to retrace the boy’s steps on the day he had disappeared. Beginning in a town called Gukovo, where the boy had lived and from where he had gone that day, he boarded the elechtrichka, or local train. In the same town was a home for the mentally retarded and the teachers there reported that a former student, Mikhail Tyapin, 23, had left around the same time as the boy and had taken the train. He was a very large young man and barely knew how to talk. Once again, the police got a confession.
Tyapin and his friend, Aleksandr Ponomaryev, said they had met Markov, had lured him to the woods, and killed him. They had also left their excrement. Tyapin, in particular, had numerous violent fantasies, and he claimed credit for several other unsolved murders in the area. But he never mentioned the damage done to the eyes. And he and Ponomaryev confessed to two murders that were proven to have been done by someone else.
The police were now thoroughly confused, and Fetisov had some doubts, while Burakov felt certain they had not apprehended the killer they were after. All of the so-called confessions were flawed. He believed that only one person was involved, that this person was a loner and not part of a gang, and that he was clearly demented in some subtly perceivable way.
Then they had their first piece of good evidence. The medical examiner found semen in Markov’s anus. He had been raped and the perpetrator had ejaculated. When they apprehended the killer, they could compare the blood antigens. This would not afford a precise match, but could at least eliminate suspects. In fact, it eliminated all of the young men who had confessed thus far. They all had the wrong type of blood.
But then the lab issued another report, claiming it had mixed up the sample. The type did indeed match that of Mikhail Tyapin. That meant that the odds were good that they had Markov’s killer.
Yet bodies still turned up.
Some Possible Leads
In 1984, numerous victims were discovered in wooded areas, some of them quite close to where previous bodies had lain before being discovered and removed. The first one found after Typapin’s arrest was a woman who had been slashed up in the same frenzy as previous victims. Yet her eyes were intact and one new item was added: a finger had been removed.
They also had one more piece of evidence: a shoeprint left in the mud, size 13. On the victim’s clothing were traces of semen and blood.
She was soon identified as an 18-year-old girl who had been seen at the bus station with a boy who worked nearby. When questioned, he had an alibi.
The medical examiner’s report returned three significant facts: she’d had pubic lice, her stomach contained undigested food, and there was no semen inside her. The killer apparently had masturbated over her. It was also possible that, given her state of poverty, she had been lured away with the promise of a meal.
The police checked pharmacies for anyone purchasing lice treatments, but they came up empty-handed.
One thing they did discover was that this woman had a friend who had been missing since 1982. Matching dental records to skulls from various remains, they managed to identify their second victim in the series. That linked two of the victims together, one of whom had her eye sockets slashed and the other who did not.
Another suspect was caught and he confessed, but Burakov was looking for a certain personality type, and no one thus far seemed to come close. He spoke out to officials and was rebuked. His opinion also divided the task force into factions, helped along by the fact that the crime lab could not give them a definitive answer as to whether semen samples found on two victims were from the same person. They brought in a forensic scientist from the Moscow lab, who did better. They were type AB, she said, and with that, she eliminated their entire list of suspects. None of the confessions gathered thus far were any good and the killer was still at large.
He struck that March in Novoshakhtinsk, grabbing 10-year-old Dmitri Ptashnikov, who was found three days later, mutilated and stabbed. The tip of his tongue and his penis were missing. The semen on his shirt linked him to the previous two crimes where semen was found. Near this body was a large footprint.
This time, however, there were witnesses. The boy was seen following a tall, hollow-cheeked man with stiff knees and large feet, wearing glasses. Yet no one had recognized him. Someone else had seen a white car.
Lyudmila Alekseyeva (Victim)
Then a 17-year-old, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, was found slashed 39 times with a kitchen knife, and leads went nowhere, wasting time and resources. Soon there was another victim, and then another close by. One was a girl, killed with a hammer, the other a woman stabbed many times with a knife. Mother and daughter, they had died at the same time. By the end of that summer in 1984, authorities counted 24 victims that were probably murdered by the same man. Whenever semen was left behind, it proved to have the same AB antigen. There was also a single gray hair on one victim, which seemed to be from a man, and some scraps of clothing near a boy that failed to match his clothes.
Lourie writes that the killer had shifted his pattern somewhat that year. He now removed the upper lip, and sometimes the nose, and left them in the victim’s mouth or ripped-open stomach.
With no witnesses, little physical evidence, and no way to know how this man was leading his victims off alone, the police felt the investigation was out of control. This killer had stepped up his pace from five victims the first year (they believed) to something like one every two weeks. Surely he would eventually make a mistake. They had no way of knowing as yet that they had not found the earliest murders and it would be some time before the killing spree was stopped. This man did not make many mistakes.
With all the surveillance, it was inevitable that certain suspicious men would be followed and detained, and this procedure produced two suspects, each of which was interesting for different reasons. One appeared to be the man they were after and the other became an informant.
The Minister of the Interior appointed a dozen new detectives to the case, and a task force of some 200 men and women became involved in the investigation. Burakov was appointed to head this team. That got him closer to leads as they came in. It also shouldered him with the heavy responsibility of forming a good plan to stop this killer. People were assigned to work undercover at bus and train stations, and to wander the parks.
According to Cullen, they decided that they were looking for a man between 25 and 30, tall, well built, with type AB blood. He was careful and had at least average intelligence, and was probably verbally persuasive. He traveled and lived with either his mother or a wife. He might be a former psychiatric patient, or a substance abuser, and he might have some knowledge of anatomy and skill with a knife. Anyone who generally matched these characteristics would have to submit to a blood test.
