(Warning, this is a long one.)
Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo had managed to brutally torture and murder at least 54 people. What sets him apart from the ever-growing list of serial killers was his penchant for bizarre and sadistic methods of killing. He would molest them, gut them, chew on bits of their flesh and make them watch, there was nothing he wouldn't do. He would dance naked around them and howl like an animal.
This is the tale of a very deranged man.
The first body they found was mostly just bones. A man looking for firewood in a lesopolosa (a group of trees planted to prevent erosion) forest found the remains.
There were small patches of weathered skin on some of the bones and some black hair hanging from the skull but the rest had decomposed or been picked off by animals. The man who found the remains reported them to the authorities.
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 posture that she had tried to fight off her attacker. Two ribs had been broken, most likely by a large hunting knife, and closer inspection indicated numerous gouge marks in the bone. Similar gouges were also found near the eye sockets and the pelvic region.
They had a report on a missing 13-year-old girl, Lyubov Biryuk from Novocherkassk, a village not far away from the body's location. Investigators contacted the missing girl's uncle 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 clinging to some small glimmer 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.
A few hours later, Major Mikhail Fetisov arrived from the police headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, the closest large city. He was the leading detective for the entire region. He asked for records of other missing persons in the area and ordered his men to search the surrounding woods. He also ordered the remaining skin on the hands be fingerprinted.
The next day, the police found a white sandal and yellow bag containing a pack of cigarettes.Then fingerprints of the corpse and prints taken from the schoolgirl's book covers confirmed that this body was Lyubov's. Forensic analysis was unheard of at the time, but from what evidence they had, they were sure it was the missing girl.
Despite a thorough search around the remains, no evidence was produced that could help to identify the girl's killer. It was thought to be a random act of violence, one that would be nearly impossible to solve.
According to author Robert Cullen, most murders in that area of Russia fell into one of two categories: Intimate killings, in which a person either flew into a rage or got drunk and murdered someone he knew, usually a family member; and Instrumental killings 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 quite a risky crime. Although sexually charged murders were considered manifestations of self-indulgent Western societies by the Soviet government, there were plenty of signs indicating that this incident had been just such a killing.
Later, it was made clear from the autopsy report that she was ambushed from behind and had been stabbed at least 22 separate times and mutilated in other ways. (In Hunting the Devil by Richard Lourie, the number of wounds was estimated to be 41.)
The police began to look for possible suspects: the 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, who had been convicted in another rape case, learned that he was a suspect and hung himself in his flat. That put an end to the investigation. There were no other viable suspects and no leads. The police closed the Lyubov case.
And then another victim was discovered.
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 the remains of an adult woman. The body had been stripped naked, left face down, with the legs spread 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 highly unusual method of killing.
Since no one of this approximate size and gender had been reported missing, the body was not identified. Only a month later, a soldier gathering wood about ten miles south of that spot came across another corpse, also a woman. 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 connection 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.
Major Fetisov organized a task force to start an aggressive full-time investigation. He intended to get to the heart of this and stop this maniac once and for all. Among those he recruited was a second lieutenant from the criminology laboratory named Viktor Burakov, age 37. He was the best man they had for the analysis of physical evidence like fingerprints, footprints, and other manifestations at a crime scene. Known for his diligence, he was invited aboard the Division of Especially Serious Crimes in January 1983.
That same month, a fourth victim was found.She appeared to have been slain about six months earlier and was near the area where the second body was discovered. She also had the familiar knife wounds, but some women's clothing was found nearby and assumed to be hers.
All they knew at this point was that the killer,whom they now called the Maniac, did not smoke (or he'd likely have taken the cigarettes found near Lyubov), and that he was a man. He had some obsession with eyes, but authorities had no idea whether it was based on superstition or a fetish or some other consideration. At any rate,gouging out the eyes was a sign that the killer spent some time with the victims after they were dead.
With no definite leads, the unit decided to go back 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 ten-year-old girl had just been reported missing.
Olga Stalmachenok had gone to a piano lesson on December 10th, 1982 and nobody had seen her since. Burakov questioned her parents and learned that she got along with them and had no cause to just run away. However, the parents had received a strange postcard from "The Black Cat" telling them their daughter was in the woods and warning that there would be ten more victims that coming year. Burakov dismissed this as a sick prank, but still feared that the girl was dead.
