In early January 1964, residents of Moscow whispered warnings to their neighbors of a mysterious, long-nosed killer prowling the city, knocking on doors at random, gaining entry to the homes of his victims by posing as a meter-reader for Moscow Gas. It seemed a nearly fool-proof gimmick, since the men from Mosgas made their rounds each month and were unlikely to arouse suspicion.
In the absence of reliable reports, with widespread tales of women slain and children mutilated, paranoia took control. By mid-month, the authorities reported that at least two Mosgas workers had been violently assaulted on their rounds, roughed up by tenants who were not inclined to scrutinize credentials. It became a standing joke for friends to telephone each other, hanging on the line in silence for a while before they whispered, "Mosgas calling."
On January 16, Moscow police announced the arrest of a suspect in the case. Vladimir Ionosyan, 26, was an unemployed actor fallen on hard times. He had turned to burglary as a source of revenue, reportedly killing in the process.
Charged with the ax murders of two boys and a woman in downtown Moscow, Ionosyan was also linked with two similar killings in a suburban district.
Vladimir's arrest resulted from a general police alert to taxi drivers, circulating suspect sketches with instructions to beware of anyone who looked suspicious. Officers were summoned after Ionosyan stopped a trucker on the street and tried to sell a television set -- a luxury in Soviet society -- at bargain prices.
A three-day trial resulted in Ionosyan's conviction on five counts of murder. Sentenced to death on January 31, 1964, he was shot by a firing squad the next day.
Vladimir's female accomplice, former ballerina Alevtina Dmitrieva, received a sentence of fifteen years in prison.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial