MOSCOW – A Russian man known as the “Chessboard Killer” because he wanted to commit a murder for each of the 64 squares on the chessboard was convicted Wednesday of killing 48 people, most of them in a Moscow park.
Alexander Pichushkin, who had taunted police during his five-week jury trial, stared silently at his feet as he sat in a cage of reinforced glass while the verdict was read in a courtroom packed with his victims’ relatives.
“Pichushkin has been found guilty with no mitigating circumstances on all counts,” Judge Vladimir Usov said.
The jury, which deliberated for three hours, also found Pichushkin guilty of three counts of attempted murder.
Pichushkin, 33, a former grocery store worker, claims to have killed 63 people, one short of completing the board. Police said they found a chessboard with the squares numbered for 63 victims in the apartment he shared with his mother.
Prosecutors said they are continuing to investigate at least 11 other killings that Pichushkin confessed to. If his role in those killings is confirmed, he would be the most prolific, convicted serial killer in Russian history.
In 1992, Andrei Chikatilo was convicted of murdering 52 people in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don and executed by firing squad two years later.
Russia has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 1996. Prosecutors asked for a life sentence for Pichushkin with at least the first 15 years to be served in isolation because of his continuing desire to kill.
Most of the killings occurred in Bitsevsky Park in southwestern Moscow between 2001 and 2006. Pichushkin lured his victims, often elderly or homeless men, to the park by promising them vodka if they would visit his dog’s grave.
Prosecutors said he killed six people in one month in 2001. As the killing spree escalated, it became more grotesque, prosecutors said. In later murders, Pichushkin beat his victims with a hammer before sticking a vodka bottle into their broken skulls. He made no effort to hide the bodies.
Pichushkin was arrested in June 2006 after his last victim, a 36-year-old co-worker, left a note at home for her teenage son saying she had gone on a walk with him. Her body was found in the park on June 14, 2006.