The press was not allowed to carry stories about the links among these crimes, only to ask for witnesses concerning one or another of the murders. No warnings were given to parents to protect their children or to young women out alone.
The Rostov bus station (police file photo)
One undercover officer spotted an older man in the Rostov bus station. He spoke to a female adolescent and when she got on her bus, he circled around and sat next to another young woman. This was suspicious behavior, so Major Zanasovsky thought it was time to question him. The man’s name was Andrei Chikatilo and he was the manager of a machinery supply company. He was there on a business trip, but lived in Shakhty. As to why he was approaching young women, he admitted that he’d once been a teacher and he missed talking to young people. The officer let him go.
However, he spotted Chikatilo again and followed him, boarding the same bus he got on in order to watch him. “He seemed very ill at ease,” Zanasovsky’s report states, “and was always twisting his head from one side to another.”
He followed Chikatilo into another bus and saw him accost various women. When Chikatilo solicited a prostitute and received oral sex under his coat, they arrested him for indecent behavior in public and went through his briefcase. Inside were a jar of Vaseline, a long kitchen knife, a piece of rope and a dirty towel—nothing suggestive of business dealings.
Andrei Chikatilo, teacher (school photo)
Zanasovsky believed he had the lesopolosa killer. He urged the procurator to come and interrogate the man. Chikatilo’s blood was drawn and it was type A, not AB. He was also a member of the Communist Party, with good character references. There was nothing in his background to raise suspicion. Nevertheless, they kept him in jail for a couple of days to see if sitting in a cell might pressure him into a confession.
He denied everything, although he admitted to “sexual weakness,” and was finally released. He was later arrested again for petty thefts at work and he served three months in prison. Still, he did not have the right blood type, so he was not their killer.
Burakov decided to breach protocol and consult with psychiatric experts in Moscow. He wanted to know what they thought of the idea of a single person killing women and children of both genders. Most were either uninterested or refused to say much, due to insufficient detail. However, one psychiatrist, Alexandr Bukhanovsky, agreed to study the few known details, as well as the crime scene patterns, to come up with a profile. He read everything he could find, specialized in sexual pathologies and schizophrenia, and was willing to take risks. This case, unusual as it was, interested him. He came up with a seven-page report.
Alexandr Bukhanovsky, psychiatric expert (police file photo)
The killer, he said, was a sexual deviate, between 25 and 50 years old, around 5’10″ tall. He thought the man suffered from some form of sexual inadequacy and he blinded his victims to prevent them from looking at him. He also brutalized their corpses, partly out of frustration and partly to enhance his arousal. He was a sadist and had difficulty getting relief without cruelty. Often sadists like to inflict superficial wounds, as was evident on many of these victims. He was also compulsive, following the goading of his need, and would be depressed until he could kill. He might even have headaches. He was not retarded or schizophrenic. He could work out a plan and follow it. He was a loner and he was the only offender involved.
Burakov got two other opinions, one of which insisted there were two killers, and he felt that no one had given him anything that brought him closer to closing the case. He was still frustrated.
Working with the idea that the killer had a sexual dysfunction, the dogged investigator looked up records of men convicted of homosexual crimes and came across Valery Ivanenko, who had committed several acts of “perversion” and who had claimed he was psychotic. He also had a charismatic personality and once had been a teacher. At age 46, he was tall and wore glasses. He’d been brought to the psychiatric institute in Rostov but had escaped. In short, he sounded too good to be true. He was the perfect suspect.
Staking out the apartment of the man’s invalid mother, Burakov caught and arrested him. But his blood was type A which eliminated him as the killer. In a deal, Burakov enlisted his assistance investigating the gay population in return for his release. Ivanenko proved to be quite good at getting secret information, which in turn led to others providing even more information under pressure. Burakov soon knew quite a bit about Rostov’s underworld, from perversion to violence.
Yet Burakov still felt as if he was just going toward more dead ends. The gay men that he investigated just did not strike him as having the right personality disorder for these crimes. He began to come around to Bukhanovsky’s view that this killer was heterosexual but probably impotent when it came to normal sexual relations. He needed more details.
Pressure was on to solve the crimes that had happened already, but over the next 10 months only one more body turned up—a young woman—but she was killed near Moscow. The killer may have moved or traveled there, but they just couldn’t tell. They wondered if the killer had left the area or been arrested. Perhaps he had died. Then a body was found in August of 1985. She bore similarities to the others and she lay near an airport.
Burakov went to Moscow to look at the photos of the dead girl. It was so similar to his recent victim in Rostov that he knew the killer had gone to Moscow for some reason. He checked the flight rosters between Moscow and the airport where their victim had been found, and had officers go painstakingly through all the handwritten tickets. But they failed to discover a significant clue right under their noses.
Then detectives in Moscow put together a series of murders of young boys that had begun when the Rostov killings had stopped. All three had been raped and one was decapitated.
But the Rostov crew was quickly drawn back to Shakhty. In a tree grove near the bus depot, a homeless, 18-year-old girl lay dead, her mouth stuffed with leaves. This was the same signature as the girl in Moscow earlier that month. She had a red and a blue thread under her fingernails, and sweat near her wounds that typed AB—different from her own type O blood. Between her fingers was a single strand of gray hair—similar to one of the earlier murders. This was the most evidence left at a crime scene thus far. The detectives believed they would break this case soon.
