Life In Prison For "Chessboard Killer"

A former grocery clerk was sentenced Monday to life in a hard labor colony for slaying 48 people in an effort to fill all 64 squares on a chessboard, luring his elderly, alcoholic victims with vodka and dumping them in a Moscow park.

Alexander Pichushkin, who claimed to have killed 60 people, stood in a reinforced glass cage with his hands cuffed behind his back as a judge delivered the harshest possible punishment under Russian law.

When Judge Vladimir Usov asked Pichushkin whether he understood the sentence, the defendant replied: "I'm not deaf."

The courtroom was packed with journalists and the victims' relatives, some of whom said life in prison was not enough.

Experts at Russia's main psychiatric clinic found Pichushkin sane but Usov said he would have to undergo psychiatric treatment at the prison for "a personality disorder expressed in a sadistic inclination toward murder." He added, however, that Pichushkin was aware of the criminal nature of his actions.

Pichushkin killed most of his victims in southern Moscow's sprawling Bittsa Park from 2001 until his arrest in 2006.

Prosecutors said Pichushkin drew in homeless, alcoholic and elderly people by promising them vodka if they would join him in mourning the death of his dog.

He killed most by throwing them into a sewage pit after they were drunk, and in a few cases strangled or hit them in the head, prosecutors said.

Beginning in 2005, he began to kill with "particular cruelty," hitting his intoxicated victims multiple times in the head with a hammer, then sticking an unfinished bottle of vodka into their shattered skulls, prosecutors said. He also no longer tried to conceal the bodies.

They said he killed 11 people in 2001, including six in one month.

"Justice has been done," Moscow city prosecutor Yuri Syomin said after the sentencing. "The culprit has been held accountable."

Tatiana Vlasova, whose son Vladimir was among the victims, said Pichushkin will never understand what he has done.

"He should have been treated as an exceptional case and given a death sentence," she said, holding a photograph of her murdered son.

Pichushkin remained unrepentant and defiant during the trial, saying he was "almost God" in deciding who would live and who would die.

"The notions of good and evil are relative things," he said in his final statement on Thursday.

The country's most notorious serial killer was Andrei Chikatilo, who was convicted in 1992 of killing 52 children and young women in 12 years.

Russia has maintained a moratorium on capital punishment as part of its obligations to the Council of Europe.

Pichushkin said Thursday he had killed 60 people and that three attempts had failed. However, prosecutors could only find evidence for 48 murders and three attempted murders.

A jury found Pichushkin guilty on all counts Wednesday after deliberating slightly more than two hours.