Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo was born on October 16th, 1936 in the village of Yabluchne in the Sumy Oblast in the Ukraine SSR. Around the time he was born Ukraine was having a mass famine that was caused by Joseph Stalin’s forced collectivization of agriculture. His parents were both collective farm laborers who lived all together in a one-room hut. They received no money for their work, but instead, they received the right to cultivate a plot of land that was behind the family hut. The family never had sufficient food. Chikatilo claimed later that he never had bread until he was twelve. He also added that his family often had to eat grass and leaves in order to survive. Throughout his whole childhood, Chikatilo was told by his mother repeatedly that prior to his birth he had an older brother named Stepan who, at the age of four, was kidnapped and cannibalized by starving neighbors, but it’s never been established if this event did occur, or if Stepan Chikatilo even existed. Regardless, Chikatilo remembered his childhood as being full of poverty, ridicule, hunger, and war.
When the Soviet Union entered WWII, Chikatilo’s father was drafted into the Red Army and was then taken prisoner after being wounded in combat. Between 1941 and 1944, Chikatilo witnessed some of the effects of the occupation of Ukraine by the Nazis. He claimed he witnessed bombings, fires, and shootings which caused him and his mother to hide in cellars and ditches. At some point he was forced to watch his hut burn down with his mother. After his father was gone, he had to share a small single bed with his mother. He was a chronic bed wetter, and he was beaten by his mother each time.
In 1943, Chikatilo’s mother gave birth to a baby girl named Tatyana. Due to his father being gone since 1941, the child was not his. Many Ukrainian women were raped by German soldiers in WWII, so it is speculated that Tatyana was conceived as a result of a rape. Since Chikatilo lived with his mother in a single room, he may have witnessed the rape.
In September of 1944, Chikatilo started school. He was shy and ardently studious as a child, and he was physically weak and regularly attended school in homespun clothing. By 1946, his stomach was swollen from hunger resulting from the post-war famine which was plaguing much of the Soviet Union. Several times he fainted at home and at school from having no food. He was constantly targeted by bullies who regularly mocked him and over his physical stature and timid nature. At home, him and his sister were berated all the time by their mother. Tatyana later recalled that in spite of the hardships endured by her parents, her father was a kind man while her mother was harsh and unforgiving towards her children. Chikatilo developed a passion for reading and memorizing data, and he would often study at home, both to increase his sense of self-worth and to compensate for his myopia (nearsightedness) which prevented him from reading the blackboard in class. Chikatilo was an excellent student to his teachers who would regularly bestow praise and commendation.
By the time he was a teenager, he was both a model student and an ardent Communist. He was appointed the editor of his school newspaper at the age of fourteen. Two years later he became the chairman of the pupils’ Communist committee. He also was in charge of organizing street marches. He claimed that learning did not come easy to him due to headaches and poor memory, but he was the only student from his collective farm to complete his final year of study and graduated with excellent grades in 1954. At the onset of puberty, he realized he suffered from chronic impotence, which was worsened by his social awkwardness and self-hatred. He was extremely shy around women. When he was seventeen he had a crush on a girl who he knew through the school newspaper, Lilya Barysheva. He was so nervous around her though he never asked her on a date. That same year, he jumped upon an eleven-year-old friend of his sister’s and wrestled her to the ground, ejaculating as she struggled.
Following his graduation, Chikatilo applied for a scholarship at Moscow State University. He passed the entrance exam with good-to-excellent scores, but his grades were not good enough for acceptance. He thought his scholarship application was rejected due to his father’s war record, but the reality was that other students had performed higher than him. He didn’t attempt to enroll at another university. Instead, he traveled to the city of Kursk, where he worked as a laborer for three months before enrolling in a vocational school where he studied to become a communications technician in 1955. That same year he formed his first serious relationship with a local girl who was two years his junior. On three separate occasions, the couple attempted intercourse, but Chikatilo was unable to sustain an erection. After about 18 months, the girl broke off the relationship.
After completing his two year vocational training, Chikatilo chose to relocate to the city of Nizhny Tagil, in the Urals. He was working on a long-term construction project. While he was working in the city, he also took correspondence courses in engineering with the Moscow Electrotechnical Institute of Communication. He worked in the Urals for about two years until he was drafted into the Soviet Army in 1957. He did his military service from 1957 to 1960 and was assigned to serve with border guards in Central Asia, then to a KGB communications unit in Berlin. His work record was perfect, and he joined the Communist party in 1960 a little bit before his military service ended. When he completed his military service, he returned home to live with his parents again. He became acquainted with a young divorcee and they began a three month relationship, which ended like his last relationship. The woman would ask her friends how Chikatilo could overcome his impotence, and that’s how more people knew about it. He claims he tried to hang himself out of shame.