In fact they did find a good suspect who had also been implicated with a previous victim, and he did confess (after 10 days of intense interrogation), but to Burakov, it did not sound right. Nor could the suspect take them to the correct murder site. Once again, frustratingly so, he was not their man.
Chief Investigator Issa Kostoyev (police file photo)
A special procurator with one serial killer investigation behind him, Chief Investigator Issa Kostoyev, was appointed to look into the lesopolosa murders. By this time, they had 15 procurators and 29 detectives involved. Many of them were watching train and bus stations for suspicious activity. The female officials worked undercover to try to lure men to talk to them. Kostoyev looked over the work done thus far and felt it had not proceeded well. In fact, he believed they’d already come across the man they were after and just hadn’t known it. This did nothing to improve the already-low morale of the investigating team.
To try to learn more about the type of killer who would be so raw and brutal, Kostoyev had the classic nineteenth-century work on sexual predators by Richard von Krafft-Ebing translated into Russian. He also discovered a rare edition of Crimes and Criminals in Western Culture, by B. Utevsky, which included a chapter detailing cases of dismemberment and disfiguring of victims. He saw that some killers were driven merely by arrogance and the idea that their victims were objects that belonged to them to do with as they pleased. Kostoyev stored this information away to use when they found more suspects.
In the meantime, Yuri Kalenik was still in prison awaiting the completion of the investigation on him, which was now delayed by investigators looking into other areas. One of these leads produced yet a fifth false confession. Something was clearly wrong with the process, and Kostoyev was furious. He did not believe that Yuri was guilty of anything.
Burakov turned again to Dr. Bukhanovsky, finally allowing him to see all of the crime scene reports so he could write a more detailed profile. This, he thought, might help them to narrow the leads. Bukhanovsky took all of the materials and spent months of his own time writing 65 pages devoted to what made sense to him from his work with gay men, sexual dysfunction, necrophiles and necrosadists. He labeled the unknown suspect “Killer X.”
The details, in brief, were the following: X was not psychotic, because he was in control of what he did and he was clearly self-interested. He was narcissistic and arrogant, considering himself gifted, although he was not unduly intelligent. He had a plan but he was not creative. He was heterosexual, with boys being a “vicarious surrogate.” He was a necrosadist, needing to watch people die in order to achieve sexual gratification.
To render them helpless, he would hit them in the head. Afterward, the multiple stabbing was a way to “enter” them sexually. He either sat astride them or squatted next to them, getting as close as possible. The deepest cuts represented the height of his pleasure, and he might masturbate, either spontaneously or with his hand.
There were many reasons why he might cut out the eyes, and nothing in the crime scenes suggested what actually motivated X. He might be excited by eyes or fear them. He might believe his image was left on them, a superstition held by some. Cutting into the sexual organs was a manifestation of power over women. He might keep the missing organs or he might eat them. Removing the sexual organs from the boys might be a way to neutralize them and make them appear more female.
An interesting twist was the hypothesis that X responded to changes in weather patterns. Before most of the murders, the barometer had dropped. That might be his trigger, especially if it coincided with other stressors at home or work. Most of the killings were also done mid-week, from Tuesday to Thursday.
While he was vague about height and occupation, he now thought X’s age was between 45 and 50, the age at which sexual perversions often are most developed. It was likely that he’d had a difficult childhood. He was conflicted and probably kept to himself. He had a rich fantasy life, but an abnormal response to sexuality. Bukhanovsky could not say whether or not the man was married or had fathered children, but if he was married, his wife let him keep his own hours and did not ask much of him.
His killing was compulsive and might stop temporarily if he sensed he was in danger of discovery, but would not stop altogether until he died or was caught.
Despite the length and detail of this psychological report, Burakov found nothing practical in it to help him find the man.
Police sketch of suspected killer
Then he consulted with someone who was much closer to these types of crimes: Anatoly Slivko, a man convicted of the sexual murder of seven boys, who faced execution. The police wanted this man to explain to them the workings of the mind of a serial killer. Slivko attributed his actions to his inability to engage in normal sexual arousal and satisfaction. Sexual murderers have endless fantasies through which they set up the rules of behavior and feel a demand for action, and the act of planning their crimes has its own satisfaction. He offered nothing practical for the investigation in what he said, but his manner under questioning showed them a compartmentalized mind that could kill boys and still feel morally indignant about using alcohol in front of children. That meant he could live in a way that hid his true propensities. Only hours after the interview, Slivko was executed.
The investigators believed that X was very much like Slivko, and that meant he would be next to impossible to catch.
But then, oddly, the killing seemed to stop.
Only one dead woman turned up in 1985 in Rostov, and nothing happened that winter or the next spring. Then on July 23, the body of a 33-year-old female turned up, but it bore none of the markings of the serial killer, except that she had been repeatedly stabbed. Burakov had doubts about her being in the series, but not so with the young woman found on August 18. All of the disturbing wounds were present, but she had been mostly buried, save for a hand sticking out of the dirt—a new twist. Now they had to wonder whether there were others not yet found who were also under the earth.
The handwriting experts finally gave up on the Black Cat postcard, and the police could go no farther with the 14 suspects on the list so far, all of whom Burakov believed could be eliminated. He created a comprehensive booklet to give out to other police departments, and a card file was created to keep track of new leads. He and his team were dogged by the fear that this case might never be solved.
At the end of 1986 Viktor Burakov finally had a nervous breakdown. He was weak and exhausted, and could not sleep, so he went to a hospital, where he remained for a month. Then he was sent to rest for another month. Four years of intense work had come to this. But he would not give up.
