1996: Sergey Golovkin, the last executed in Russia

The most recent execution in the Russian Federation was that of serial killer Sergey Golovkin on this date in 1996.

Known as “The Fisher” or “The Boa”, Golovkin (English Wikipedia entry | Russian) grew up in Moscow as a shy outsider type (Russian link) with a noticeable slump and a predilection for animal cruelty, the kind of whom oblivious classmates will later say that they never saw it coming. He graduated from an agricultural academy and worked as a horse-breeding expert: people skills just weren’t his thing.

But people killing skills …

Golovkin committed his first murder in 1986,* forcing a 16-year-old boy into the woods near a north Moscow train station where he raped and strangled him and then mauled the corpse. Months later, the same treatment befell a 12-year-old whom Golovkin kidnapped from a summer camp, with even more horrible mutilations: the dead child was beheaded, emasculated and disemboweled. A third victim he killed in 1989.

But Golovkin really got going in 1990, after he bought a car and dug a garage cellar — a spot which he soon realized doubled as a dungeon. There he had the privacy for eight more homicides in the ensuing two years, each of the grisliest particulars.

One example to suffice: after having had his fill of raping, he proceeded to hang one victim to death with a makeshift noose; then, Golovkin trussed the carcass upside-down like a slab of meat, and savaged it from head to toe. Ears, nose, and genitals he sliced off, the skull prised open and the brain torched.** Golovkin even indulged a bit of experimental cannibalism on this occasion, but found he didn’t like the taste and left that particular grotesquerie out of his repertoire thereafter.

Reports and rumors of a monster at work by this time drew the attention of a police force that had been notoriously slow to figure out how to investigate serial killers. Golovkin had his garage in (and, hence, the victims had disappeared from) the vicinity of the outlying horse-stud farm where he worked; however, his registered residence was in Moscow itself, and this discrepancy helped investigators to overlook him as a suspect for a time.

But post-Chikatilo, the police were learning fast. The investigating team was soon able to put together a profile of the killer, and link the furtive and opportunistic 1986 killings to the more methodical maniac at work in the early 1990s. Golovkin was finally arrested in October 1992 and soon confessed all — a confession scarcely required given the macabre artifacts disgorged by his homemade abattoir.

Golovkin was shot on 2 August 1996, with the traditional “single bullet to the back of the head” method. Russia at that time was in the process of implementing a moratorium on executions as part of its entrance into the Council of Europe. Though the moratorium has wavered at times, it has held ever since. Golovkin, as of writing, is the last person judicially executed on Russian soil to date. Even so, the moratorium has never quite become a full de jure abolition of the death penalty.

There the matter rests, for now. For the future, who knows? There’s no indication of a real push to restore the death penalty on the horizon, but it bears remembering that absolutist Russia actually abolished the death penalty for 22 years in the 18th century. That moratorium didn’t stick.

* Golovkin attempted a similar murder in 1984, but the 17-year-old victim whom he raped managed to escape, prompting the rattled newbie predator to lay low for a while. That boy would later testify at Golovkin’s 1993 trial.

** Golovkin worked with animals professionally, and had beyond that the human anatomical expertise appropriate to his avocation. On one occasion when he kidnapped multiple boys together, he dismembered the one in front of the other, giving a little impromptu instructional to the survivor using the viscera. Golovkin later told investigators that the (temporarily) surviving child took it all in with odd calmness.

On this day..