In September 1978, Chikatilo moved to Shakhty, a small coal mining town near Rostov-on-Don, where he committed his first documented murder. On 22 December, Chikatilo lured a 9-year-old girl named Yelena Zakotnova to an old house which he had secretly purchased; he attempted to rape her, but failed to achieve an erection. When the girl struggled, he choked her and stabbed her three times in the abdomen, ejaculating in the process of knifing the child. In an interview after his arrest, Chikatilo later recalled that after stabbing Yelena, the girl had "said something very hoarsely", whereupon he strangled her into unconsciousness before throwing her body into a nearby river. Her body was found two days later.Numerous pieces of evidence linked Chikatilo to the murder of Yelena Zakotnova: Spots of blood had been found in the snow near the house Chikatilo had purchased; neighbours had noted that Chikatilo had been present in the house on the evening of 22 December; Zakotnova's school rucksack had been found upon the opposite bank of the river at the end of the street (indicating the girl had been thrown into the river at this location) and a witness had given police a detailed description of a man closely resembling Chikatilo whom she had seen talking with Zakotnova at the bus stop where the girl had last been seen alive.Despite these facts, a 25-year-old named Aleksandr Kravchenko, who as a teenager, had served a prison sentence for the rape and murder of a teenage girl, was arrested for the crime and subsequently confessed to the killing. He was tried for the murder in 1979. At his trial, Kravchenko retracted his confession and maintained his innocence, stating his confession had been obtained under extreme duress. Despite his retraction, he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment (the maximum possible length of imprisonment at that time). Under pressure from the victim's relatives, Kravchenko was retried and eventually executed for the murder of Yelena Zakotnova in July 1983. Following Zakotnova's murder, Chikatilo was able to achieve sexual arousal and orgasm only through stabbing and slashing women and children to death, and he later claimed that the urge to relive the experience had overwhelmed him.Chikatilo committed his next murder in September 1981, when he tried to have sex with a 17-year-old boarding schoolstudent named Larisa Tkachenko in a forest near the Don River. When Chikatilo failed to achieve an erection, he became furious and battered and strangled her to death.As he had no knife, he mutilated her body with his teeth and a stick.On 12 June 1982, Chikatilo encountered a 13-year-old girl named Lyubov Biryuk walking home from a shopping trip in the village of Donskoi. Once the path both were taking together was shielded from the view of potential witnesses by bushes, Chikatilo pounced upon Biryuk, dragged her into nearby undergrowth, tore off her dress and killed her by stabbing and slashing her to death.Lyubov Biryuk, aged 13. Murdered 12 June 1982.Following Biryuk's murder, Chikatilo no longer attempted to resist his homicidal urges: between July and September 1982, he killed a further five victims between the ages of nine and nineteen. He established a pattern of approaching children, runaways and young vagrants at bus or railway stations, enticing them to a nearby forest or other secluded area and killing them, usually by stabbing, slashing and eviscerating the victim with a knife; although some victims, in addition to receiving a multitude of knife wounds, were also strangled or battered to death.Many of the victims' bodies bore evidence of mutilation to the eye sockets. Pathologists concluded the injuries were caused by a knife, leading investigators to the conclusion the killer had gouged out the eyes of his victims.Chikatilo's adult female victims were often prostitutes or homeless women who could be lured to secluded areas with promises of alcohol or money. Chikatilo would typically attempt intercourse with these victims, but he would usually be unable to achieve or maintain an erection which would send him into a murderous fury, particularly if the woman mocked his impotence. He would achieve orgasm only when he stabbed the victim to death. His child victims were of both sexes; Chikatilo would lure these victims to secluded areas using a variety of ruses, usually formed in the initial conversation with the victim,such as promising them assistance or company, the offer to show the victim a shortcut,a chance to view rare stamps, films or coins or with an offer of food or candy. He would usually overpower these victims once they were alone, tie their hands behind their backs with a length of rope, and then proceed to kill them.On 11 December 1982, Chikatilo encountered a 10-year-old girl named Olga Stalmachenok riding a bus to her parents' home in Novoshakhtinsk and persuaded the child to leave the bus with him. She was last seen by a fellow passenger being led firmly by the hand by a middle-aged man.Stalmachenok was lured to a cornfield on the outskirts of Novoshakhtinsk before she was killed. Chikatilo stabbed the girl in excess of 50 times around the head and body, ripped open her chest and excised her lower bowel and uterus.By January 1983, a total of four victims thus far killed had been tentatively linked to the same killer. A