He had no idea then that he was only halfway there. This devil was not yet finished.
Burakov’s period of rest, however, had given him some perspective. He’d been able to think over their strategies thus far and felt that none was taking them down the correct route. Not only that, all were time- and resource-consuming. He might only catch this killer if he surfaced again—in other words, murdered someone. It was a grim thought, but it could be their only hope
Yet nothing occurred for the rest of that year or throughout all of 1987.
The winter melted into spring before a railroad worker found a woman’s nude body in a weedy area near the tracks on April 6, 1988. Her hands were bound behind her, she had been stabbed multiple times, the tip of her nose was gone, and her skull had been bashed in. Only a large footprint was found nearby. People recalled seeing her but she had been alone. There was no sign of sexual assault and her eyes had not been touched. Nor had she been killed in the woods.
The investigators pondered whether they should include this murder in the series. Perhaps the lesopolosa killer was no longer in business. Yet only a month later, on May 17, the body of a 9-year-old boy was discovered in the woods not far from a train station. He’d been sodomized and then his orifices were stuffed with dirt. He also bore numerous knife wounds and a blow to the skull, and his penis had been removed.
Unlike the murdered female, the boy was quickly identified as Aleksei Voronko, missing for two days. A classmate had seen him with a middle-aged man with gold teeth, a mustache and a sports bag. They had gone together to the woods and Aleksei had said he would soon return but did not.
This was a strong lead, one that could be followed up among area dentists. Few adults in the region could afford gold crowns for their teeth.
Yet by the end of that year, they had turned up nothing. Not only that, they learned from the Ministry of Health that it had been a mistake to assume that typing blood in secretions was an accurate match to blood types (or, alternatively, to assume that the labs were providing accurate results). There were rare “paradoxical” cases in which they did not match. In other words, any of the suspects eliminated based on blood type could have been their killer. While this was frustrating news and made the investigation more difficult in many ways, it also opened a few doors from the past. However, it meant taking semen samples (which had to be voluntary), not blood types, and it also meant redoing four years worth of work to that point. The idea was overwhelming.
The only method of investigation that seemed viable now was to post more men to watch the public transportation stations.
Still, the killer did not strike. It was April 1989 before they came across another victim who could be added to the lesopolosa series.
The Count Rises
This discovery, in the woods near a train station, was that of a 16-year-old boy reported missing since the summer before. His killer had stabbed him repeatedly and had removed his testicles and penis. He was badly decomposed and had lain under the snow for months. A watch, inscribed from his aunt and uncle, was missing. It would help immensely if it was found in someone’s possession.
None of the investigators assigned to ride the trains and watch people in the stations in that area had reported anything suspicious. No older men with boys or women. However, a ticket clerk reported that she had seen a man that summer on the platform. He had tried to convince her son to go into the words with him. The police did locate him, but quickly eliminated him as the killer they were seeking.
However, Yuri Kalenik had been released from prison after serving five years and he now lived near the area where the body was found. Perhaps they had been hasty in releasing him. When questioned, he insisted he knew nothing, so they let him go.
Then on May 11, an 8-year-old boy disappeared. He was found two months later by the side of a road, stabbed and genitally mutilated. This change in the killer’s habits, from the woods to out in the open, alerted the officials to the possibility that he might have noticed all the surveillance at the train stations and changed his manner of procuring victims.
Elena Varga, victim
That was disturbing. Yet killing someone so near a road was also careless. That could be a hopeful sign. Even the most organized killer can disintegrate as need replaces caution.
Then he killed a Hungarian student, Elena Varga, in August, in a wooded area that was far from any train or bus station. Her body had been violated like all the other female victims in the lesopolosa series.
Aleksei Khobotov, victim
In just over a week, the fourth victim, a 10-year-old boy, Aleksei Khobotov, went missing, and four months later, early in 1990, the sexually mutilated body of an 11-year-old boy turned up in a lesopolosa. Then another 10-year-old boy was killed, his sexual organs cut off, and his tongue missing. It appeared to have been bitten off.
Victor Petrov, victim
Once more, the killer shifted his pattern and went for a female victim, and at the end of July in 1990, workmen found a 13-year-old boy, Victor Petrov, killed and mutilated in the Botanical Gardens.
They now had what they believed were 32 victims over the past eight years and the newspapers, now free to report this news after the loosening of government control, were putting pressure on the investigators. Those in the top positions threatened those on lower rungs with being fired. This killer had to be stopped. People were getting desperate.
Then on August 17 Ivan Fomin, 11, went swimming not far from his grandmother’s cottage. In the tall reeds not far from numerous potential witnesses who should have heard if not seen him, the serial killer had stabbed him 42 times and castrated him. This was outrageous and the public was getting angry.
Burakov decided on a new plan. He would select the most likely stations and then make surveillance obvious in the others, so that only those with plainclothes officers would seem safe to the killer. In other words, they would try to force him into action in a particular place, and in those places, they would record the names of every man who came and went. They would also place people in the forests nearby, dressed as farmers. It was a major task, with over 350 people who had to be in place and do their jobs for who-knows-how-long, but it seemed viable.
It seemed that the train station in Donleskhoz station might be a good place to set up a post, for example, since two of the victims had been found near there. Mushroom pickers generally used it during the summer, but not many other people. Two other stations were selected as well.
