Born in 1936 in what is now considered Ukraine, Andrei Chikatilo’s rough upbringing set the tone for the rest of his degenerate existence. He suffered quite a bit of trauma during his formative years: he was beaten by his mother for his chronic bedwetting, his father was branded a traitor after surrendering to the Germans in World War II, and mass starvation was a serious problem in the region around his home due to the war. To make matters worse, Andrei’s mother told him that his older brother had been kidnapped and cannibalized by starving neighbors (the veracity of this story has never been confirmed).
Chikatilo’s teenage life was no less harrowing. Despite being an excellent student, Andrei failed to get into his university of choice. Furthermore, during his adolescence Andrei discovered that he suffered from chronic impotence, a condition that worsened his already-potent social awkwardness and self-hatred. His only sexual experience in adolescence occurred when he (rather pathetically) jumped on a much younger girl and wrestled her to the ground, reaching climax quickly when she struggled in his grasp. His sense of failure in this arena was compounded by the fact that when he managed to find a woman to marry, he was only able to enjoy a minimal sex life with her. He claimed that instead of having conventional intercourse, he would ejaculate on his wife and push the semen inside her vagina with his fingers.
Outside the home, Chikatilo worked as a teacher. His career ended after several complaints of child molestation, so he was forced to take a dead-end job as a clerk for a factory. Andrei quickly progressed from acts of molestation to full-out murder. He scored his first documented kill in September 1978, when he lured a nine-year-old girl to an old house that he had secretly purchased in a small coal-mining town. He attempted to rape her but failed to achieve an erection. When the girl struggled, he choked her to death and stabbed her corpse, ejaculating in the process. From that point on, Andrei was only able to become aroused and orgasm through stabbing women and children to death. Over the next twelve years, he established a pattern of luring vagrant children and adult prostitutes to secluded areas with promises of candy or money, attempting to have intercourse with them once they were alone, and proceeding to kill them (at which point he would finally be turned on enough to come).
During Andrei’s most prolific year as a serial killer, 1984, he was finally caught luring one of his victims away from a bus station. The undercover detective who observed him in this act promptly arrested him and brought him to the police station, where investigators uncovered his dubious background. Although the evidence was stacked against him—a search of his personal belongings turned up a knife and a rope and his physical description matched that of a suspected killer in an earlier case—it wasn’t enough to convict him. Andrei was freed from prison after having served only three months.
Although Andrei kept his desires in check for the next few months, he resumed his deadly spree in August 1985 and killed nearly twenty more individuals in the span of five years. He tried to keep his activities far from the area of his previous murders so as to avoid recapture, but when eight more women and children fell prey to his knife in 1990, the police finally grasped the seriousness of the situation and organized a massive patrolling operation.
The operation reached its peak on November 6, 1990 when Chikatilo was observed leaving the scene of one of his murders. Although the undercover policeman was convinced that Andrei had been up to no good—he had emerged from the woods with smeared blood stains on his cheeks and a nylon sports bag that was wholly unsuitable for a typical forest hiker—he had no solid reason to arrest him (chillingly enough, had this policeman thought to check the bag, he would’ve uncovered the amputated breasts of Chikatilo’s victim). However, Chikatilo was put on round-the-clock watch for the next two weeks. On November 20, his attempts to solicit young children on the streets of his hometown provided just cause for his arrest, and the police who had been following him put him in handcuffs.
After nine long days of providing evasive responses to the investigators’ probes, Chikatilo confessed to 56 murders. The police were taken aback at this number, as it was 20 more than they themselves had calculated! Once Andrei confessed, he provided his captors with hard evidence of his crimes, leading them to buried bodies that they had not yet discovered and reenacting the specifics of a few of the cases. He spent the next year and a half in prison, during which time he was monitored particularly carefully since his horrific sexual crimes against children made him an “untouchable” in the Russian underworld (these types of prisoners were “cast down”, sexually abused and sometimes killed by their fellow inmates).
Just before Chikatilo was set to go on trial, the Soviet Union collapsed. His April 1992 trial was considered the first major event of post-Soviet Russia. During his questioning, he was kept in an iron cage in the center of the courtroom. This was not constructed because he was considered so dangerous to courtroom observers, but rather to protect him from those observers’ attacks. Relatives of victims insulted him vehemently throughout the trial, asking to be permitted to execute him themselves and fainting when they heard the names of their loved ones recited aloud. Chikatilo exhibited bizarre behavior during his time in the cage, exposing his genitals to the courtroom and declaring that he was pregnant, lactating, and most decidedly not a homosexual. On the last day of the trial, he broke into song and had to be removed from the courtroom.
On October 15, 1990, Andrei was found guilty of 52 murders and sentenced to death for each offense. After hearing the sentence, Chikatilo defended himself haphazardly, blaming everything from political leaders to his childhood experiences during World War II for his wrongdoing. At one point he claimed that he had in fact done a favor to society by ridding it of “worthless people”. After sitting on death row in Novocherkassk prison for three more years, Andrei Chikatilo finally met his fate. On February 14, 1994, he was taken to a soundproofed room in Novocherkassk and executed by a single gunshot behind the right ear. His final words were as follows: “Don’t blow my brains out! The Japanese want to buy them!”