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  • Joe Turner

The Danilovsky Maniac - Russia's Most Bizarre Serial Killer

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

Russia is known as an unforgiving place. From its harsh environments to its wartime history to boasting the most brutal prisons in the world, Russia certainly has a reputation to uphold. The country has seen its fair share of atrocities over the years—bombings, war zones, radiation emergencies, serial killers. And to add to this list is one of Russia’s lesser-known but strangely unique monsters: The Maniac with Dull Eyes.

Sometimes known as the Danilovsky Maniac or the Dull-Eyed Maniac, this mysterious individual was responsible for the murders of at least seven women between 2004 and 2007. He strangled his victims with makeshift garrotes and skillfully covered his tracks like a master criminal, effectively evading capture despite his high body count. The killer’s sadistic activities put the local area in a constant state of fear, to the point that local authorities offered a significant reward for anyone who could help catch the Maniac.

Of course, Russia is no stranger to serial killers. In fact, it’s an interesting piece of trivia that if we totaled the body count of each country’s individual serial killers, Russia would be second to only the United States, and may actually be more given Russia’s lenience on factual reporting. However, the Dull-Eyed Maniac is a notable serial killer due to his unique calling card. On the walls of each of his crime scenes, the Maniac left behind crude pornographic drawings.

In addition to this bizarre signature, the Maniac also disposed of every victim inside abandoned buildings or construction sites around the city of Cherepovets in Vologda Oblast. All the Maniac’s victims were women between the ages of 17 and 31, and they’d all been raped prior to their slaughter.

Perhaps more creepily than his signature is that, according to reports, the Maniac abducted all his victims off busy streets in broad daylight, highlighting just how reckless, competent, and skilled this killer was at plying his grisly trade. Between abduction and disposal, the Maniac took his victims to a private space, raped them, and then strangled them to death. And like something out of a Hollywood horror story, the police eventually uncovered this anonymous brute’s lair inside an abandoned building somewhere in the city.

But after extensive investigation and 1,200 interviewed suspects, the Maniac was never caught. The case remains cold to this day.

Composite sketch of the Maniac distributed by Cherepovets police.

The Maniac Appears

The city of Cherepovets in the Vologda Oblast region of Northwest Russia is an industrial landscape. The city’s defining building, Severstal Cherepovets Steel Plant, is one of the largest iron and steel mills in the whole country. The rest of the city lies in its shadow, as the Cherepovets skyline is regularly interrupted by gigantic bursts of black smoke from the steel mill’s chimneys. The constant smoke not only pollutes the nearby river but also dyes the sky a murky grey.

On February 4th, 2004, 17-year-old Marina Ostrovskaya left her house in Sovetsky Prospekt intending to meet up with her fiancé’s parents. Marina’s boyfriend was an army cadet currently stationed overseas, and he would send letters to his parents, who would then pass them on to Marina. At around 2 p.m., Marina decided to take a shortcut to her destination, which took her through a vacant lot on Danilovsky Street (a location that would later become synonymous with the Maniac’s crimes).

Marina never arrived.

Marina Ostrovskaya.

Later that evening, Marina’s parents alerted the police of their daughter’s disappearance, but after an extensive search of the area, including a thorough examination of the usual route she took, police found no trace of the teenager. She’d simply vanished—during daylight hours, no less. The search for Marina lasted a total of 18 months, but during their search, authorities made three shocking discoveries.

In August 2004, the body of a 19-year-old girl was discovered in an area of abandoned wasteland in Pitinsky, Cherepovets. The girl was Irina Popova, a student from the local state university. She’d been raped, strangled, and discarded. Her body had not been concealed, simply left out in the elements to rot.

The following month, another body was discovered around two miles from the first. Police found Tatyana Baeva, a 22-year-old student in an isolated zone behind the Cherepovets School of Arts, having also been raped and strangled. Tatyana had been reported missing only a few days before. The last sighting of her had been two days before when she’d been returning home from a nightclub.

There were clear connections between the two victims. They were both young, attractive students who’d been attacked and killed in an identical manner. Both were left in open areas within close proximity to each other. Were these similarities purely coincidental, or had the industrial city of Cherepovets become a serial murderer’s hunting grounds?