But even before the plan was enacted, the killer chose a victim from the Donleskhoz station. He killed a 16-year-old retarded boy, stabbing him 27 times and mutilating him before discarding his clothes. Part of his tongue was missing, as were his testicles, and one eye had been stabbed. When his identity was established, officers learned that he spent most of his time on the electrichka, the slow-moving train, but no one had seen him exit with anyone.
Burokov was in despair. They had a good plan and had it been in place, they might have caught the guy.
Victor Tishcenko, victim
Then another 16-year-old boy, Victor Tishchenko, was reported missing who had gone to the Shakhty railroad station to pick up tickets. Cullen writes that the handsome, athletic Tishcenko was larger than any other male victim thus far, weighing around 130 pounds. They found his body two miles south, in the woods and in the usual condition. It was where the mother and daughter had been found six years earlier. In the grove, there was evidence of a prolonged struggle.
Burakov got moving. The snare was set, with everyone in place, but the killer killed again, undetected. This time, his victim was a young woman. She was number 36, and she had been beaten and sliced open, and part of her tongue cut off. But no one had seen a thing.
Yet there were reports of men who had been at the train station nearby. One name stood out. In fact, they were chilled by it. They had seen this one before. To that point, according to Moira Martingale in Cannibal Killers, over half a million people had been investigated, but this one had been interrogated before and only released because his blood type had not matched the semen samples.
And they knew the lab work had been faulty. This was the killer. They were sure of it.
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot
Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo, 54, had been at the Donleskhoz train station on November 6. He had been questioned and cleared in 1984. He had now been placed at the scene of a victim’s disappearance. He was seen coming out of the woods and had washed his hands at a pump. He also had a red smear on his cheek and ear, a cut finger, and twigs on the back of his coat. The officer at the station had taken down his name.
Burakov had the man placed under surveillance. They soon learned that he had resigned from his post as a teacher due to reports that he had molested students. He had then worked for another enterprise, but was fired when he failed to return from business trips with the supplies he was sent to get. So what had he been doing with his time? During the time he had spent in jail in 1984, there had been no murders, and his travel records coincided with other murders—including the one in Moscow. He once had been a member in good standing with the Communist Party, but had been expelled due to his incarceration.
But all the evidence was circumstantial. Investigators would need to catch him in the act or get him to confess. Keeping him under surveillance, they saw an ordinary man doing nothing unusual. It was frustrating. Kostoyev, who had finally read the earlier report on this man, ordered his arrest.
On November 20, 1990, three officers dressed in street clothes brought Chikatilo in for interrogation, and they noticed that he did not have a mouth full of gold teeth as one witness had indicated. They learned that he was married and had two children, and that he was something of an intellectual with a university degree. In his satchel they found a folding pocketknife.
Knives found in Chikatilo’s possession, trial evidence
They placed Chikatilo in a cell with a gifted informant, who was expected to get him to admit to what he had done, but failed. A search of Chikatilo’s home, which shamed his family, produced no evidence from victims, but did yield 23 knives. Two writers have claimed these weapons were used for the murders, but that was not proven.
The next day, Kostoyev decided to handle the interrogation, and he did so in the presence of Chikatilo’s court-appointed lawyer. Richard Lourie based much of his book, Hunting the Devil, on the time that Kostoyev spent with Chikatilo. Contrary to other versions of this narrative that show him to be an angry and impatient interrogator, Lourie says that Kostoyev had decided to use compassion to get the suspect to talk.
He wanted the room to be spare, with only a safe inside that would hint to the prisoner of evidence against him. There was also a desk, a table, and two chairs. When Chikatilo was brought in, Kostoyev could see that he was a tall, older man with a long neck, sloping shoulders, oversized glasses, and gray hair. He used a shuffling gait, like a weary elderly person, but Kostoyev was not fooled. He believed Chikatilo was a calculating killer with plenty of energy when he needed it. Chikatilo looked easy to break, and Kostoyev had only failed to obtain a confession in three out of hundreds of interrogations. He would get inside the suspect’s head, figure out his logic, and get him to talk. All guilty men eventually confessed. They had to. Besides, he had 10 days in which to succeed, and he had bait.
Chikatilo began with a statement that the police had made a mistake, just as they had in 1984 when he’d first been investigated. He denied that he had been at a train station on November 6 and did not know why it had been reported. Kostoyev knew he was lying, and he let Chikatilo know that. The next day, Chikatilo waived his right to legal counsel.
Then Chikatilo wrote a three-page document to which he confessed to “sexual weakness”—the words he had used before—and to years of humiliation. He hinted at “perverse sexual activity” but did not name it, and said that he was out of control. He admitted to nothing specific. But he wrote another, longer essay in which he said that he did move around in the train stations and saw how young people there were the victims of homeless beggars. He also admitted that he was impotent. It appeared to be an indirect confession, feeling guilt but fending it off by fingering other suspects and also hinting at how it was best that some of these beggars had died rather than reproduce. Nevertheless, he mentioned that he had thought of suicide.
Andrei Chikatilo (police file photo)
Kostoyev told him that his only hope would be to confess everything in a way that would show he had mental problems, so that an examination could affirm that he was legally insane and he could be treated. Otherwise the evidence they had would surely convict him without a confession and he would have no hope to save himself. That was Kostoyev’s bait, and he felt sure it would be effective.
Chikatilo asked for a few days to collect himself and said he would then submit to an interrogation. Everyone expected that he would confess, but when the day arrived, he insisted he was guilty of no crimes. For each crucial time period involving a murder, he claimed that he had been at home with his wife. Clearly he had used the extra two days alone in his cell to become more resolved.