Moscow police team, headed by Major Mikhail Fetisov, was sent to Rostov-on-Don to direct the investigation. Fetisov centered the investigations around Shakhty and assigned a newly appointed specialist forensic analyst, Viktor Burakov, to head the investigation. In April, Olga Stalmachenok's body was found. Burakov was summoned to the crime scene, where he noted the eviscerations conducted upon the child and that her eye sockets bore striations. Burakov later stated that, as he noted the striations upon Stalmachenok's eye sockets, any doubts about the presence of a serial killer evaporated.Chikatilo did not kill again until June 1983, when he murdered a 15-year-old Armenian girl named Laura Sarkisyan, although her body was never found. By September, he had killed a further five victims. The accumulation of bodies found and the similarities between the pattern of wounds inflicted on the victims forced the Soviet authorities to acknowledge that a serial killer was on the loose. On 6 September 1983, the public prosecutor of the USSR formally linked six of the murders thus far committed to the same killer.Due to the sheer savagery of the murders and the precision of the eviscerations upon the victims' bodies, police theorized that the killings may have been conducted by either a group harvesting organs to sell for transplant or the work of a Satanic cult. However, much of the police effort concentrated upon mentally ill citizens, homosexuals, known paedophiles and sex offenders, slowly working through all that were known and eliminating them from the inquiry. A number of young men confessed to the murders, although they were usually mentally handicapped youths who admitted to the crimes only under prolonged and often brutal interrogation. Three known homosexuals and a convicted sex offender committed suicide as a result of the investigators' heavy-handed tactics.As a result of the investigation into the killings, a total of 1000 unrelated crimes, including 95 murders,were solved. However, as police obtained confessions from suspects, bodies continued to be discovered, proving that the suspects who had confessed could not be the killer the police were seeking; in October 1983, Chikatilo killed a 19-year-old prostitute named Vera Shevkun, and in December, a 14-year-old Gukovo schoolboy named Sergey Markov was lured off a train and murdered in Kazachi Lagerya.In January and February 1984, Chikatilo killed two women in Rostov's Aviators' Park. On 24 March, he lured a 10-year-old boy named Dmitry Ptashnikov, away from a stamp kiosk in Novoshakhtinsk. While walking with the boy, Chikatilo was seen by several witnesses who were able to give investigators a detailed description of the killer. When Ptashnikov's body was found three days later, police also found a footprint of the killer and both semen and saliva samples on the victim's clothing. The semen samples were sent for analysis, revealing the killer's blood type to be type AB.On 25 May, Chikatilo killed a young woman named Tatyana Petrosyan and her 11-year-old daughter, Svetlana, in a wooded area outside Shakhty. Petrosyan had known Chikatilo for several years prior to her murder.By 19 July, he had killed three further young women between the ages of 19 and 22 and a 13-year-old boy. In the summer of 1984, Chikatilo was fired from his work as a supply clerk for theft of property. The accusation had been filed against him the previous February and he had been asked to resign quietly, but had refused to do so as he had denied the charges. Chikatilo found another job as a supply clerk in Rostov on 1 August.On 2 August, Chikatilo killed a 16-year-old girl, Natalya Golosovskaya, in Aviators' Park. On 7 August, he killed a 17-year-old girl on the banks of the Don River before flying to the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent on a business trip. By the time Chikatilo returned to Rostov on 15 August, he had killed another young woman and a 12-year-old girl. Within two weeks an 11-year-old boy had been found strangled, castrated and with his eyes gouged out in Rostov before a young librarian, Irina Luchinskaya, was killed in Rostov's Aviators' Park on 6 September.Until 31 July 1985 he murdered a young woman named Natalia Pokhlistova in a thicket of woods close to Moscow'sDomodedovo Airport.On 6 November 1990, Chikatilo killed and mutilated a 22-year-old woman named Svetlana Korostik in woodland near Donleskhoz Station. While leaving the crime scene, he was observed by an undercover officer. The policeman observed Chikatilo approach a well and wash his hands and face. When he approached the station, the undercover officer noted that Chikatilo's coat had grass and soil stains on the elbows. Chikatilo also had a small red smear on his cheek.To the officer, he looked suspicious. The only reason people entered woodland near the station at that time of year was to gather wild mushrooms (a popular pastime in Russia), but Chikatilo was not dressed like a typical forest scavenger; he was wearing more formal attire. Moreover, he had a nylon sports bag, which was not suitable for carrying mushrooms. The policeman stopped Chikatilo and checked his papers, but had no formal reason to arrest him. When the policeman returned to his office, he filed a routine report, containing the name of the person he had stopped at the station.