After several months, he found a job as a communications engineer in a town located north of Rostov-on-Don. He moved to Russia in 1961. That same year his sister finished her schooling and moved into his apartment, and his family would relocate to the same area shortly after. Tatyana lived with her brother for about six months before marrying a local man and moving into her in-laws’ house. She knew her brother was shy around women, and she wanted to find him a good wife and help him start a family.
In 1963, Chikatilo married a woman named Feodosia Odnacheva, who was introduced to him via his sister. After barely two weeks they were married. He later claimed that his marriage was a bit sexless, and his wife understood that he was unable to maintain an erection, and so they agreed she would conceive by ejaculating him externally and pushing his semen into her vagina with his fingers. In 1965, she gave birth to a daughter, Lyudmila. Four years later in 1969, she gave birth to a son named Yuri.
In 1970, Chikatilo completed a five-year correspondence course in Russian literature and got his degree in the subject at Rostov University. Shortly before getting his degree he had a job managing regional sports activities. He stayed with that job for a year, then he started teaching in Novoshakhtinsk. He wasn’t the best teacher ever. Although he was knowledgeable, his couldn’t maintain discipline in the class and would often be mocked by his students.
In May 1973, Chikatilo committed his first known sexual assault on one of his students. He went towards a 15-year-old girl and groped her breasts and genitals, ejaculating while she struggled. Months later, he sexually assaulted another teenage girl who he locked in his classroom. He was not punished for either of these incidents or for the occasions that teachers saw him fondling himself in front of his students. He was also known to sneak into the girls’ dormitory to watch them undress.
In response to the increasing number of complaints against him by the students, the director of the school summoned Chikatilo to a formal meeting and informed him he should resign voluntarily or be fired. He left and found another job as a teacher at another school in Novoshakhtinsk in January of 1974. In lost that job due to staff cutbacks in September of 1978, and left and found another teaching job in Shakhty. His career as a teacher ended in March of 1981 following several complaints of child molestation against students of both sexes. That same month he began a job as a supply clerk for a factory that was based in Rostov which produced construction materials. This role required him to travel across much of the Soviet Union to either physically purchase the raw materials required to fulfill production quotas or to negotiate supply contracts.
In September of 1978, Chikatilo moved to Shakhty, which is a coal mining town near Rostov-on-Don where he committed his first documented murder. He lured a nine-year-old girl named Yelena Zakotonova to an old house that he had purchased in secret, and tried to rape her, but failed due to his impotence. When the girl started struggling, he choked her and stabbed her three times in the abdomen, ejaculating while stabbing the child. In the interview after his arrest, he recalled that after stabbing Yelena, the girl said “something hoarsely” when he strangled her, and then he threw her body into the nearby Grushevka River. Her body was found two days later.
There were numerous pieces of evidence that linked Chikatilo to Zakotnova’s murder: spots of blood was found in the snow near the house that he had purchased, neighbors had noted that Chikatilo had been present in the house on the 22nd of December, Zakotnova’s school backpack had been found the opposite bank of the river at the end of the street (which indicated that the girl had been thrown from this location), and a witness had given the police a detailed description of a man that closely resembled Chikatilo, who she had seen talking to Zakotnova at the bus stop where she was last seen alive. Despite all these facts, a 25-year-old laborer named Aleksandr Kravchenko who, as a teen, had served a prison sentence for the rape and murder of a teenage girl, was arrested for the crime. A search of Kravchenko’s home had revealed spots of blood on his wife’s jumper: the blood type was determined to match both Zakotnova and his wife.
Kravchenko had a watertight alibi for that afternoon. He said he had been home with his wife and a friend of hers the entire afternoon, and neighbors of the couple were able to verify that. Nonetheless, the police threatened Kravchenko’s wife with being an accomplice to murder and her friend with perjury. Confronted with altered testimonies, Kravchenko confessed to the killing. He was tried for the murder in 1979, and at his trial, he retracted his confession and stated that he was obtained under extreme duress. Despite this claim, he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death in 1979. The sentence was commuted to 15 years of imprisonment by the Supreme Court in December of 1980. Under pressure from the victim’s family, he was retried and eventually executed for the murder of Zakotnova in July of 1983.