The next day, he revised his statements somewhat. In fact, he had been involved in some criminal activity—but not the murders. In 1977, he had fondled some female students who had aroused him. He had difficulty controlling himself around children, but there were only two instances in which he had lost control.
He wrote again, but again revealed nothing, and nine days elapsed with Kostoyev getting no closer to his goal. He did not know what approach to take to pressure this man to finally open up.
A medical examination indicated that Chikatilo’s blood type was A, but his semen supposedly had a weak B antibody, making it appear that his blood type was AB, though it wasn’t. He was the “paradoxical” rare case—if such an analysis could be believed.
The informant in Chikatilo’s cell, writes Cullen, eventually told Burakov that the interrogation techniques were not according to protocol and that they were rough and made Chikatilo defensive. It was unlikely they were going to work. Kostoyev brought in photographers to humiliate Chikatilo and pressure him to believe that they had witnesses to whom they were going to show these photographs. Still, he did not give any ground.
Nine days had elapsed. They were allowed only 10 before having to charge him with a specific crime, and thus far, they did not have enough proof of even one. It was looking very much like they might have to let him go. And that could be disastrous. Burakov, says Cullen, thought they should try another interrogator, and his candidate was Dr. Bukhanovsky. Cullen also says that Kostoyev initially resisted this idea, but finally had to admit he was getting nowhere. He agreed to let the psychiatrist see what he could do. Lourie, presenting things from Kostoyev’s side, says that using the psychiatrist was one of Kostoyev’s clever ploys. Lourie does not mention Burakov’s role in the decision.
Whoever thought of it, this was clearly a wise move.
The Psychiatrist and the Murderer
Bukhanovsky agreed to question Chikatilo, but out of professional interest, not for the court. Burakov agreed to these conditions. Bukhanovsky was soon in a closed room alone with the best suspect in the lesopolosa murders.
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot
The psychiatrist saw right away, writes Cullen, that this was the type of man that he had described in his 1987 profile. So many of the indicators were there—ordinary, solitary, non-threatening. He introduced himself with a show of humility and then showed Chikatilo the profile. He sensed that this man wanted to talk about his rage and his humiliation, so it was best to show sympathy and listen. He spent two hours doing that, and then began to discuss the crimes.
In the film, Citizen X, Bukhanovsky is shown asking Chikatilo to help him on some aspects of the profile that he was not quite certain about. He reads the relevant pages to him, and one sees Chikatilo listening intently, as if alert to the only person who seems ever to have understood him. Bukhanovsky’s description goes into the nature of Chikatilo’s mental illness and some reasons for it. As Chikatilo hears his secret life described so clearly, he begins to tremble. Finally he affirms what the psychiatrist is saying, breaks down and admits that it’s all true. He has done those horrible things.
Bukhanovsky talked with him for hours and then went out and told police interrogators that the suspect was now ready to confess.
Kostoyev prepared a formal statement accusing Chikatilo of 36 murders. He was off by a long shot, but no one yet knew that.
Yelena Zakotnova, victim
Chikatilo read the statement of charges and admitted that he was guilty of the crimes listed. He wanted now to tell the truth about his life and what had led him into these crimes. Among his admissions was his first murder, which had occurred not when the police had first begun to keep track with Lyubov Biryuk but years early in 1978. He had killed a little girl, Yelena Zakotnova, age 9.
The Secret House crime scene
This was alarming, since a man had already been arrested, tried and executed for that murder. But Chikatilo said that he had moved to Shakhty that year to teach. Before his family arrived, his free time was spent watching children and feeling a strong desire to see them without their clothes on. To maintain his privacy, he purchased a hut on a dark, dirty street. When he went to it one day, he came upon the girl, was seized with urgent sexual desire, and took her to the hut to attack her.
When he could not achieve an erection, he had moved in imitation of the sexual act and used his knife as a substitute. During his frenzy of strangulation and stabbing, he blindfolded her. Once she was dead, he tossed her body into a nearby river. Lourie devotes a chapter to the fact that he was a suspect, seen by a witness, and that blood was found on his doorstep, but the other man had confessed under torture, so Chikatilo was free. Chikatilo was shocked to nearly have been caught.
Kostoyev asked him to explain the blindfold, and just as they had suspected, Chikatilo admitted that he had heard that the image of a killer remains in the eyes of a victim. It was a superstition, but he had believed it. That was why he had wounded so many others in the eyes. Then he had decided it was not true, so he stopped doing that (explaining the change in pattern). Later he admitted that he just had not liked his victims looking at him as he attacked them.
Lourie describes how Chikatilo hated to see how vagrants at train stations went off into the woods for sexual encounters that he could never emulate. His fantasies became more violent. In 1981, he repeated his manner of attack on a vagrant girl looking for money, but he also used his teeth on her to bite off a nipple and swallow it. “At the moment of cutting her and seeing the body cut open,” he said, “I involuntarily ejaculated.” He covered her with newspaper and took her sexual organs away with him, only to cast them aside in the woods.
Chikatilo re-enacts crime, evidence
He remembered the details of each of the 36 lesopolosa murders and went through them, one by one. Sometimes he acted as a predator, learning someone’s routes and habits and finding a way to get that person alone. Others were victims of opportunity who happened along at the wrong time. The stabbing almost always was a substitute for sexual intercourse that could not be performed. He had learned how to squat beside them in such a way as to avoid getting their blood on his clothing (which he demonstrated with a mannequin). At any rate, he worked in a shipping firm, so there was always an excuse for a scrape or cut. It seemed that his impotence generally triggered the rage, especially if the women made demands or ridiculed him. He soon understood that he could not get aroused without violence. “I had to see blood and wound the victims.”
