Alexei Korochkin, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a series of murders and sexual assaults in Chelyabinsk, a city east of Russia’s Ural Mountains, may not have been involved in the crimes, according to a report from Russian Telegram channel 112. Korochkin’s guilt has been called into question with just over a year left before the end of his sentence.
The serial attacks were committed in 2004 following the same pattern: the killer murdered car drivers and sexually assaulted their female companions. At the time, the media called the perpetrator a “forest maniac” (“lesoparkoviy manyak”). A few months later, state investigators announced the arrest of the alleged “murderer” – a 32-year old South Ural State University (SUSU) security officer Alexei Korochkin. Police cited the main reason for the detention was Korochkin working night shifts in the area of the crime scene. One of the former operatives of the Chelyabinsk region Department of Internal Affairs described the procedure of identification of Korochkin by the victims as follows:
“When Korochkin was detained, they walked around the SUSU dormitory with his photo, and showed the photo to the victims' girls. They, by the way, did not talk about sexual assault at the time – they stated it later. The verdict reads that neither one nor the other were shown the photo before the identification, but that is not true. They showed them the picture and said, ‘That's him, he's the maniac, we got him.’ That was the end of the whole investigation. The girls, of course, ‘recognized’ Korochkin at the lineup. At first, they said the perpetrator was wearing a mask, but then they changed their testimony, and said he wasn't wearing a mask, he just told them to say so, threatening to kill them.”
They showed the picture to the victims and said: “That's him, he's a maniac, we got him.” The girls, of course, “recognized” Korochkin in the lineup.
At the trial, Korochkin pleaded not guilty. Despite the fact that the murder weapon was not found and the investigation did not present any clear evidence, the court sentenced Korochkin to 20 years in a maximum security penal colony. Korochkin’s lawyer submitted complaints about violations committed during the investigation, but they went unheeded.
While Korochkin was on trial, five more crimes were committed in Chelyabinsk, identical in both method and location, and using the same firearms.
This is how a former criminal investigations operative described those events in a interview with local outlet Znak.com:
“Korochkin had already been tried, everyone was getting awards for [his arrest], but the murders continued. The first one in April was not taken into account, as the man survived, but the other one in August made us all worried, especially when a car sank in the quarry near the park. The girl survived, but the guy, her husband, died. And then the gun that was used in the second murder of Korochkin (July 28, 2004) and in the attempted murder in April 2005, was suddenly ‘fired’ in Bashkortostan, according to the criminal investigative database. The similarity – the bullets, one of which was extracted from the head of the man killed on April 28, 2004, the second – from the neck of a survivor in April 2005 and the third – somewhere in [the city of] Ufa in the fall of 2005. A security services officer went to the judge at the regional court, asking to roll everything back, saying that the wrong person had been arrested and tried, but the judge said that it's too late, but one [of the killings] didn’t add up, so there won’t be a life sentence. In the end, they gave Korochkin 20 years [in prison].”
A security services officer went to the judge at the regional court, asking to roll everything back, saying that the wrong person had been arrested and tried, but the judge said that it's too late
According to 112, an elderly hunter died a year ago in Chelyabinsk, with local police finding a gun in his belongings following his death. After the weapon was checked through the police databases, it turned out that the weapon was used during all of the “forest maniac’s” attacks. Investigators are now examining the new findings.