Then on April 14th, four months after her disappearance, Olga's body was found in a field about three miles from the 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 cold had preserved the corpse. The pattern of knife wounds was clearly visible on her bluish-white skin. The skull was punctured, as were the chest and stomach. The poor girl had been stabbed dozens of times, as if the killer was in a frenzy. The killer had especially targeted the heart, lungs, and sexual organs. And like all the others, the girl's eyes had been gouged out.
Without a doubt, Burakov knew that he was looking for a vicious, sexually-motivated lunatic who was claiming victims at an alarming rate, drawing no attention to what he was doing, and leaving almost no evidence. Despite his convictions, there were few resources Burakov could utilize in solving this case. Men who killed in this manner were supposedly very rare and only top-ranking officials knew the full details of the investigations.
Following the long route from the conservatory to the body's location, Burakov believed the killer had a car, an uncommon luxury in Russia at the time. He was also certain the man did not frighten his victims at first sight. There was nothing overtly alarming in the man's appearance. That would make him harder to seek out, though he was surely hiding some sort of psychological disorder that a few people have hopefully noticed.
They focused on investigating known sex offenders in the area, specifically where they were on December 11th. Then they investigated released mental patients, and then men who lived or worked around the conservatory 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, but at least they had a start.
For the next four months, nothing of value turned up, then it was discovered that the killer had struck again. In another forest near Rostov-on-Don, a group of boys found a corpse 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 had had Down's syndrome(or so it seemed). 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 to her death. They could check the special schools in the area to make an identification.
The girl turned out to have been 13, attending a school for children with her condition. She would often leave on her own, so no one had reported her. But her case took a back seat to the next victim. In September, the remains of an eight-year-old boy were discovered in a wooded area near the Rostov airport, two miles from victim #6. Like the others, he had been stabbed repeatedly all over his body, including his eyes and genitals, and it turned out that he had been missing since August 9th.
This new development puzzled everyone. With what little was known about serial killers, the main theory was that they always went after the same kind of victim. This man had target grown women and young children, girls and boys. The investigators wondered if they might be dealing with more than one killer doing the same type of perverse ritual. It seemed impossible, but so did the idea that so many types of people could trigger the same 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, age 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 was the one responsible. Based on the testimony 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 killed nobody. Yet the interrogators kept him there for several days, believing that a guilty man will inevitably confess. It soon became clear to Yuri that he would have to give them a confession for the beatings to stop, so he told them what they wanted to hear and then some. He confessed to all seven murders, and claimed responsibility for four additional unsolved murders in the area. Now all the police needed was supporting evidence. This young man was quite a catch.
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 was not responsible? At the time, there was little understanding of the psychology of false confessions. People tend to be more susceptible to suggestion, especially when fatigued or abused, and they will tell interrogators anything they think will satisfy them.
Sociologist Richard Ofshe recounts case after case of suspects who confessed to crimes they did not do, despite the harsh consequences, and he lists several studies of people exonerated by DNA evidence who had confessed to the crime for which they were imprisoned. Most juries still 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 a solid 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. Rather, he 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 only confessed because he had felt intimidated.
And then another body was found.
In another wooded area, the mutilated body of a young woman was found. Her nipples had been removed, 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 since he was free at the time, but not the next one, found on October 20th.
She had been murdered approximately three days earlier, while Kalenik was in custody. Her wounds were similar to those of the other victims. Whoever killed her was growing bolder and more frenzied in his mutilations. This victim was entirely disemboweled, and the missing entrails were nowhere to be found. However, her eyes were left intact. Perhaps the killer had changed his MO.
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 cut out.
It wasn't long before the tenth unsolved murder turned up, just after the start of the new year. This one was a boy, found near the railroad tracks. He was identified as Sergei Markov, a 14-year-old boy missing since December 27th. Thanks to winter's preserving effects, the detectives led by Major 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 and he then cut into the boy's genitals and removed everything from the pubic area. In addition, he had violated his victim anally. The killer had apparently then went off to a nearby spot to defecate.
It was clear that the jailed Kalenik was not responsible and the maniac responsible for these atrocities was still very much at large. In their rush to close the case, 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 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. 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 found their first piece of good evidence. The medical examiner found semen in Markov's anus. 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.
