Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Devil's Trail

Operation Lesopolosa

In another wooded area, the mutilated remains of a young woman were found. Her nipples had been removed — possibly with teeth, her abdomen was slashed open, and one eye socket was damaged. She had been there for several months and her clothing was missing. Kalenik could have been responsible for this one, whose identity remained unknown, since he was free at the time, but not the next one, found on October 20.

She had been murdered approximately three days earlier, while Kalenik was in custody. He definitely did not kill her, but her wounds were similar to those of the other victims. Whoever had killed her was growing bolder and more frenzied in his surgical removal of parts. This victim was entirely disemboweled, and the missing organs were nowhere to be found. However, her eyes remained intact. She might not be part of the series, although she did ride the trains. Perhaps the killer had changed his method or had been interrupted.

Four weeks later and not far away from that site, a set of skeletal remains was found in the woods. Her death was estimated to have occurred some time during the summer, and her eyes had been gouged out.

It wasn't long before the tenth unsolved murder turned up, just after the turn of the year into 1984. This one was a boy, found near the railroad tracks. He was identified as Sergei Markov, a 14-year-old boy missing since December 27. For the first time, thanks to winter's preservative effects, the detectives, led by Mikhail Fetisov, were able to see just what the killer did to these young people.

He had stabbed the boy in the neck dozens of times — the final count would be 70 — and he had then cut into the boy's genitals and removed everything from the pubic area. In addition, he had violated his victim anally. Then it appeared that he had gone to a spot nearby to have a bowel movement.

Clearly the jailed Kalenik was not responsible and the maniac who was perpetrating these crimes was still very much at large. In their rush to close these cases, the police had made a mistake.

Fetisov decided to retrace the boy's steps on the day he had disappeared. Beginning in a town called Gukovo, where the boy had lived and from where he had gone that day, he boarded the elechtrichka, or local train. In the same town was a home for the mentally retarded and the teachers there reported that a former student, Mikhail Tyapin, 23, had left around the same time as the boy and had taken the train. He was a very large young man and barely knew how to talk. Once again, the police got a confession.

Tyapin and his friend, Aleksandr Ponomaryev, said they had met Markov, had lured him to the woods, and killed him. They had also left their excrement. Tyapin, in particular, had numerous violent fantasies, and he claimed credit for several other unsolved murders in the area. But he never mentioned the damage done to the eyes. And he and Ponomaryev confessed to two murders that were proven to have been done by someone else.

The police were now thoroughly confused, and Fetisov had some doubts, while Burakov felt certain they had not apprehended the killer they were after. All of the so-called confessions were flawed. He believed that only one person was involved, that this person was a loner and not part of a gang, and that he was clearly demented in some subtly perceivable way.

Then they had their first piece of good evidence. The medical examiner found semen in Markov's anus. He had been raped and the perpetrator had ejaculated. When they apprehended the killer, they could compare the blood antigens. This would not afford a precise match, but could at least eliminate suspects. In fact, it eliminated all of the young men who had confessed thus far. They all had the wrong type of blood.

But then the lab issued another report, claiming it had mixed up the sample. The type did indeed match that of Mikhail Tyapin. That meant that the odds were good that they had Markov's killer.

Yet bodies still turned up.


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'