It didn’t take long for the truth to surface, when only three months after the discovery of Tatyana Baeva, another victim was found under nearly identical circumstances (and eerily had the same first name as the previous victim) in December 2004. Tatyana Maskimova was a 17-year-old girl who was discovered in a vacant lot outside a military base on Milyutina Street and exhibited the same features as the two previous bodies. Rape, strangulation, and bruising across her torso.

But this time, there was a notable difference in the body disposal method. Maskimova’s corpse had been covered with sticks, leaves, dirt, and snow. Unlike Marina and Tatyana B., the killer did everything to hide the corpse of this new victim when he hadn’t taken similar measures with the others.

And in addition to this progression in modus operandi, police found something else besides a body. Around half a mile from the death site, they discovered a homemade garrote made from thin cable and two sticks. When tested for DNA, forensics found traces of the last victim on the rope. The presence of this murder weapon suggested that Tatyana Maskimova was killed on or near the area where she was discovered and wasn’t abducted like the previous victims.

It made for a confusing set of circumstances for the police, but despite the inconsistency, they operated on the belief that a single perpetrator had been responsible for the three recent discoveries and possibly Marina Ostrovskaya’s disappearance too. Cherepovets had a serial killer.

And like so many serial killers before him, the Maniac retreated into the shadows following this short murder spree. His cooling-off period lasted six months before he resurfaced to claim another innocent life.

On June 26th, 2005, the 31-year-old Lyudmila Miroshnichenko left her home on Babushkina Street to meet a friend less than a mile away. Their meeting was arranged for 1 p.m., but when the meeting time came and went, Lyudmila’s friend became concerned when she couldn’t contact Lyudmila by phone. She reported Lyudmila’s disappearance to the police, and she was immediately assumed to have been taken by what the media were now calling the Danilovsky Maniac.

Ludmila Miroshnichenko.

Sighting of the Maniac

Only a month later, in July 2005, two unassuming women caught a glimpse of the Danilovsky Maniac in the flesh, but this sighting came at a terrible cost.

On July 14th, 2005, 19-year-old Svetlana Stepanova, along with her sister and friend, walked towards the beach of the Sheksna River on the outskirts of the Cherepovets District. It was the middle of the day, and Svetlana wasn’t alone, but that didn’t stop the Maniac from pouncing regardless. As the group passed through a barren lot inside the city, Svetlana called out to her companions to continue on while she stopped to fix her shoes. She told them she’d catch up with them in a few minutes.

Svetlana’s sister and friend kept walking, and less than a minute later, heard a piercing cry from behind. The girls turned around and went back to the area they’d left Svetlana and found her bag and a bathing costume—the only things that remained of her. The girls frantically scoured the area for any signs of their friend, eventually making a horrific discovery in the nearby bushes.

They saw a stranger handling Svetlana’s lifeless body. The girls screamed, prompting the killer to run off through the wasteland and out through the courtyard of a nearby correctional school. The Maniac disappeared, and in their shock, the witnesses were unable to get much of a glimpse of the now-infamous perpetrator. Svetlana Stepanova’s corpse, throat slit and streaming with fresh blood, collapsed to the ground beside them. Her attacker had torn off her outer clothing, leaving her in just her underwear.

The police were shocked to discover the incident and were naturally reluctant to believe the actual events at first. They had the evidence in the form of Svetlana’s remains, but it was difficult for them to comprehend how such a level of brutality could be achieved in such a short window. According to the eyewitnesses, the perpetrator had abducted Svetlana during a momentary parting from her companions, in which time he dragged her out of sight, undressed her, slashed her throat, and departed before anyone could catch a solid glimpse of him. It was the actions of a phantom with near-supernatural levels of barbarism and cunning. Even worse was that these actions gave no insight into the perpetrator’s character. Was it the work of extraordinary planning, or was it an opportunistic execution he carried out on impulse? Was he simply unable to control his sexual urges and so struck despite the presence of his victim’s companions? And once again, in broad daylight no less? It was another layer of mystery to an already enigmatic figure.

But the crime produced new leads. Svetlana’s companions had seen the man and were able to give a very brief description to investigators. It also gave the police another area of wasteland to search for potential previous victims, and in doing so, made three ghastly discoveries.

The Maniac’s Lair

The particular area of wasteland was home to several decaying structures, which had once been in the throes of demolition, but construction work on them had ceased indefinitely. In the city of Cherepovets, it was not an uncommon occurrence. Legal issues regularly put a halt to demolition activities, leaving the city with a mass of half-destroyed buildings.

