Serial killer is a term coined in mid 1970s by a former director of FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program named Robert Ressler. He chose the name serial because England police called such murder types “crimes in a series” and also because of serial films he grew up watching. Before then, these crime types were known as mass murders or stranger-on-stranger crime. According to FBI, a serial killer is a person who murders three or more victims with cooling off periods between each murder(Godwin, 2000). This description sets them apart from spree killers who murder in many locations and within short period of time and mass murders who kill four or more people at same place. These serial killers usually kill strangers, work alone and kill for the killing sake as opposed to crimes of passion.(Burkhalter, 2003)
Serial killers have caught attention of many professionals within psychology and law enforcement communities as well as common citizens through true crime books and media(Geberth, 1995). As per a recent FBI study, approximately 400 serial killers in United States in the past century has been reported with anywhere from 2,526 to 3,860 victims. There is a no way to know how many serial killers are active at any point in time however, experts suggested numbers ranging from 50 to 300 but no evidence to support them.
Alexander Yuryevich “Sasha” Pichushkin is a Russian serial killer who is believed to have killed at least 49 people and as many as 60 in southwest Moscow’s Bitsa Park where victims’ bodies were found. He was nicknamed as chessboard killer and well known along the leafy lanes of Moscow’s Bitsevky Park. The 33-year-old was a supermarket worker played chess under trees and invited his opponents for drinks afterwards.
He lured his victims mostly elderly men to a quiet part of the park before he attacked them from behind using a hammer. Before killing them, he usually suggested drinking a glass of vodka next to the grave of his beloved dog and dreamt of surpassing Chikatilo and going down in history. It was confirmed by Moscow prosecutor Yury Syomin at his trial when he referred to Andrei Chikatilo Russia’s notorious serial killer who was convicted in 1992 of killing and mutilating at least 52 people. Svetlana Mortyakova who was Pichushkin’s neighbor remembers him as pleasant young man always polite and who loved animals. She once found him in tears with grief over the death of his cat. Pichushkin began his murderous career in 1992 at just 18 year, he the boyfriend of a neighbor he had fallen in love with Sergei who was found dead in his apartment. Initially, the police believed it was suicide and he later killed the girl Olga whose body was found in Bitsevsky Park 5 years back. He murdered again in 2001 when he went on his five year killing spree.
Although elderly men were found on his list, three women and one child were found. A body of one woman was found with tiny stakes hammered around her eyes and into her skull. For him, life without killing was like life without food and he is reported saying “I felt like the father of all these people, since it was I who opened the door for them to another world”. Until summer 2006, when he was arrested, he stayed with his aging mother, Natalya in a high-rise block south Moscow. Pichushkin said he had a difficult life in which he had never known his father who walked out on the family. Various factors may have contributed to the serial offense in many ways.
His mother claims that the beginning of his downfall was when he was hit on the head by a swing when he was aged four. To his mother, this hit contributed to a drastic change in behavior and is looked to as a biological factor.
The mental harm caused contribute to the situation which maybe as a result of hallucinations, paranoid, grandiose and bizarre delusions. A psychological factor that affected him was the sudden death of his grandfather with whom he lived with. In Pichushkin’s case, his psychopathology likely worsened during his early adolescence when is parent’s marriage destabilized and according to psychologist Milkhail Vinogradov, the murders were prompted by anger at his grandfather also for abandoning him.
Expression of aggression is the product of interplay between mental life and environment of the individual(Kevin, 2000). It has been proposed as a factor that contributed to the nature of Pichushkin, he experienced multiple serious stressors ranging from his upbringing in broken family and childhood physical as a result of the swing hit. Social factors also affected Pichushkin way of living that led to anger which motivated his to display hostility towards a subgroup of the population. Pichushkin was arrested on 16 June 2006 and convicted on 24 October 2007 of 3 attempted murders and 49 murders. During his conviction, he asked Russian court to add an additional 11 victims to the body count. Judge Vladimir Usov took an hour to read the verdict which was life in prison with the first 15 years to be spent in solitary confinement.
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