In 1984, numerous victims were discovered in wooded areas, some of them quite close to where previous bodies had been discovered. The first one found after Tyapin's arrest was a woman who had been slashed up in the same way 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 had masturbated all 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 eyes cut out and the other who did not.
Another suspect was caught and 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 stated they were blood type AB. With that, she had 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 again that March in Novoshakhtinsk, taking 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.
However,there were witnesses this time. 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.
Then a 17-year-old, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, was found slashed 39 times with a kitchen knife, and the leads went nowhere. Soon, there was another victim, and then another close by. One was a girl, beaten to death with a hammer, the other a woman stabbed many times with a knife. The bodies were identified as mother and daughter, and had died at the same time.
By the end of that summer, 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.
The killer had changed his ritual again that year. He now removed the upper lip, and sometimes the nose, and left them in the victim's mouth or torn-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 to something like one every two weeks. Surely he would slip up eventually. 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 being used on the Russian people at the time, it was inevitable that certain suspicious men would be detained, and this produced two suspects, both of them were 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. This helped him find more leads as they came in, but it also shouldered him with the heavy responsibility of forming a good plan to stop this maniac. People were assigned to work undercover at bus and train stations, and to wander the parks.
They decided that they were looking for a man between the ages of 35 and 50, 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 surgical skill. 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.
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 took him in for questioning. 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 public behavior 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.
Zanasovsky believed he had the 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 that 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 in order to come up with a profile. This case, bizarre as it was, interested him. He eventually came up with a seven-page report.
According to Bukhanovsky, the killer was a sexual deviant, between 35 and 50 years old, and around 5'10" in height. He believed 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 could work out a plan and follow it. He was a loner and he was the only offender involved.
Working with the idea that the killer had a sexual dysfunction, the dogged investigators looked up records of men convicted of sexual 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 Ivanenko'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 ten months only one more body turned up. It was 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 was found 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 that had begun when the Rostov killings had stopped. All three victims were young boys who had been raped and one had been decapitated.
But the Rostov crew was quickly drawn back to Shakhty. Near a bus depot, a homeless 18-year-old girl lay dead, her mouth stuffed with leaves. She had a red and 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 from 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 ten 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, he was not their man.
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 investigation team.
To learn more about this raw, brutal killer, 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 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 another 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 once 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 sadists. He labeled the unknown suspect "Killer X."
The details 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 sadist, 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 idea 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 sources of stress 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 are most developed. It was likely that he 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 Killer X.
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 and was facing 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 behavior under questioning showed them a compartmentalized mind that could kill little boys yet still feel morally indignant about using alcohol in front of children. That meant he could live in a way that hid his true propensities. Mere hours after the interview, Slivko was executed by firing squad.
The investigators believed that X was very much like Slivko, and that meant he would be next to impossible to catch.
But then, the murders 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 woman turned up, but it bore none of the trademarks of the serial killer, except that she had been repeatedly stabbed. Burakov had doubts about her being part of the series, but not so with the young woman found on August 18. All of the telltale wounds were present, but she had been mostly buried, save for a hand sticking out of the soil, a new twist. Now they had to wonder whether there were other undiscovered victims buried out there.
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 starting to fear that this case might never be solved.
At the end of 1986, Viktor Burakov finally had a nervous breakdown. He was weak, exhausted, but could not sleep. He was finally sent to a hospital to rest for two months. Four years of intense work had come to this. But he would not give up.
Burakov's period of rest 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 right path. Not only that, all were time and resource consuming. He might only catch this man if he killed again. It was a grim thought, but it could be their only hope.
And yet nothing occurred for the rest of that year or throughout all of 1987.
The winter melted into spring before a railway worker found a woman's nude body in a weedy area near the tracks on April 6th, 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.
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 17th, the body of a 9-year-old boy was discovered in the woods not far from a train station. He'd been sodomized and his orifices were stuffed with dirt. He also bore numerous knife wounds and a blow to the skull, and his penis had been cut off.
Unlike the dead woman, the boy was quickly identified as Aleksei Voronko, missing for two days. A classmate had seen him with a middle-aged man with a gold tooth, a mustache and a sports bag. They had gone together to the woods and Aleksei had said he would soon return but never did.