Following Zakotnova’s murder, Chikatilo was able to achieve sexual arousal and orgasm only through the stabbing and slashing of women and children to death. He later claimed that the urge to relive the experience had completely overwhelmed him, although he also claims he tried to resist these urges.
On September 3rd, 1981, Chikatilo met 17-year-old boarding school student Larisa Tkachenko standing at a bus stop as he exited a public library in the Rostov city center. According to Chikatilo, he lured the young girl to a forest near the Don River with the pretext of drinking vodka. When they reached the secluded area he threw her to the ground before tearing her clothes off and attempting to rape her, but he could not get an erection and so he forced mud into her mouth to stifle her screams before battering and strangling her to death. He did not have a knife on him, so he mutilated her body with his teeth and a stick. He tore one of her nipples off with his teeth and then loosely covered her body with leaves, branches, and torn pages of a newspaper. Her body was found the following day.
Nine months after the murder of Tkachenko on June 12th, 1982, Chikatilo traveled by bus to the Bagayevsky District of Rostov to buy some vegetables. He had to change buses in the village of Donskoi, but instead, he decided to continue on foot. When he was walking away from the bus stop, he met 13-year-old Lyubov Biryuk, who was walking home from a shopping trip. Once the path that they both were walking on was shielded from potential witnesses, he pounced onto her and dragged her into some nearby undergrowth, where he ripped her clothes off and stabbed and slashed her to death. Her body was found on the 27th of June, and the medical examiner discovered evidence of 22 knife wounds that were inflicted to her head, neck, chest, and pelvic region. Further wounds that were found on the skull suggested that she was attacked from behind with the handle and blade of the knife. In addition to these wounds, several striations were discovered on Biryuk’s eye sockets.
Following Biryuk’s murder, Chikatilo no longer tried to resist his homicidal urges. Between July and September of 1982, he killed five more victims between the ages of nine and eighteen. He established a pattern of approaching children, runaways, and young vagrants at bus or railway stations, luring them to a nearby forest or secluded area, and killing them usually by stabbing, slashing, and eviscerating the victim with a knife. Some victims in addition to receiving a multitude of knife wounds were also strangled or battered to death. Many of the victims’ bodies had evidence of mutilation to the eye sockets. Pathologists concluded that the injuries were caused by a knife, leading investigators to come to the conclusion that the killer had gouged out the eyes of his victims.
Chikatilo’s adult victims were usually prostitutes or homeless women who he would lure to secluded areas with the promise of alcohol and money. He would attempt to have sex with these victims, but couldn’t maintain an erection, and this would send him into a murderous fury, especially if the woman mocked his impotence. He would only achieve an orgasm when he stabbed and slashed the victims to death. His younger victims were of both sexes, and he would lure these victims using a variety of ruses, from the promise of company or giving them a chance to see a rare collectible. he would easily overpower them and would tie their hands behind their backs with rope before stuffing mud or loam into their mouths. After killing them, he would make barely an effort to conceal the body before leaving the crime scene.
On December 11th, 1982, Chikatilo met 10-year-old Olga Stalmachenok, who was riding a bus to her parents’ home in Novoshakhtinsk. He persuaded her to leave the bus with him. She was last seen by a passenger who reported the girl was being led away firmly by a middle-aged man. She was lured to a cornfield on the outskirts of Novoshakhtinsk before she was killed. She was stabbed in excess of 50 times around the head and body, and her chest was ripped open and her lower bowel and uterus were excised.
By January of 1983, four victims were linked to being killed by the same person. A Moscow police team, which was headed by Major Mikhail Fetisov, was sent to Rostov-on-Don to direct the investigation. Fetisov had established a team of ten investigators, all based in Rostov, that were in charge of solving all four cases. In March that same year, Fetisov assigned a newly appointed specialist forensic analyst, Viktor Burakov, to be head of the investigation. That following month, Olga Stalmachenok’s body was found. Burakov was on the scene, where he examined numerous knife wounds and eviscerations that were present on the child, and the striations on her eye sockets. Any doubts of a serial killer were completely gone.
Chikatilo didn’t kill again until June of 1983 when he murdered a 15-year-old Armenian girl named Laura Sarkisyan. Her body was found close to an unmarked railway platform near Shakhty. By the month of September, he had killed five more victims. Due to the accumulation of bodies being found and the similarities between the pattern of wounds that were inflicted onto the victims it forced the Soviet authorities to acknowledge that a serial killer was on the loose.
Due to how mutilated the bodies were the police thought that the murders were done by a group or a cult, or an extremely mentally ill person. A lot of the police effort was focused on the theory that the killer was mentally ill, homosexual, or a pedophile, and that they had been in a psychiatric ward or have been convicted of a sex crime.
