Anatoly Yuriyovych Onoprienko (Ukrainian: Анатолій Юрійович Онопрієнко July 25, 1959 – August 27, 2013) was a Ukrainian serial killer and mass murderer. He is also known by the nicknames “The Beast of Ukraine”, “The Terminator”, and “Citizen O”. After police arrested the 37-year-old former forestry student on April 16, 1996, Onoprienko confessed to killing 52 people.
Birth and childhood
Born in the village of Lasky in Zhytomyr Oblast, Onoprienko was the younger of two sons; his brother, Valentin, was thirteen years older. His father, Yuri Onoprienko, was decorated for bravery during World War II. When Anatoly was four years old, his mother died. He was cared for by his grandparents and aunt for a time before being handed over to an orphanage in the village of Privitnoe. According to Onoprienko, he resented the fact that he had been given away by his father, while his brother continued to stay under his care. In one interview, Onoprienko later alleged that it was this that predetermined his destiny, and remarked that seventy percent of those brought up in orphanages end up in prison as adults.
When finally arrested by police, Onoprienko was found to be in possession of a total of 122 items, including a sawed-off TOZ-34 shotgun, a number of other weapons, which matched the murder weapons used in several of the killings, and a number of items which had been removed from murder victims. While in custody, he eventually confessed to eight killings between 1989 and 1995. At first, he denied other charges, but ultimately confessed to the killing of 52 victims over a six-year period. While in custody, he claimed that he killed in response to commands he was given by inner voices.
These are the following murders confessed by Onoprienko, in chronological order:
1–10. In 1989, a family of ten was killed during a robbery when they stumbled upon the intruder. Onoprienko confessed that he and an accomplice, Sergei Rogozin, a gym patron with whom he robbed several other homes, committed the family murders with weapons that they carried for self-defense. He also stated that he cut off all contact with Rogozin afterwards. The victims consisted of two adults and eight children.
11–15. In that same year, five people, including an 11-year-old boy, were shot dead while sleeping in a car before their bodies were burned. Onoprienko confessed that the murders were unintentional and that he only planned to burglarize the car.
16–19. On December 24, 1995, the Zaichenko family of four were killed with a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun during a robbery in their home at Garmarnia, a village in central Ukraine, which was set ablaze afterwards.
20–24. On January 2, 1996, a family of four were shot and killed. The murders were quickly followed by that of a male pedestrian whom Onoprienko killed out of necessity in order to eliminate potential witnesses.
25–28. On January 6, 1996, Onoprienko allegedly killed four people in three separate incidents on the Berdyansk-Dnieprovskaya highway, by stopping cars before killing the drivers. The victims were Kasai, a Navy ensign; Savitsky, a taxi driver; Kochergina, a kolkhoz cook; and an unidentified victim.
29–35. On January 17, 1996, the Pilat family of five were shot and killed in their home, which was then set ablaze. Two potential witnesses were then killed, a 27-year-old railroad worker named Kondzela and a 56-year-old pedestrian named Zakharko.
36–39. On January 30, 1996, Marusina, her two sons, and a 32-year-old visitor named Zagranichniy were all shot dead in the Fastova, Kievskaya Oblast region of Ukraine.
40–43. On February 19, 1996, the Dubchak family was killed in their home in Olevsk, Zhitomirskaya Oblast. According to Onoprienko, he shot and killed the father and the son, mauled the mother to death with a hammer, and demanded money from the daughter before mauling her to death as well when she refused.
44–48. On February 27, 1996, the Bodnarchuk family was killed in their home in Malina, Lvivskaya Oblast. According to Onoprienko, he fatally shot the parents and then hacked the daughters, aged seven and eight, to death with an axe. An hour later, Onoprienko then allegedly shot and killed a neighboring businessman named Tsalk who was wandering around the Bodnarchuk property, hacking his corpse with the axe afterwards.
49–52. On March 22, 1996, the Novosad family of four was Onoprienko’s last alleged victims. According to him, he shot and killed all of the family members and set their home on fire to eliminate any traces of evidence.
The killings followed a set pattern. He chose an isolated house and gained the attention of the occupants by creating a commotion. He would then kill all occupants starting with the adult male, before going to find and kill the spouse and finally the children. He would then usually set the buildings alight in an attempt to cover his tracks. He would also kill any witness unlucky enough to cross his path during his murderous rampages.
Capture and conviction
In March 1996, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and Public Prosecutor’s Office specialists detained 26-year-old Yury Mozola as a suspect of several brutal murders. Over the course of three days, six SBU members and one representative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office tortured (burning, electric shocking and beating) Mozola. Mozola refused to confess to the crimes and died during the torture. Seven responsible for the death were sentenced to prison terms. Seventeen days later, the real murderer, Anatoly Onoprienko, was found after a massive manhunt, seven years after his first murder. This happened after he moved in with one of his relatives and his stash of weapons was discovered. Onoprienko was quickly booted out of the house. Days later, from the information received, Onoprienko was captured.
Onoprienko escaped the death penalty and was sentenced to life imprisonment; in 1995 Ukraine had entered the Council of Europe and thus (at the time) it undertook to abolish the death penalty.
Onoprienko died of heart failure in the prison of Zhytomyr on August 27, 2013 at the age of 54.