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    Court picks jurors for chessboard killer

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    MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow City Court has picked jurors for the case of confessed serial killer Alexander Pichushkin, charged with 49 murders and three attempted murders, the defendant's lawyer said Thursday.

    Criminal investigators say Pichushkin committed his first murder in 1992, but that his main killing spree occurred between 2001 and 2006. Almost all the murders are believed to have taken place in wooded areas of Bitsa Park in southwest Moscow. The majority of his victims were male, but three were women and one was a child.

    The presentation of evidence and witness questioning is set to begin on Friday in the court.

    Pichushkin, a former supermarket worker, explained to police that with each victim he was getting closer to filling the 64 squares on a chessboard reportedly found in his apartment. Upon his arrest, he said he had three spaces left to fill.

    "I would sometimes wake up with the desire to kill, and would go to the woods that same day. I liked to watch the agony of the victims," the killer told investigators earlier.

    "For me, a life without murder is like a life without food for you," Pichushkin also commented.

    Most of his targets were elderly people walking alone in the park. Pichushkin said that initially he dumped the bodies in nearby sewage works. But he said he became frustrated that his murder spree was going unnoticed and began leaving the bodies out in the open.

    The former supermarket worker is believed to have hunted down his victims in the park, and killed them with a blow to the back of the head with a heavy object - in some cases a hammer, and often a bottle of his favorite brand of vodka.

    Pichushkin was arrested in the park on June 16, 2006, 11 days after murdering his last victim and leaving her body in a river running through the park. He said his aim had been to beat the record of the infamous Soviet killer Andrei Chikatilo, convicted of murdering 52 children and teenagers between 1978 and 1990 in southern Russia, and executed February 14, 1994.

    However, there is no likelihood that Pichushkin will share the fate of his role model, as Russia imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 1996.

    As the jury was chosen, the 33-year-old paced slowly up and down in his glass cage, his face unreadable. He looked pale and tired.

    There is little doubt that Pichushkin will be found guilty, and the trial has been described as catharsis for the victims' relatives by Russian media.