Starting in September 1983, several young men confessed to the murders, but they were intellectually disabled and confessed under brutal interrogation. As a result of this investigation, more than 1,000 unrelated crimes were solved. Bodies were still coming up even as the police were getting confessions, and they could see that they weren’t getting their killer. On October 20th, 1983 the eviscerated body of a 19-year-old prostitute named Vera Shevkun was found in Shakhty. She had been killed on October 27th. Everything about the mutilation of the body matched with the previous bodies, except the eyes hadn’t been taken out. Two months later on December 27th a 14-year-old boy named Sergey Markov was lured off a train and killed at a rural station near Novocherkassk. He was emasculated and suffered over 70 knife wounds to his neck and upper body.
In January and February of 1984, Chikatilo killed two more women in Rostov’s Aviators’ Park. On March 24th, he lured a 10-year-old boy named Dmitry Ptashnikov away from a stamp kiosk in Novoshakhtinsk. Several witnesses saw Chikatilo take the boy and could give an accurate description. The boy’s body was found three days later and there was a footprint, semen, and saliva samples on the victim’s clothing. On May 25th, Chikatilo killed a young woman named Tatyana Petrosyan and her 10-year-old daughter Svetlana in a wooded area outside of Shakhty. Petrosyan had known Chikatilo for several years before she was killed. By the end of July of that year he had killed three more women and a young boy. In the summer of 1984 he was fired from his job for stealing. He found another job as a supply clerk in Rostov on August 1st. The next day he killed a 16-year-old girl named Natalya Golosovskaya in Aviator’s Park. On August 7th he lured a 17-year-old girl named Lyudmila Alekseyeva to the Don River and sashed her 39 times and mutilated and disemboweled her. Hours her murder, Chikatilo flew to Uzbekistan on a business trip. By the time he had returned back to Rostov on August 15th, he had killed another woman and a little girl. Within two weeks he killed another young boy and then a young librarian.
On September 13th, 1984, Chikatilo was arrested after being observed with attempting to talk to women at the Rostov bus station and committing acts of frotteurism in public. A search of his belongings revealed a knife and a rope. His physical description matched the description of the man taking Dmitry Ptashnikov. A blood sample was taken and it was in the same blood group of the semen that was found on one of the victims. He was found guilty of theft of property at his old job and sentenced to a year in prison, but only served three months. The head of Russian Public Prosecutors Office linked 23 Chikatilo’s murders into one case and dropped all the charges against the mentally handicapped youths that had previously confessed to the murders.
After being released from prison in December of 1984 Chikatilo found work at a locomotive factory and kept a low profile. He didn’t kill again until August 1st, 1985. He killed two more people and was following the investigation in the newspaper and he tried to keep his urges under control. For almost a year after 1985 he didn’t kill again. Then in July of 1986 he started killing again. He was consistently killed, and in 1988 it was really clear he had resurfaced.
He killed three more times in 1988, then stopped until March of 1989. He continued killing and repeated his process of stopping for a year. On November 6th, 1990 he was spotted coming out of a woodland near Donleskhoz station covered in dirt stains with a red mark on his cheek. He looked suspicious, but the undercover police officer that saw him had no formal reason to arrest him. He made a report of the incident. After his recent murder, the police went back into Chikatilo’s history and found that he was fired from his teaching jobs for repeated sexual behavior and sexual assaults. Police put him under surveillance on November 14th. He was observed trying to approach lone women and children. On November 20th he was arrested by four officers upon exiting a cafe.
Upon his arrest, Chikatilo claimed that the police were mistaken. His belongings were searched again and found he was in possession of a folding knife and two lengths of rope. They did a blood group analysis and found that it did link Chikatilo to the murders. On November 29th, Chikatilo confessed through tears. He gave a full and detailed description of each murder which were all consistent with the known facts regarding each murder. On November 30h, he was formally charged with 34 murders he confessed to that were all committed between June of 1982 and November of 1990. Over the next few days, he confessed to 22 more murders. Three of the 56 victims he confessed to killing could not be found or identified so he was charged with 53 murders. He went through a psychiatric evaluation and it was concluded he suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder with sadisitic features, but was not criminally insane and was fit to stand trial. He was brought to trial on April 14th, 1992 and was sentenced on October 15th to death plus 86 years for 52 murders and 5 counts of sexual assault. He was executed on February 14th, 1994 by a single gunshot behind his right ear.