A Krasnodar Regional Court has sentenced a leader of the gang and two fellow killers held responsible for 18 murders in southern Russia, including the brutal slaying of three families in the village of Kushchevskaya in 2010, to life in prison.
Sergey Tsapok was described in court as terrorizing the region
for over a decade, while prosecutors said his two accomplices
were the "main killers of the gang." According to
prosecutors one defendant, Igor Chernykh, was involved in the
most brutal crimes, in particular, the murder of children,
including a nine-month old baby.
In 2010 the bloody slaughter of 12 people, including four
children, in the Krasnodar region village of Kushchevskaya,
shocked the whole country. One night in November several killers
burst into the home of a wealthy farmer, murdering him and his
entire family, as well as their guests. Most of the victims were
stabbed to death. In an effort to cover up the crime, the killers
set the house on fire.
The criminals then went into hiding. Some headed to Ukraine and
others to Rostov, while Tsapok, like his accomplice Sergey
Tsepovyaz a deputy on the local council, allegedly hid out in
Tsapok and several suspected accomplices were arrested in late November 2010. Their trial in the Krasnodar Regional Court began a year ago.
All the suspects were well-regarded village residents.
Investigators were even more appalled when they discovered that
the brutal slaying of 12 people members wasn't the only one
orchestrated by Tsapok, who exercised influence over local law
enforcement. An officer of the local police unit for fighting
organized crime allegedly covered up for the gang.
When the gang members were arrested, residents of the Kushchevskaya began telling the authorities of the atrocities perpetrated in the village. All of them denounced Tsapok and his henchmen.
After the defendants were detained, investigators announced that dozens of other crimes, which had long been gathering dust in the files, would be reopened, and soon several local and regional officials were fired.
On November 8, the jury found the six men accused of the 2010
massacre guilty on all counts.
Lawyers for the convicted gang members said they plan to appeal the verdict. "The defendants were not involved in the crimes of which they were accused," one of the defenders, Vyacheslav Dmitrienko, said Tuesday.
During the trial, the defendants retracted confessions they gave during the investigation, saying they had confessed under torture. The Prosecutor General’s Office dismissed the defendants' allegations as groundless, however.
At Monday’s hearing, Tsapok maintained his innocence, saying he
hoped to be released.
"I want to address the journalists present in the courtroom: We'll meet again. I'm not going to commit suicide like Vitaly Ivanov and Sergey Karpenko [gang members], if, of course, I don't get killed," Tsapok said in his final plea on November 18.
Tsapok urged journalists and law enforcement agencies to leave his family alone.
"There's one thing I want to ask you – leave my family alone. Release my mother. What is she serving time for? Why has she been given three years? And why did the mother of my children come under attack?" Tsapok said.
On November 15 Tsapok's mother, considered to be the mastermind behind the crimes, was sentenced by the Kutshevsky District Court in Krasnodar region to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony, and fined 500,000 rubles ($15,000).
Five other defendants, Sergey Tsapok's uncle Nikolay among them, delivered their last pleas on November 14. They also maintained did not recognize their fault either, and asked the court to acquit them. The jury found them guilty, and said that none of the gang members deserved leniency.
According to investigators, the Tsapok gang terrorized the
village of Kuschevskaya from 1998 to 2010. At first Nichoy Tsapok
was its leader, and the first murder of Ivanov, a businessman,
was committed by the gang in 1998. However, in 2002 Nikolay
Tsapok was killed and his brother Sergey took over. Prosecutors
said Sergey Tsapok "was burning with revenge for his
brother." Investigators hold the gang responsible of the
murder of 19 people, including the massacre of the 12 people in
farmer Server Ametov’s house in November 2010. Investigators say
that Tsapok considered Ametov to be the person who ordered the
murder of his brother.