Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo was a Soviet serial killer, nicknamed the Butcher of Rostov, the Red Ripper, and the Rostov Ripper, who committed the sexual assault, murder, and mutilation of at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, and the Uzbek SSR. Chikatilo confessed to a total of 56 murders and was tried for 53 of these killings in April 1992. He was convicted and sentenced to death for 52 of these murders in October 1992 and subsequently executed in February 1994.
By January 1983, four victims thus far killed had been tentatively linked to the same killer. A Moscow police team, headed by Major Mikhail Fetisov, was sent to Rostov-on-Don to direct the investigation. Fetisov established a team of 10 investigators, based in Rostov, charged with solving all four cases. In March, Fetisov assigned a newly appointed specialist forensic analyst, Viktor Burakov, to head the investigation. The following month, Olga Stalmachenok’s body was found. Burakov was summoned to the crime scene, where he examined the numerous knife wounds and eviscerations conducted upon the child, and the striations on her eye sockets. Burakov later stated that, as he noted the striations upon Stalmachenok’s eye sockets, any doubts about the presence of a serial killer evaporated.
Chikatilo did not kill again until June 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 September, he had killed a further five victims. The accumulation of bodies found and the similarities between the pattern of wounds inflicted on the victims forced the Soviet authorities to acknowledge that a serial killer was on the loose. On 6 September 1983, the public prosecutor of the USSR formally linked six of the murders thus far committed to the same killer.
Due to the sheer savagery of the murders and the precision of the eviscerations upon the victims’ bodies, police theorized that the killings had been conducted by either a group harvesting organs to sell for transplant, the work of a Satanic cult, or a mentally ill individual. Much of the police effort concentrated upon the theory that the killer must be either mentally ill, homosexual, or a pedophile, and the alibis of all individuals who had either spent time in psychiatric wards or had been convicted of homosexuality or pedophilia were checked and logged in a card filing system. Registered sex offenders were also investigated and, if their alibi was corroborated, eliminated from the inquiry.
Beginning in September 1983, several young men confessed to the murders, although these individuals were often intellectually disabled youths who admitted to the crimes only under prolonged and often brutal interrogation. Three known homosexuals and a convicted sex offender committed suicide as a result of the investigators’ heavy-handed tactics. As a consequence of the investigation into the killings, more than 1000 unrelated crimes, including 95 murders and 245 rapes, were solved.