Some Possible LeadsIn 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.
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.
SuspectsWith 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.
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.
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.
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.
Killer XPressure 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.
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.
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.
FrustrationsOnly 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 RisesThis 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.