Authorities combed through the wasteland, eventually coming to the abandoned remains of the District Department of Internal Affairs. Demolition had wiped out the above-ground portion of the building, but there was an underground garage where workers of the former government establishment could park their vehicles.

But the underground chamber was no longer a parking lot. When police broke into the area, they found bizarre pornographic drawings across the walls. The bottom half of the walls were made up of wide cinderblocks, and the Maniac had drawn a different pornographic scene on each block. Several of the blocks featured vanilla sex scenes, while a large block running along the bottom of the wall featured a six-person orgy. All the characters had been drawn in black chalk and mostly consisted of an outline rather than distinguishing features.

View of foundations from the outside.
View of foundations from the outside 2.
Building interior.
The Maniac's pornographic drawings on the interior walls.

Initially, police thought these scenes might have been drawn by rebellious youth looking to shock and disgust, especially given the infantile nature of the depictions. However, strange pictures weren’t the only thing police found inside the underground chamber.

They also found a concrete pit piled high with old car tires. Inside were two bodies—including the person’s body that had kick-started their whole investigation. The corpses of Marina Ostrovskaya and Lyudmila Miroshnichenko, the two abducted girls, lay unceremoniously in a mass grave of tires.

Marina Ostrovskaya had been missing for 18 months, and Lyudmila Miroshnichenko had been missing for four weeks. After a forensic examination of the bodies, authorities concluded that these girls were both victims of the Danilovsky Maniac. They’d both been raped, strangled, and left in this underground lair. His victim count now reached six, and those tasked with hunting him expected a seventh very soon.

The Trail Goes Cold

The Danilovsky Maniac had taken six lives over 18 months. For a modern serial killer, it was a staggeringly high victim count. More concerning for police was that not only were they struggling to find viable suspects, but the rapid kill rate suggested the Maniac’s next victim wasn’t far behind. Despite this, the Cherepovets police regularly boasted that the Maniac would soon be caught. Outside authorities in Vologda were called in to assist, who helped draw up a psychological profile of the offender.

Investigators believed that the Danilovsky Maniac lived near the wasteland where the first murders were committed: Danilovsky Street. He was a white male between 20 to 40 years old and was experienced and prudent. He acted coldly and rationally in every case and did everything he could to not leave any trace of himself behind. For example, instead of using a belt or factory product, he killed his victims with a makeshift garrote. They believed he might have been law enforcement or ex-law enforcement.

His motives for the murders were sexual, although rape was his primary goal. He only strangled his victims to eliminate them as a witness to his true nature.

Police checked around 30 men living on Danilovsky Street. They took samples of handwriting and blood from all suspects to determine DNA. In total, during the investigation, 14,000 residents of Cherepovets were checked for involvement in the murders. Several people were even detained as a result of the checks, but the real Danilovsky Maniac was not among them.

While the police suspected another body to show up around the summer of 2005, none came. The residents of Cherepovets breathed easily, at least for the time being. During this momentary cooling-off period, investigators suggested that the Maniac purposely refrained from killing as they’d discovered his hideout. He may have been searching for a new place to conduct his homicidal activities or may have purposely got himself locked in prison on an unrelated crime to avoid suspicion.

But very soon, the Maniac began to hunt again.

The “Dull-Eyed” Maniac

After two years of hibernation, the Danilovsky Maniac reappeared.

On June 11th, 2007, 17-year-old schoolgirl Natalya Zakalova walked along a forest belt near the Oktyabrsky Bridge. Her intended destination was the banks of the Skeksna River (the same place Svetlana Stepanova had been heading to) to meet her parents. Two minutes from her destination, Natalya called her parents to tell them she’d be there shortly.

But two minutes passed, and Natalya didn’t appear. Soon, her parents became concerned and called Natalya, but her phone didn’t even ring. It was completely dead. They hurried to the police station and told them of their missing daughter, and it didn’t take long for the horrific truth to surface. Natalya Zakalova had been abducted.

Fears of the Maniac’s revival began to creep in both investigators and the general public. Natalya had disappeared without a trace like several of the other victims, but this time, they discovered the truth of what happened within a week. On June 19th, 2007, police found Natalya’s remains in Zasheksinsky Park—around two miles from the Skeksna Riverbank. She’d been raped, strangled, and disposed of in a remote patch inside the park.