With the boys, it was different, although they bled just as easily as women and that’s what he needed most. Chikatilo would fantasize that these boys were his captives and that he was a hero for torturing and doing them in. He could not give a reason for cutting off their tongues and penises, although at one point he said he was taking revenge against life on the genitals of his victims. Lourie says, based on the psychiatric reports, that Chikatilo would place his semen inside a uterus that he had just removed and as he walked along, he would chew on it—”the truffle of sexual murder.” He never admitted to actually consuming these organs, but searches never turned up any discarded remains.
“But the whole thing,” Chikatilo said, “—the cries, the blood, the agony—gave me relaxation and a certain pleasure.” He liked the taste of their blood and would even tear at their mouths with his teeth. He said it gave him an “animal satisfaction” to chew or swallow nipples or testicles.
To corroborate what he was saying, he drew sketches of the crime scenes, and what he said fit the known facts. Then he confirmed what everyone had feared—he added more victims to the list. Many more.
One boy he had killed in a cemetery and placed in a shallow grave—a hole, he said, that he had dug for himself when he had contemplated suicide. He took the interrogators there and they recovered the body. Another was killed in a field, and she was located. On and on it went, murders here and there, and the bodies were always left right where they were killed, except for one. Chikatilo described a murder in an empty apartment and to get the body out, he had to dismember it and dump the parts down a sewer. The police had wondered whether this one was part of the series and had decided that there were too many dissimilarities to include it.
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot, profile
In the end, he confessed to 56 murders (Lourie counts it as 55), although there was corroboration for only 53: 31 females and 22 males. Burakov, says Cullen, believed that there might actually be more.
They now had sufficient evidence to take this man to court. In the meantime, they discovered more about him.
The Roots of Perversity
He was born in 1936 into a small Ukrainian village and his head was misshapen from water on the brain. He had a sister seven years younger. His father was a POW in WWII and then was sent to a prison camp in Russia, so his mother raised him mostly on her own.
In the HBO documentary, “Cannibal” and in Moira Martingale’s book Cannibal Killers, some of Chikatilo’s background is described in a chilling context as a way to try to understand what drove him into such a bestial frenzy. In fact, Martingale sees a direct connection between those times and Chikatilo’s sexual fantasies. He was like a werewolf, changing into a ravaging animal when triggered in just the right way. Much of this information came from the confession, the assessments done later, and from investigative research.
During the early part of the twentieth century, the former Soviet Union was often subjected to famines, especially in the Ukraine after Stalin crushed out private agriculture and sent many citizens to the Siberian Gulag. Some six million people died of starvation, according to Cullen, and desperate people might remove meat from corpses to survive. Sometimes they went to a cemetery, where corpses were stacked, and sometimes (legend has it) they grabbed someone on the street. Human flesh was bought and sold, or just hoarded.
Children saw disfigured corpses and heard terrible tales of hardship. Chikatilo had grown up during several of these famines and one story that his mother told was how he once had had an older brother, Stepan, who had been killed. In a prison interview, he said, “Many people went crazy, attacked people, ate people. So they caught my brother, who was 10, and ate him.” He might simply have died and been consumed, if he even existed (which could not be corroborated in any records), but Chikatilo’s mother would warn him to stay in the yard or he might get eaten as well. It was a scary idea, but titillating.
He also saw the results of Nazi occupation and of German bombing, with bodies blown up in the streets. He said that they frightened and excited him.
Most of his childhood was spent alone, living in his fantasies. Other children mocked him for his awkwardness and sensitivity. He began to develop anger at this age, even rage. To entertain and empower himself, he devised images of torture, and these remained a fixed part of his killings later in life.
He had his first sexual experience as an adolescent when he struggled with a 10-year-old friend of his sister’s and ejaculated. That impressed itself on him, especially as he went along in life unable to get an erection but able to ejaculate. The struggle became as fixed in his mind as the images of torture.
He went into the army but when he came home and tried to have a girlfriend, he found he was still unable to perform the sexual act. The girl spread this around, humiliating him, and he dreamed about catching her and tearing her to pieces. His life, as far as he could see, was now a disaster.
He became a schoolteacher and did get married (which was arranged by his sister), but could only conceive children, according to the HBO documentary, by ejaculating outside his wife and pushing his semen inside by hand. Much like his mother, his wife was critical, which only made Chikatilo withdraw even further into his fantasy world. His mother died in 1973 when he was 37, and it wasn’t long before he found himself attracted to young girls and began to molest them. It made him feel powerful, and when incidents were reported, they were met with cover-up and denial instead of prosecution, allowing a pervert to become a killer.
For true satisfaction, he needed to get violent, and by 1978, he killed his first victim. Since he was on the road quite often as a parts supply liaison, it became easy to find vulnerable strangers, dominate them and murder them. He didn’t have to go looking for them, he said. They were always right there and they were usually willing to follow him. He had read the newspaper reports about the murders when the press was allowed to print them and had known it was only a matter of time before it would all end. Being arrested, he admitted, was a relief.
Chikatilo believed he suffered from an illness that provoked his uncontrollable transgressions. He wanted to see some specialists in sexual deviance, and said that he would answer all questions. (Lourie says this was part of Kostoyev’s plan.)
