Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Devil's Trail

The Beast in the Cage

They brought him into the Rostov courtroom on April 14, 1992, and put him into a large iron cage painted off-white, where he could either stand or sit. The judge sat on a dais and two citizens on either side acted as jurors. There were 225 volumes of information collected about him and against him.

Chikatilo in court, caged
Chikatilo in court, caged

The press wrote about "the Maniac" and spread the word about his upcoming trial, so the courtroom, which seated 250, was filled with the family of many of his alleged victims. When he entered, they began to scream at him. Bald and without his glasses, he looked slightly crazy, especially when he drooled and rolled his eyes later in the trial.

Throughout, Chikatilo appeared to be bored, except when he'd show a flash of anger and yell back at the crowd. On two separate occasions, he opened his trousers and pulled them down to expose his penis, insisting he was not a homosexual. They removed him from the courtroom.

That he would be found guilty of murder was a foregone conclusion, but there was a chance that his psychological problems could save him from execution. However, his lawyer, Marat Khabibulin, did not have the right to call psychiatric experts, only to cross-examine those that the prosecution brought in, and since he had not been appointed until after Chikatilo had fully confessed, he was at a real disadvantage.

Although the prosecutors were Anatoly Zadorozhny and N. F. Gerasimenko, Judge Leonid Akubzhanov became Chikatilo's chief enemy, asking sharp questions of the witnesses and throwing demeaning comments at the prisoner, who often did not respond. After several months, however, Chikatilo challenged the judge, claiming that he was the one in charge. "This is my funeral," the defendant said.

At one time, he spontaneously denied doing six of the murders and at another, he added four new ones. He claimed to be a victim of the former Soviet system and called himself a "mad beast." According to Krivich and Ol'gin, he also claimed that there should be 70 "incidents" attributed to him, not 53. At one point, they write, when he was asked whether he had kept track as he killed his victims, Chikatilo said, "I considered them to be enemy aircraft I had shot down."

No one adequately addressed the fact that there was a discrepancy between the blood type in the semen samples and Chikatilo's blood type. The forensic analyst explained her discovery of the rare phenomenon of a man having one blood type but secreting another, but this hypothesis was later ridiculed around the world. Yet with no forensic experts hired for the defense, there was little the defense attorney could do. The judge, with his clear bias against the defendant, accepted the unusual analysis.

The court accepted the psychiatric diagnosis of sanity. One psychiatrist examined him yet again and said that he was still of the same opinion. It was Chikatilo's predatory behavior and ability to shift to safer locales that showed his degree of control, as well as the fact that he had stopped for over a year at one point (a year in which he said he had celebrated his 50th birthday and was in a good mood).

The trial went into August. The defense summed up its side by saying that the evidence and psychiatric analyses were flawed and the confessions had been coerced. He asked for a verdict of not guilty.

The next day, Chikatilo broke into song from his cage and then talked a string of nonsense, with accusations that he was being "radiated." He was taken out before the prosecutor began his final argument. He reiterated what sadism meant, repeated each of the crimes, and asked for the death penalty.

Chikatilo was brought in and given a final opportunity to speak for himself. He remained mute.

The judge took two months to reach a verdict, and on October 14, six months after the trial begun, he pronounced Andrei Chikatilo guilty of five counts of molestation and 52 counts of murder. Then Chikatilo cried out incoherently, shouting "Swindlers," spitting, throwing his bench, and demanding to see the corpses. The judge sentenced him to be executed. The people shouted for Chikatilo to be turned over to them to be torn to pieces as he had done to their loved ones. But instead he was taken back to his cell to await the results of an appeal. His lawyer claimed through official channels that the psychiatric assessment had not been objective and he wanted further analysis.

A rumor circulated that the Japanese wanted to pay $1 million for the Maniac's brain, Lourie writes, but there was no substance to it. Yet many professionals did believe that his behavior was so aberrant that he should be studied alive.

This man with a university degree in Russian literature, a wife and children, and no apparent background of child abuse, clearly had a savage heart. As he said of himself, he was apparently "a mistake of nature." It's unfortunate that a better biopsychological analysis was never performed.

On February 15, 1994, when his appeal was turned down, he was taken to a special soundproof room and shot behind the right ear, ending his life.


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