Trial and conviction
Chikatilo, pictured at his trial in April 1992Chikatilo's trial was the first major media event of liberalized post-Soviet Russia. Proceedings commenced in Rostov on 14 April 1992. During the trial, Chikatilo was kept in an iron cage in a corner of the courtroom to protect him from attack by the many enraged and, often, hysterical relatives of his victims. Chikatilo's head had been shaved — a standard prison procedure, officially to prevent the spread of lice. Relatives of victims regularly shouted threats and insults at Chikatilo throughout the trial, demanding that authorities release him so that they could kill him themselves. Each murder was discussed individually and, on several occasions, relatives broke down in tears when details of their relatives' murder were revealed; some even fainted.Chikatilo repeatedly interrupted the trial, exposing himself, singing, and refusing to answer questions put to him by the judge. He was regularly removed from the courtroom for interrupting the proceedings. On 13 May, Chikatilo withdrew his confessions to six of the killings,and in July 1992, he demanded that the judge be replaced for making too many rash remarks which assumed his guilt. His defense counsel backed the claim. Even the prosecutor supported the defense's claim, stating the judge had indeed made too many such comments. The judge ruled that the prosecutor be replaced instead.On 9 August, both prosecution and defense delivered their final arguments before the judge. Chikatilo again attempted to interrupt the proceedings and had to be removed from the courtroom. Final sentence was postponed until 14 October. As the final deliberations began, the brother of Lyudmila Alekseyeva, a 17-year-old girl killed by Chikatilo in August 1984, threw a heavy chunk of metal at Chikatilo, hitting him in the chest. When security tried to arrest the young man, other victims' relatives shielded him.On 14 October, the court reconvened and the judge read the list of murders again, not finishing until the following day. On 15 October, Chikatilo was found guilty of 52 of the 53 murders and sentenced to death for each offense. He was also found guilty of five counts of sexual assault committed during the years he worked as a teacher in the 1970s. Chikatilo kicked his bench across his cage when he heard the verdict, and then began shouting abuse. However, when given an opportunity to make a speech in response to the verdict, he remained silent. Upon passing final sentence, Judge Leonid Akhobzyanov made the following speech:“Taking into consideration the monstrous crimes he committed, this court has no alternative but to impose the only sentence that he deserves. I therefore sentence him to death.”Chikatilo was taken from the courtroom to his cell at Novocherkassk prison to await execution. He did file an appeal against his conviction with the Russian Supreme Court, but it was rejected in 1993.Chikatilo was diagnosed with major depression and a psychopath with co-morbid antisocial and borderline personality disorders along with sexual sadism and severe sadistic personality features.
On 14 February, Chikatilo was taken from his death row cell to a soundproofed room in Novocherkassk prison and executed with a single gunshot behind the right ear.
NumberNameSexAgeDate of MurderNotes1Yelena ZakotnovaF922 December 1978Chikatilo's first victim. Accosted by Chikatilo while walking home from an ice-skating rink.2Larisa TkachenkoF173 September 1981Approached by Chikatilo while waiting for a bus back to her boarding school.3Lyubov BiryukF1312 June 1982Biryuk was abducted while returning from a shopping trip in the village of Donskoi.4Lyubov VolobuyevaF1425 July 1982Killed in an orchard near Kramsnodar Airport. Her body was found 7 August.5Oleg PozhidayevM913 August 1982Chikatilo's first male victim. Pozhidayev was killed in Adygea. His body was never found.6Olga KuprinaF1616 August 1982Killed in Kazachi Lagerya. Her body was found 27 October.7Irina KarabelnikovaF198 September 1982Lured away from Shakhty station by Chikatilo. Her body was found 20 September.8Sergey KuzminM1515 September 1982A runaway from a boarding school. Kuzmin's body was found at Shakhty station in January 1983.9Olga StalmachenokF1011 December 1982Lured off a bus while riding home from her piano lessons in Novoshakhtinsk.10Laura SarkisyanF15After 18 June 1983Sarkisyan was from Armenia. Her body was never found. Chikatilo was cleared of this murder at his trial.11Irina DunenkovaF13July 1983Dunenkova's body was found in Aviators' Park, Rostov, on 8 August 1983.12Lyudmila KushubaF24July 1983Killed in woodland near a Shakhty bus station. Her body was found 12 March 1984.13Igor GudkovM79 August 1983Chikatilo's youngest victim. He was killed in Aviators' Park, Rostov. Gudkov was the first male victim linked to the manhunt.14Valentina ChuchulinaF22After 