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URGENT Court Convicts Former Teacher of Mass Murder

October 14, 1992 GMT

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) _ A former teacher accused of being the world’s worst serial killer was convicted today of 52 counts of murder as he protested his innocence through the bars of a courtroom cage.

Andrei Chikatilo was led in and out of the courtroom by armed police because of his outbursts during the three-hour reading of the verdict against him in this city in southern Russia.

The 56-year-old grandfather, dubbed the ″Forest Strip Killer″ for the place where he buried his victims’ bodies, confessed to raping, killing and cannibalizing boys, girls and young women. Psychiatrists testified that he acted out of rage over feelings of sexual inadequacy. Throughout the 12-year killing spree, Chikatilo was married, raising a family and employed as a Russian language teacher and office worker.

Today he tried to retract the confessions.

″Why me?″ he shouted from inside the small steel cage in a corner of the courtroom, which was packed with about 200 people including victims’ families and journalists.

″I demand the podium 3/8 Get me a lawyer 3/8″

The trial illustrated the defects in Russia’s legal system, which long placed ideology above public safety. The murders began in 1978, during the pre-glasnost era when crime was considered a capitalist phenomenon and was seldom publicized in the former Soviet Union.

As a result, Rostov residents were not warned for more than five years that there was a serial killer among them. In their desire to stop the killings quickly and quietly, Russian authorities now acknowledge they executed the wrong man before arresting Chikatilo near a murder scene in November 1990.

The court, presided over by Judge Leonid Abkuzhanov, will sentence Chikatilo on Thursday. If found criminally insane, he could be sentenced to a pyschiatric hospital. If found sane, he faces execution, which in Russia is carried out by a single bullet to the back of the head.

″They should rip him apart like a dog 3/8″ said Lydia Khobotova, whose 10- year-old son Chikatilo lured from a commuter train, tried to sodomize and then killed. ″I don’t know what will happen to him tomorrow, but I hope he dies the most horrible death, like my son did.″

Chikatilo had been arrested in 1984 on suspicion of murder, but was released when investigators mistakenly eliminated him as a suspect.

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Abkuzhanov spent three hours reading in lurid detail a chronological list of Chikatilo’s crimes.

The judge and a two-person jury ruled that he murdered and mutilated 21 boys, 14 girls and 17 women. In some cases, he cut out the hearts and stomachs of his victims, and in other cases he cut off their genitals and ate them, the court said.

Chikatilo initially was accused of 53 murders, but prosecutors said today they did not have enough evidence on one of the counts.

The number of Chikatilo’s victims was far more than other notorious serial murder cases, including Donald Harvey, a former nurse’s aide who pleaded guilty to 37 murders, most of them mercy killings in Ohio and Kentucky, and John Wayne Gacy Jr., who was convicted of killing 33 young men and boys in Illinois.

During the six-month trial, Chikatilo confessed to even more murders than he was charged with, and led police to where he buried many of them in a strip of forest land - leading him to be dubbed the ″Forest Strip Killer.″

But today he said: ″I didn’t confess to anything 3/8″

″Show me the corpses 3/8″ he yelled in a loud, slurred voice, pressing his head against the bars of the cage as he struggled to keep his balance.

When he was first led into the cage by armed police, he slumped over on the hard wooden bench, then suddenly stood and began yelling incoherently at the judge.

″I am a victim of Chernobyl and the Assyrian mafia,″ he yelled.