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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More Proof of How Civilized Russia Out-Classes America

Everyone knows that Russia is a superior society to the United States and therefore doesn't, for instance, have serial killers -- especially not since Russians have chosen to live in a dictatorship where they exchange their personal liberty for freedom from things like street crime. Here's more conclusive proof of the advanced state of Russian civilization, from the Moscow Times:

The specter of Andrei Chikatilo [pictured], Russia's most notorious serial killer, hovers luridly over the case of Alexander Pichushkin, whom prosecutors say killed 52 people over 14 years, many in the sprawling Bittsevsky Park in southwest Moscow. Compared with Chikatilo's bizarrely savage crimes -- he was convicted in 1992 of murdering 52 women and children, dismembering victims and eating some of their remains -- Pichushkin's purported style was methodical and workmanlike. Typically he would invite elderly people to drink alcohol in a secluded part of the park and then bash in their skulls with a hammer or another blunt object after they were drunk, police and prosecutors say. Pichushkin supposedly invited victims to drink at the grave of his dog, which he walked in the park after the death of his beloved grandfather.

Authorities say Chikatilo was always on the mind of Pichushkin, 33. "He dreamed of surpassing Chikatilo and going down in history," Moscow's top prosecutor, Yury Syomin, told reporters last week.

Preliminary hearings for Pichushkin, dubbed the "Bittsevsky Maniac" by the media, are scheduled to start Monday at the Moscow City Court. "This is the first such case in Moscow," Syomin said. "We are charging him with 52 murders. He insists that he killed 63, but there are no bodies, no fragments, not even records of people gone missing." Prosecutors -- and Pichushkin himself -- say he committed his first murder in 1992, when he killed a classmate. A law enforcement source who participated in Pichushkin's arrest said the suspect pushed the man out of a stairwell window of an apartment building in what police called a suicide at the time.

Pichushkin did not kill again until 2001, when he went on a killing spree that only ended with his detention last year, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the pending trial. Pichushkin told investigators during an interview shown on NTV television in July 2006 that he committed 60 murders in the park. Televised confessions are common in Russia. Pichushkin said he left the bodies of 17 victims lying on the ground and tossed the rest into sewer ducts.

Alexander Kshevitsky, a senior Interior Ministry investigator who worked on the case, said Pichushkin primarily killed lonely, elderly people who were "down on their luck."

"No one would come to the police and report them missing," Kshevitsky said.

Asked why he killed, Pichushkin said on NTV that for him, "A life without murders was like a life without food. It was a necessity, you understand? I felt like the father of these people," he said. "I opened up the door for them to a new world. I let them into a new life."

The law enforcement source who helped detain Pichushkin said the suspect opened up in the hours following his arrest, telling how he grew up without a father and that his mother had placed him in an internat, a state home for disadvantaged children, before taking him out to go live with his grandfather. The death of the grandfather was devastating for him, and after that, Pichushkin spent much of his free time taking his dog for walks in Bittsevsky Park, the source said. After the dog died, Pichushkin buried it in the park, and he lured many of his victims into secluded areas by inviting them to drink at the dog's grave, the source said.

Criminal psychologist Mikhail Vinogradov said the death of Pichushkin's grandfather could have prompted him to target elderly people as a kind of revenge for having been "abandoned" by his grandfather when he died. He also said there was likely a sexual subtext, in the murders, though prosecutors have said Pichushkin did not sexually assault his victims. "All serial killers experience a kind of sexual pleasure from murder," Vinogradov said. The law enforcement source said Pichushkin described the pleasure he got from killing as a kind of "perpetual orgasm."

Pichushkin's last victim was Marina Moskalyova, 36, a co-worker at a Grossmart supermarket on Ulitsa Khersonskaya, where Pichushkin worked as a lifter, the law enforcement source said. Moskalyova's body was discovered in the park on June 14, 2006. Two small pieces of paper with the body led investigators to Pichushkin. "A metro ticket found in Marina Moskalyova's coat pocket helped us track down the perpetrator," the source said. "Using the ticket, we were able to establish the date and time she rode the train, and video surveillance footage clearly showed [Pichushkin] walking with her." The second piece of paper was a note Moskalyova had left for her teenage son that he showed police the day her body was found, the source said. Moskalyova wrote on the piece of paper that she had gone for a walk with Pichushkin and jotted down his cell phone number. Having identified Pichushkin as the primary suspect, police took elaborate precautions when detaining him at his apartment two days later, on June 16, the source said. "The most important thing was to keep him from committing suicide," he said. To this end, police arrived at the apartment building late at night along with a fire truck to give the illusion they were responding to a blaze.

"There were OMON officers hanging by cables on the walls of the building to make sure he couldn't jump out of the window," the source said. "A neighbor called through the door, 'Is anything burning in there?' His mother opened the door, and [Pichushkin] was grabbed still lying in bed." Pichushkin said on NTV that he thought "long and hard" about whether to kill Moskalyova. "I knew that she had left a note for her son with my cell phone number and that they could track me down," he said. "While we were walking in the park, while we were talking, I just kept thinking: Kill her or forget it? In the end, I decided to risk it. I was, after all, already in the mood."

Pichushkin's arrest followed a yearlong search rife with false leads and tragicomedy. On Feb. 20, 2006, police shot and injured an apparently innocent man while combing the park for the killer. About 200 officers were deployed there after police received a tip that a man resembling the killer had been spotted. The officers detained a suspect, but he pulled out a knife and managed to break free from his handcuffs. He then tried to flee. Police shot the man in the leg, and he was hospitalized. About three weeks later, plainclothes police detained a transvestite who tried to flee when stopped for a document check not far from the park. Police found a hammer in the 31-year-old man's purse, but his alibi checked out and he was released.

After his arrest, Pichushkin underwent several months of psychiatric evaluation at the Serbsky Institute and was declared mentally competent to stand trail, said Syomin, the city prosecutor. At Monday's preliminary hearing, a judge will decide whether the trial will be open to the public and whether it will be by jury, court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said Friday. The judge will also set the opening date of the trial, she said. Pichushkin's lawyer, Pavel Ivannikov, conceded on Friday that he faced an uphill battle. "Any case is difficult, especially if it concerns several murders and has great resonance in society," he said by telephone. Ivannikov declined to comment on whether Pichushkin would plead insanity. With a moratorium on the death penalty, Pichushkin faces a maximum punishment of life in prison if convicted.

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