Boris Fomenko was, as the newspaper headline put it, the "pride" of his school in the Soviet city of Kislovodsk. He was on his way to graduating with highest honors and was secretary of his school's Young Communist League, or Komsomol.
Then, on Oct. 9, displaying the same cool calculation he applied to his career, Fomenko killed Anna Gubanova, another 10th grader, because he was worried that she would tell a story that would ruin him.
The chilling tale, as told in the newspaper Sovietskaya Rossiya this month, shattered the image of the exemplary Soviet youth and exposed a cynical fraud.
It also served to raise questions of growing concern here about the kind of values being promoted in the Soviet Union's young "leaders" (a term Russian has borrowed from English) as they make their way up the ladder to Communist Party membership, rank and privilege.
After examining the case of Fomenko, following the official police investigation with her own research, the Sovietskaya Rossiya reporter concluded that a "leader" does not have to be more talented, more honest or more humane than others. He just has to talk about it at meetings.
"The most frightening thing," she wrote, "is . . . that such a person can advance easily up the career ladder with a minimum of human qualities and actual abilities."
The case of Fomenko recalled other recent articles critical of the young careerists in the Komsomol, a giant organization boasting 42 million members, virtually every high school student in the country.
Smyena magazine recently blasted Komsomol "bosses" who view their posts as "a trampoline to something higher," and "who have learned how to smooth-talk on a rostrum, then settle themselves back in a chauffeured car."
Other articles appear regularly in the press taking an alarmist view of Soviet youth, focusing on violence, materialism, nihilism and other antisocial tendencies.
But some find even more disquieting the portraits drawn of young Soviets showing a kind of group cruelty and a premature cynicism.
In the popular movie "Scarecrow," schoolchildren viciously gang up on a little girl, a disturbing picture for nonconformists in this conformist society to watch.
Articles have quoted youngsters speaking with contempt of Soviet values. A girl who has passed an exam in scientific communism with high marks said she thinks it is incongruous. "The same goes for everyone else: they don't believe what their lips are saying."
In an anonymous letter to Komsomolskaya Pravda, one young reader wrote: "What spiritual, moral and psychological values are you talking about? I don't deny that they probably exist somewhere, but not in my village ."
The picture drawn of young Fomenko in Sovietskaya Rossiya is a familiar one in any school, in any organization. He was a teachers' pet and a student who was never rude, never a "hooligan," who knew his Komsomol catechism and had a talent for organization.
But the reporter found that Fomenko also was "arrogant" and "power-loving," that he took pleasure in literally twisting the arms of weaker schoolmates and making them sing revolutionary songs, that as Komsomol secretary he would order classmates to go out of the room and walk back in without a smile on their faces.
And while he got good marks -- always the coveted "fives" of the Soviet system -- it turned out that he hardly ever read books. "As he himself would explain: he had no time to read, he was studying."
Fomenko's undoing was his pride, according to the newspaper account. He had taken a liking to Anna, a neighbor in his apartment building, a quiet, nondescript girl whose classmates later circulated her picture to remember who she was.
But despite Fomenko's credentials, Anna told friends she thought he was strange. And on the fateful day as recounted in the newspaper, she apparently said something to him that he considered humiliating.
Losing control, he hit her. She fell, and he ran from the apartment. When he pulled himself together, he thought the situation through.
"He calmed down somewhat and began to understand clearly the irreparability of what he had done and what would come of it: no medals, no ranking position. Anna would regain consciousness and tell all -- in the apartment building, in school and in the city committee, everyone would know."
Fomenko first went back to school to establish an alibi. Then he returned to Anna's apartment and stabbed her with a knife. After some time, he reported the crime, saying he had heard moans and cries and had run upstairs in time for Anna to die practically in his arms.
Friends were amazed that Fomenko could carry on after such a horrifying experience, but he did: getting good grades, chairing meetings, carrying a wreath to Anna's funeral.
But when the police, suspicious of his account, called him in, he cracked and confessed.
The news stunned Fomenko's world. Bit by bit, the article uncovers another view of Fomenko: his classmates never liked him, and at the Komsomol they said he attended meetings but rarely spoke.
Challenged with evidence that Fomenko was hardly leadership material, the first secretary of the Kislovodsk Komsomol blamed people at Fomenko's school.
"Surely," he said, "the people knew whom they were electing . . . . Why did they not come to me earlier about all this? I really don't understand these young Komsomols."