Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Devil's Trail

The Count Rises

This discovery, in the woods near a train station, was that of a 16-year-old boy reported missing since the summer before. His killer had stabbed him repeatedly and had removed his testicles and penis. He was badly decomposed and had lain under the snow for months. A watch, inscribed from his aunt and uncle, was missing. It would help immensely if it was found in someone's possession.

None of the investigators assigned to ride the trains and watch people in the stations in that area had reported anything suspicious. No older men with boys or women. However, a ticket clerk reported that she had seen a man that summer on the platform. He had tried to convince her son to go into the words with him. The police did locate him, but quickly eliminated him as the killer they were seeking.

However, Yuri Kalenik had been released from prison after serving five years and he now lived near the area where the body was found. Perhaps they had been hasty in releasing him. When questioned, he insisted he knew nothing, so they let him go.

Elena Varga, victim
Elena Varga, victim

Then on May 11, an eight-year-old boy disappeared. He was found two months later by the side of a road, stabbed and genitally mutilated. This change in the killer's habits, from the woods to out in the open, alerted the officials to the possibility that he might have noticed all the surveillance at the train stations and changed his manner of procuring victims.

That was disturbing. Yet killing someone so near a road was also careless. That could be a hopeful sign. Even the most organized killer can disintegrate as need replaces caution.

Then he killed a Hungarian student, Elena Varga, in August, in a wooded area that was far from any train or bus station. Her body had been violated like all the other female victims in the lesopolosa series.

In just over a week, the fourth victim, a ten-year-old boy, Aleksei Khobotov, went missing, and four months later, early in 1990, the sexually mutilated body of an 11-year-old boy turned up in a lesopolosa. Then another ten-year-old boy was killed, his sexual organs cut off, and his tongue missing. It appeared to have been bitten off.

Aleksei Khobotov, victim
Aleksei Khobotov, victim

Once more, the killer shifted his pattern and went for a female victim, and at the end of July in 1990, workmen found a 13-year-old boy, Victor Petrov, killed and mutilated in the Botanical Gardens.

They now had what they believed were 32 victims over the past eight years and the newspapers, now free to report this news after the loosening of government control, were putting pressure on the investigators. Those in the top positions threatened those on lower rungs with being fired. This killer had to be stopped. People were getting desperate.

Then on August 17 Ivan Fomin, 11, went swimming not far from his grandmother's cottage. In the tall reeds not far from numerous potential witnesses who should have heard if not seen him, the serial killer had stabbed him 42 times and castrated him. This was outrageous and the public was getting angry.

Burakov decided on a new plan. He would select the most likely stations and then make surveillance obvious in the others, so that only those with plainclothes officers would seem safe to the killer. In other words, they would try to force him into action in a particular place, and in those places, they would record the names of every man who came and went. They would also place people in the forests nearby, dressed as farmers. It was a major task, with over 350 people who had to be in place and do their jobs for who-knows-how-long, but it seemed viable.

Victor Petrov, victim
Victor Petrov, victim

It seemed that the train station in Donleskhoz station might be a good place to set up a post, for example, since two of the victims had been found near there. Mushroom pickers generally used it during the summer, but not many other people. Two other stations were selected as well.

But even before the plan was enacted, the killer chose a victim from the Donleskhoz station. He killed a 16-year-old retarded boy, stabbing him 27 times and mutilating him before discarding his clothes. Part of his tongue was missing, as were his testicles, and one eye had been stabbed. When his identity was established, officers learned that he spent most of his time on the electrichka, the slow-moving train, but no one had seen him exit with anyone.

Burokov was in despair. They had a good plan and had it been in place, they might have caught the guy.

Victor Tishcenko, victim
Victor Tishcenko, victim

Then another 16-year-old boy, Victor Tishchenko, was reported missing who had gone to the Shakhty railroad station to pick up tickets. Cullen writes that the handsome, athletic Tishcenko was larger than any other male victim thus far, weighing around 130 pounds. They found his body two miles south, in the woods and in the usual condition. It was where the mother and daughter had been found six years earlier. In the grove, there was evidence of a prolonged struggle.

Burakov got moving. The snare was set, with everyone in place, but the killer killed again, undetected. This time, his victim was a young woman. She was number 36, and she had been beaten and sliced open, and part of her tongue cut off. But no one had seen a thing.

Yet there were reports of men who had been at the train station nearby. One name stood out. In fact, they were chilled by it. They had seen this one before. To that point, according to Moira Martingale in Cannibal Killers, over half a million people had been investigated, but this one had been interrogated before and only released because his blood type had not matched the semen samples.

And they knew the lab work had been faulty. This was the killer. They were sure of it.