ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia -- A former schoolteacher was convicted Wednesday of killing 52 boys, girls and young women in a 12-year spree of murder and mutilation across the former Soviet Union.
Andrei Chikatilo, 57, a grandfather and former Communist Party member, was not in the courtroom most of the day while Judge Leonid Akubzhanov made a lengthy verdict statement that described in gruesome detail the trail of killings from December 1978 until November 1990.
Sentencing was scheduled for Thursday. Chikatilo was almost certain to receive the death penalty.
An unshaven Chikatilo, wearing a gray suit with his hands cuffed behind his back, was brought into the courtroom and placed in a defendant's cage four times Wednesday. Each time he began screaming incoherent demands, his head lolling from side to side, and was hustled out by guards.
At one point, when Chikatilo started shouting relatives of his victims in the courtroom screamed back at him.
'Look, he's still smiling, he's taken part of my life,' shouted an emotional Nina Belovetskaya, whose 12-year-old son Ivan was killed in July 1987. 'I can't look at him. He's an animal. He doesn't deserve a human trial.'
Chikatilo was convicted of killing and mutilating 21 boys, 14 girls and 17 young women. Many of the murders occurred in Rostov and the nearby town of Novocherkask in southern Russia, but he also killed in Tashkent in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, Sverdlovsk in the Ural Mountains, St. Petersburg in northeast Russia and the Ukrainian city of Zaporozhe.
'He was constantly on the lookout for victims,' Akubzhanov said. 'On holidays, on business trips, visiting relatives. He was always ready to kill.'
Some of the victims were transient women or prostitutes, but he also killed children from good families who happened to be in the wrong place.
Akubzhanov described how Chikatilo would find his victims in train stations, bars, markets and on the streets and talk them into coming with him -- sometimes for sex, sometimes using the promise of treats, stamps or to show videos at his home.
He would lure the victims into the woods or a botanical garden on various pretexts and then attack. Often he would tie them up, strip off their clothes and attempt to rape them. He ended the attacks by stabbing the victims as many as 50 times, and all the bodies were mutilated. The judge said sometimes Chikatilo would eat a bit of a victim's tongue or sexual organs.
The youngest of his victims, 8-year-old Lena Zakotnova, was also Chikatilo's first. She was found stabbed to death in 1978.
The last murder victim was Svetlana Korostik, in her early 20s, who was killed near a deserted railway station on the outskirts of Rostov.
After killing Korostik, Chikatilo returned to the railway station and began talking with some people who had been gathering mushrooms nearby. A young police officer happened to ask Chikatilo for his documents and made a routine report, but it sat on a desk for several weeks.
Eventually, police began to see a connection between the man at the railway station and the body that was discovered nearby. Authorities began checking Chikatilo's work and travel records, and discovered he was in all the cities where the murders around the time bodies were found.
After Chikatilo was arrested, his wife of 27 years said she knew nothing of the killings. She moved to Ukraine to start a new after receiving death threats and being treated as an outcast.