He was sent to Moscow’s Serbsky Institute for two months for psychiatric and neurological assessment, and it was determined that he had brain damage from birth. It had affected his ability to control his bladder and his seminal emissions. His mother criticized him for it repeatedly, and was often cruel. He had deviant fantasies. However, after all the reports, he was found to be sane. He knew what he was doing and he could have controlled it. That was good enough for the prosecutor.
The Beast in the Cage
They brought him into the Rostov courtroom on April 14, 1992, and put him into a large iron cage painted off-white, where he could either stand or sit. The judge sat on a dais and two citizens on either side acted as jurors. There were 225 volumes of information collected about him and against him.
Chikatilo in court, caged, police file
The press wrote about “the Maniac” and spread the word about his upcoming trial, so the courtroom, which seated 250, was filled with the family of many of his alleged victims. When he entered, they began to scream at him. Bald and without his glasses, he looked slightly crazy, especially when he drooled and rolled his eyes later in the trial.
Throughout, Chikatilo appeared to be bored, except when he’d show a flash of anger and yell back at the crowd. On two separate occasions, he opened his trousers and pulled them down to expose his penis, insisting he was not a homosexual. They removed him from the courtroom.
That he would be found guilty of murder was a foregone conclusion, but there was a chance that his psychological problems could save him from execution. However, his lawyer, Marat Khabibulin, did not have the right to call psychiatric experts, only to cross-examine those that the prosecution brought in, and since he had not been appointed until after Chikatilo had fully confessed, he was at a real disadvantage.
Although the prosecutors were Anatoly Zadorozhny and N. F. Gerasimenko, Judge Leonid Akubzhanov became Chikatilo’s chief enemy, asking sharp questions of the witnesses and throwing demeaning comments at the prisoner, who often did not respond. After several months, however, Chikatilo challenged the judge, claiming that he was the one in charge. “This is my funeral,” the defendant said.
At one time, he spontaneously denied doing six of the murders and at another, he added four new ones. He claimed to be a victim of the former Soviet system and called himself a “mad beast.” According to Krivich and Ol’gin, he also claimed that there should be 70 “incidents” attributed to him, not 53. At one point, they write, when he was asked whether he had kept track as he killed his victims, Chikatilo said, “I considered them to be enemy aircraft I had shot down.”
No one adequately addressed the fact that there was a discrepancy between the blood type in the semen samples and Chikatilo’s blood type. The forensic analyst explained her discovery of the rare phenomenon of a man having one blood type but secreting another, but this hypothesis was later ridiculed around the world. Yet with no forensic experts hired for the defense, there was little the defense attorney could do. The judge, with his clear bias against the defendant, accepted the unusual analysis.
The court accepted the psychiatric diagnosis of sanity. One psychiatrist examined him yet again and said that he was still of the same opinion. It was Chikatilo’s predatory behavior and ability to shift to safer locales that showed his degree of control, as well as the fact that he had stopped for over a year at one point (a year in which he said he had celebrated his 50th birthday and was in a good mood).
The trial went into August. The defense summed up its side by saying that the evidence and psychiatric analyses were flawed and the confessions had been coerced. He asked for a verdict of not guilty.
The next day, Chikatilo broke into song from his cage and then talked a string of nonsense, with accusations that he was being “radiated.” He was taken out before the prosecutor began his final argument. He reiterated what sadism meant, repeated each of the crimes, and asked for the death penalty.
Chikatilo was brought in and given a final opportunity to speak for himself. He remained mute.
The judge took two months to reach a verdict, and on October 14, six months after the trial begun, he pronounced Andrei Chikatilo guilty of five counts of molestation and 52 counts of murder. Then Chikatilo cried out incoherently, shouting “Swindlers,” spitting, throwing his bench, and demanding to see the corpses. The judge sentenced him to be executed. The people shouted for Chikatilo to be turned over to them to be torn to pieces as he had done to their loved ones. But instead he was taken back to his cell to await the results of an appeal. His lawyer claimed through official channels that the psychiatric assessment had not been objective and he wanted further analysis.
A rumor circulated that the Japanese wanted to pay $1 million for the Maniac’s brain, Lourie writes, but there was no substance to it. Yet many professionals did believe that his behavior was so aberrant that he should be studied alive.
This man with a university degree in Russian literature, a wife and children, and no apparent background of child abuse, clearly had a savage heart. As he said of himself, he was apparently “a mistake of nature.” It’s unfortunate that a better biopsychological analysis was never performed.
On February 15, 1994, when his appeal was turned down, he was taken to a special soundproof room and shot behind the right ear, ending his life.
Chikatilo has become one of the world’s most renowned serial killers, cited in books and articles such as Dr. Louis Schlesinger’s Serial Offenders, as a man with truly perverse tastes and killing habits. Thanks to him, Russian specialists can now engage in better study of serial killers and consult with professionals like the FBI in other countries. The same can be said for Bukhanovsky.
Newsweek published a story in 1999 about the area around Rostov-on-Don to the effect that it was now a hotbed of serial crimes. “Twenty-nine multiple murderers and rapists have been caught in the area over the past ten years,” writes Owen Matthews. He claims that such a statistic makes Rostov the serial killer capital of the world. Not only that, but Dr. Bukhanovsky has become such an expert via his private clinic for sexual disorders that he claims he can now cure violent psychopaths. To prove it, he worked with an active killer still at large—a controversial decision. He feels that he cannot break a confidence and that his study will help science determine the roots of aggression. A child rapist who was caught said that Bukhanovsky had a way of getting people to tell him things they would ordinarily keep secret. That appears to have been his talent with Chikatilo.