Russia's Worst Serial Killer on Trial

After Pichushkin's arrest in June 2006, a reporter from Russia's NTV network asked him the simple question, "Why?" Pichushkin's response was, "Well, that's the way it ought to be. How should I put it more clearly? You see, life for me is like life without food for you -- a craving. I felt like the father of those people. After all, I opened the door to another world for them. I released them into a new life."

Doctors at the Serbsky Institute in Moscow, Russia's most respected psychiatric clinic, have pronounced Pichushkin sane. According to investigators and psychiatrists, Pichushkin has never had any documented mental disorder, has an average intelligence level and has never had any extreme tendencies.

"Serial killers need medical attention, but they never reveal themselves until their actions become obvious to other people," psychiatrist Alexander Gonopolsky told AP Television.

According to authorities, Pichushkin's favored way of living out his murderous streak was to pick out mostly middle-aged men, although not only, then suggest a glass, or two, of vodka over the grave of his beloved dog buried in the Bitsevsky Park. Then he would attack from behind by shattering the victim's head with a hammer or a steel rod.

'Liked Sound of Skull Splitting'

"I liked the sound of a skull splitting," he told prosecutors. Pichushkin sometimes rammed twigs or a vodka bottle into the shattered skull. He then threw most of his victims into a nearby sewage well.

Hundreds of police were deployed to sweep the 6.6-square-mile park for suspects, and at one point in March 2006, police thought they had broken the case. They shot and arrested a man who had threatened them with a knife.

Within a week, two more murder victims were found in the park. Clearly, the killer was still on the rampage. Pichushkin later admitted to the investigators that he had known about the arrest and wanted to show that in this game of cat and mouse he still had the upper hand.

Russian police officers have the right to check citizens' identity documents and Pichushkin's had been checked in the park on more than one occasion. No officer had ever found anything suspicious about this well-dressed and clean-cut man.

In June 2006 Pichushkin was detained, among other suspects, on the vague suspicion of killing his supermarket co-worker whose body had been found in Bitsevsky Park. Officers found Pichushkin's name and phone number on a piece of paper in the apartment of his last victim.

She had apparently become suspicious of Pichushkin, and had left behind a note so police would be able to track him down — just in case. Pichushkin denied involvement at first, but when confronted with subway surveillance camera footage showing him with his future victim, he confessed to the crime. Police said he even gave them the hammer he had used to kill the woman.

Polite and Sensitive Man

To those who knew Pichushkin, he was a polite and even sensitive man. A BBC reporter spoke with his downstairs neighbor, 70-year-old Svetlana Mortyakova, "He called me Auntie Sveta. He loved animals — and was inconsolable if a pet died." But then she said with a shudder, "For 40 years I lived in the same house with a maniac!"

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