19 September 1983Chuchulina's body was found on 27 November 1983 in a wooded area near Kirpichnaya station.15Unknown womanF18–25Summer 1983Chikatilo claimed he encountered this victim while she tried to find a"man (client) with a car."16Vera ShevkunF1927 October 1983Killed in a mining village near Shakhty. Her body was found on 30 October.17Sergey MarkovM1427 December 1983Disappeared while returning home from work experience. His body was found on 4 January 1984.18Natalya ShalapininaF179 January 1984Killed in Aviators' Park, Rostov. Shalapinina had been a close friend of Olga Kuprina, killed by Chikatilo in 1982.19Marta RyabenkoF4521 February 1984Chikatilo's oldest victim. She was killed in Aviators' Park, Rostov.20Dmitriy PtashnikovM1024 March 1984Lured from a stamp kiosk in Novoshakhtinsk by Chikatilo, who pretended to be a fellow collector.21Tatyana PetrosyanF3225 May 1984Murdered together with her daughter outside Shakhty. She had known Chikatilo since 1978.22Svetlana PetrosyanF1125 May 1984Svetlana saw Chikatilo murder her mother before he chased her and killed her with a hammer.23Yelena BakulinaF2222 June 1984Bakulina's body was found on 27 August in the Bagasenski region of Rostov.24Dmitriy IllarionovM1310 July 1984Vanished in Rostov while on his way to get a health certificate for summer camp.25Anna LemeshevaF1919 July 1984A student who disappeared on her way to visit a dentist. She was killed in Shakhty.26Svetlana TsanaF20July 1984Her body was found on 9 September 1984 in Aviators' Park, Rostov.27Natalya GolosovskayaF162 August 1984Vanished on a visit to Novoshakhtinsk, where she was to visit her sister. She was killed in Aviators' Park, Rostov.28Lyudmila AlekseyevaF177 August 1984A student lured from a bus stop by Chikatilo, who offered to direct her to Rostov's bus terminal.29Unknown womanF20–258–11 August 1984Killed in Tashkent by Chikatilo while on a business trip.30Akmaral SeydaliyevaF1213 August 1984A runaway, Kazakhstan, also killed by Chikatilo in Tashkent.31Aleksandr ChepelM1128 August 1984Killed on the banks of the Don River, near where Alekseyeva had been killed.32Irina LuchinskayaF246 September 1984A Rostov librarian, killed by Chikatilo in Aviators' Park, Rostov.33Natalya PokhlistovaF1831 July 1985Lured off a train by Chikatilo near Domodedovo Airport. Her body was found on 3 August.34Irina GulyayevaF1827 August 1985Killed in a grove of trees near Shakhty bus station. Her body was found the following day.35Oleg MakarenkovM1316 May 1987Killed in Revda, Sverdlovsk Oblast. Chikatilo led police to Makarenkov's remains after his arrest.36Ivan BilovetskiyM1229 July 1987Killed in woodland alongside a rail line in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia. His body was found by his own father on 30 July.37Yuri TereshonokM1615 September 1987Lured off a train in Leningrad. Chikatilo led police to his remains after his arrest.38Unknown womanF18–251–4 April 1988Killed near Krasny Sulin station. Her body was found on 6 April.39Aleksey VoronkoM915 May 1988Voronko was killed near a station in the Ukrainian city of Ilovaisk; on the Rostov–Ukraine rail route.40Yevgeniy MuratovM1514 July 1988The first victim killed near Rostov since 1985. Muratov's body was found on 10 April 1989.41Tatyana RyzhovaF168 March 1989A runaway from Krasny Sulin, she was killed in Chikatilo's own daughter's apartment.42Aleksandr DyakonovM811 May 1989Killed in Rostov city centre the day after his 8th birthday. His body was found on 14 July.43Aleksey MoiseyevM1020 June 1989Killed in Vladimir Oblast, east of Moscow. Chikatilo confessed to this murder after his arrest.44Helena VargaF1919 August 1989A student from Hungary who had a child. She was lured off a bus and killed in a village near Rostov.45Aleksey KhobotovM1028 August 1989Vanished from outside a theater in Shakhty. Chikatilo led police to his remains after his arrest.46Andrey KravchenkoM1114 January 1990Lured from a cinema by Chikatilo. He was in killed in Shakhty. Kravchenko's body was found on 19 February.47Yaroslav MakarovM107 March 1990Lured from a Rostov station by Chikatilo. He was killed in Rostov Botanical Gardens.48Lyubov ZuyevaF314 April 1990Lured off a train near the Donleskhoz station near Shakhty. Her body was found on 24 August.49Viktor PetrovM1328 July 1990Killed in Rostov Botanical Gardens, a few yards from where Makarov had been murdered.50Ivan FominM1114 August 1990Killed at Novocherkassk municipal beach. His body was found on 17 August.51Vadim GromovM1617 October 1990A mentally handicapped student from Shakhty. Gromov vanished while riding the train to Taganrog.52Viktor TishchenkoM1630 October 1990Killed in Shakhty. Tishchenko fought hard for his life; he was the victim who bit and broke Chikatilo's finger.53Svetlana KorostikF226 November 1990Chikatilo's last victim. Her body was found 13 November in woodland near Donleskhoz station.