What police later discovered added further insult to injury. They traced Natalya’s last moments and found that she’d been within shouting distance of her parents when the Danilovsky Maniac, fresh from his long hiatus, resumed his murderous reign. The distance between Natalya and her parents when she was abducted was less than 20 meters.

But at last, the killer’s insistence on stalking his prey in broad daylight came back to haunt him. A number of eyewitnesses caught sight of a strange man in the region where Natalya had been taken, so police were finally able to put identifiable features to the figure terrorizing the city of Cherepovets. From multiple eyewitness statements, police concluded that the Danilovsky Maniac was between 30 and 50 years old, relatively short, stocky. He had a dense build, short-cropped brown hair with bald spots and patches of grey. But the most identifiable feature, according to those who’d seen him, was the “blurry” or “cloudy” look in his eyes. Once this piece of information hit the news, tabloid sensationalism evolved the Danilovsky Maniac into the Dull-Eyed Maniac.

Investigators drew up a composite sketch of the perpetrator and distributed them around the city. A reward of 1 million rubles (around $13,000) for help catching the Maniac was offered. Information from the public came in thick and fast, and there was one apparent sighting of the Maniac that demanded the police’s attention.

A teacher from a local correctional school had recently caught a strange man chalking pornographic drawings on the school’s exterior walls. When police investigated, they had no doubt that the man had been the Dull-Eyed Maniac, as it was the same school whose courtyard the killer had escaped through after killing Svetlana Stepanova two years before.

It seemed that the Maniac was back in his old stomping ground, stalking the same locations as he had done throughout his murderous career.

As Mysteriously as He Arrived

The Dull-Eyed Maniac disappeared. After this seventh murder, the Maniac simply vanished, never to be heard from again. Authorities waited with bated breath for the next young female corpse to fall into their laps, but the months and years went by, and none came.

The situation was alarming in itself since it would be almost impossible for a sexually-motivated offender to cease killing of his own will. The alternatives were that the Maniac had died, been imprisoned for another crime, or resumed his killing spree in another part of the country.

Minor incidents came and went over the ensuing years, giving police a glimmer of hope that they’d finally found the Maniac, only for the finish line to be pushed further back. In July 2008, police captured a Cherepovets resident dragging two young girls into a bush, but DNA examination cleared him of the Maniac murders. In July 2009, police landed upon an elderly gentleman who greatly resembled the composite sketch of the Maniac and found that the same man had killed his ex-girlfriend in a jealous rage. But again, DNA evidence cleared him of any involvement with the Maniac’s crimes.

But a crime in November 2011 hinted that the Maniac might still be active in the city.

A 19-year-old student named Svetlana Filyuk had an argument with her boyfriend and then stormed out of his apartment. Later that night, Svetlana called her boyfriend and asked him to pick her up on Batyushkov Street, but when the boyfriend arrived, Svetlana was nowhere to be seen. Her disappearance was soon labeled an abduction, and it took investigators over a year to finally locate the missing girl. In summer 2012, some volunteers discovered Svetlana’s corpse in a hole behind an empty building on Oktyabrsky Avenue. She’d been covered with sticks, dirt, and leaves, very similar to how Tatyana Maskimova’s corpse had been found. Furthermore, if Svetlana Filyuk were indeed a victim of the Maniac, it would be the second instance of him killing two women with the same name. Despite this, Svetlana Filyuk’s death was never officially linked to the other Maniac victims.

Alley on Batyushkov Street.
Possible sighting of Svetlana Filyuk prior to murder.

In December 2022, authorities appealed for public help by releasing three new photographs relating to the Maniac case. Two photographs were modern composite sketches and one was of an unknown person who suspected of being the Maniac himself.

2022 sketches of the Maniac based on eyewitness testimonies.

Possible photograph of the Maniac. The identity of the man is unknown.

If you have any information, contact the necessary authorities on 8-921-532-89-48 or 8-951-732-87-51.

How did the Dull-Eyed Maniac manage to evade capture so well? Was he a law enforcement official like so many people believe, or was he simply an everyman who got lucky? Why did he disappear for two years after killing with such regularity, and why did he mysteriously vanish for good in 2007?

The case of the Maniac with Dull Eyes continues to be a mystery. He may still be out there now, hiding in the shadows of Cherepovets or any other city in the world.


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