The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Chikatilo, Andrei Romanovich
Russia's premier serial killer of this century was born in the Ukraine on October 16, 1936, In childhood, Andrei Chikatilo and his sister were repeatedly told how an older brother, Stepan, was kidnapped and cannibalized during the great Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s. In fact, no record exists of Stepan Chikatilo's birth or death, no proof at all that he existed, but Chikatilo's mother told the story so convincingly, in near-hysterics, that her children were convinced of its veracity.
If the grisly death of a sibling was not bad enough, Andrei grew up nearsighted, half-blind from his youth, and suffered a sexual dysfunction beginning in adolescence which that rendered him periodically impotent. Though he would marry in the early 1960s and father two children, Chikatilo persisted in believing that he had been "blinded and castrated" from birth, a condition which later fueled morbid fantasies of violent revenge.
A university graduate and loyal member of the communist party from his days of military service, Chikatilo went on to teach at an all-male mining school in Rostov-on-Don. From the beginning of his tenure, he was heckled by the boys, who called him "Goose" in mockery of his long neck and slouching posture. Later, after he began molesting students in the dormitories, they would call him "faggot" to his face, sometimes assaulting Chikatilo when he entered the dorm to enforce lights-out. Despite his age and size, Chikatilo was so frightened of the boys in his charge that he began to carry a knife on the job.
Andrei Chikatilo was a late bloomer in terms of the norm for serial murder. Most repeat killers begin claiming victims by their early twenties, but Chikatilo was forty-two when he killed for the first time. His chosen victim, nine-year-old Lenochka Zakotnova, was lured to a vacant house in Shakhty, where Chikatilo failed in his attempt to rape her, afterwards stabbing the child three times and dropping her body into the Grushovka River. She was found beneath a nearby bridge on Christmas Eve.
Police were quick to focus on a suspect in the case. Paroled rape-slayer Alexander Kravchenko initially denied the crime, but finally confessed in February 1979, after his wife was "persuaded" to testify against him. Initially sentenced to death, Kravchenko later saw his sentence commuted to fifteen years in prison, but angry complaints from the Zakotnova family prompted a higher court to reinstate the death warrant in March 1982. Kravchenko was shot by a firing squad in July 1983, thus "closing" the case on Andrei Chikatilo's first murder.
Three years would pass before Chikatilo killed again. In the meantime, his admission of molesting students cost Andrei his teaching job, but party membership paid off with his appointment as a traveling procurement officer for a factory in Shakhty. He was often on the road--or on the rails--and traveling facilitated his search for victims in the years ahead.
Still, Chikatilo needed time to graduate from rare, sporadic murders to the frantic killing pace that marked those later years. His second victim, 17-year-old Larisa Tkachenko, was cutting class in Rostov when Chikatilo approached her and persuaded her to join him in the nearby woods for sex. She made the grave mistake of laughing at his failure to perform, whereupon Chikatilo strangled the girl, gnawing on her throat, arms, and breasts, swallowing one of her nipples in his frenzy, jamming a stick into her vagina.
There were no leads in that case when Chikatilo claimed his third victim, on June 12, 1982. Twelve-year-old Lyuba Biryuk was lured from the village of Zaplavskaya, stabbed at least forty-times in the woods, her wounds including mutilation of the eyes that would become a standard Chikatilo trademark. More than a year elapsed before her skeletal remains were found, in July 1983. In the mean-time, Chikatilo would claim three more victims by year's end, including his first male victim, nine-year-old Oleg Podzhidaev. While Oleg's corpse was never found, we know from Chikatilo's subsequent confession that the child was emasculated, his genitals carried from the murder scene in what became another "signature" for Andrei Chikatilo's crimes.
The elusive "Shelter Belt Killer," so called for the frequency with which his victims were discarded in the woods along railway lines, struck a new frenetic pace in 1984, with fifteen victims slaughtered between January and September. While the murder spree was in progress, on February 22, 1984, Chikatilo was charged with stealing a roll of linoleum from his workplace. Seven months later, with that case still pending, he was arrested for licentious behavior in public, after policemen watched him accosting women at the Rostov bus station. Chikatilo was sentenced to fifteen days on that charge, but remained in jail for the next three months, while detectives grilled him as a suspect in the Shelter Belt murders. Cleared of suspicion when his blood type (A) inexplicably failed to match that of semen found on the bodies, Chikatilo was finally convicted of the linoleum theft in December 1984. He was sentenced to a year in jail, but a sympathetic judge gave him credit for time served since his September arrest, and Chikatilo was freed on the spot.
The bloody game continued, bodies piling up around Rostov and environs, other victims found as far away as Tashkent, when Chikatilo hit the road on business. At one point, a group of mentally retarded men confessed to the series of crimes, and detectives were still pondering their contradictory statements when Andrei Chikatilo was arrested once more, in Novocherassk, on November 20, 1990. This time, he confessed his grisly crimes in detail, listing a total of fifty-two victims, leading police to some of the murder sites where he reenacted the crimes with mannequins.
Chikatilo had experienced a change of heart by the time his murder trial opened in April 1992. He now denied a number of the slayings he had earlier confessed, but with his statements on the record it was hopeless to recant. Sentenced to death by the court, Chikatilo was executed at a Moscow prison on February 16, 1994.
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