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, nothing turned up. 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. 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 all along. While this was frustrating news, 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.
A 16-year-old boy was discovered near a train station. He had been 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. An inscribed watch, a gift 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 mutilated. The killer had changed his habits, he had gone from killing his victims in the woods to out in the open. This 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.
Killing someone so near a road was a careless thing to do. That could be a hopeful sign. Even the most organized killer can disintegrate as need replaces caution.
Then in August, a Hungarian student, Elena Varga, was found dead 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.
In just over a week, the fourth victim, a 10-year-old boy, Aleksei Khobotov, went missing, and four months later, the sexually mutilated body of an 11-year-old boy turned up in a lesopolosa. Then another 10-year-old boy was found dead, his sexual organs cut off, and his tongue was missing. Disturbingly, it appeared to have been bitten off.
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 a botanical garden.
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 immense pressure on the investigators. Those in the top positions threatened those on lower rungs with being fired. This killer had to be stopped and 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 killer had stabbed him 42 times and castrated him. The public was getting angrier than ever at these outrageous crimes.
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 cut out. When his identity was established, officers learned that he spent most of his time on the 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 bastard.
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 struck again. This time, his victim was a young woman. She was number 36, and she had been beaten to death and sliced open like a butchered pig, but nobody had seen a thing.
And 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, 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 their killer. They were sure of it.
Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo 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 20th, 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.
They placed Chikatilo in a cell with an informant, 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.
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 specify, and said that he was out of control. 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. He also mentioned that he had thought of suicide.
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 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.
Nine days elapsed with Kostoyev getting no closer to his goal. He did not know what to do to getthis 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.
The informant in Chikatilo's cell 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 ten before having to charge him with a specific crime, and they did not have enough proof of even one. It was looking very much like they might have to let him go. Burakov thought they should try another interrogator, and his candidate was Dr. Bukhanovsky.
Kostoyev initially resisted this idea, but finally had to admit he was going nowhere. He agreed to let the psychiatrist see what he could do. Bukhanovsky agreed to question Chikatilo, but only out of professional interest. Burakov agreed to these conditions. Bukhanovsky was soon in a closed room alone with the best suspect in the Lesopolosa murders.
The psychiatrist saw right away that this was the 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.
Bukhanovsky asked 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 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.
Chikatilo read the statement of charges and admitted that he was guilty of the crimes listed. He now wanted 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 of them with Lyubov Biryuk but years earlier in 1978. He had killed a little girl, Yelena Zakotnova, age nine.
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 used his knife as a substitute. He blindfolded her, strangled her, and stabbed her repeatedly. Once she was dead, he tossed her body into a nearby river. Even back then he was a suspect, but the other man had confessed under torture, so Chikatilo was free to go. He was shocked to come so close to being 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 the 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. Later, he admitted that he just had not liked his victims looking at him as he attacked them.
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 sliced 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.
He remembered the details of each of the 36 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."
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.He never admitted to actually consuming body parts taken from his victims, 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 murdered in a cemetery and placed in a shallow grave. He took the investigators 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.
In the end, he confessed to 56 murders, although there was evidence for only 53 31 females and 22 males. Burakov, says Cullen, believed that there might actually be more.
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.
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. 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 did not have the right to call psychiatric experts, only to cross-examine those that the prosecution brought in.
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 six of the murders and at another, he confessed to four new ones. He claimed to be a victim of the former Soviet system and called himself a 'mad beast'. 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 move to safer locales that showed a degree of self-control, as well as the fact that he had stopped for over a year at one point.
The trial dragged on 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.
Chikatilo was brought in and given a final opportunity to speak for himself. He remained mute.
On October 14, six months after the trial begun, the jury pronounced Andrei Chikatilo guilty of five counts of molestation and 52 counts of murder. Then Chikatilo cried out, shouting "Swindlers!" spitting, throwing his bench, and demanding to see the corpses.
The judge sentenced him to be executed.
A rumor circulated that the Japanese wanted to pay $1 million for The Maniac's brain, 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 analysis was never performed.
On February 15th, 1994, he was taken to a special soundproof room and shot behind the right ear, ending his life.