Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Richard Speck: Born to Raise Hell

Night of Terror

Judy Dykton decided to get some early morning studying done for a neurology exam. Steamy July weather had forced Judy to run her fan for days. She switched it off and heard a sound like an animal crying outside. Ignoring it, she decided to do some laundry before hitting the books. Downstairs she turned on the washer then headed back upstairs to study. Once more she heard something. This time she thought it sounded like a child crying out. She pulled open the blinds and saw a woman across the street at 2319, perched on a ledge. Judy pushed open the window and heard Cora's tearful cry. "Oh, my God, they are all dead!"

Gloria Davy
Gloria Davy
Snatching her robe, Judy ran to 2319. Cora Amurao, crouched on the window ledge, was shaking and crying. Judy entered the open door of the townhouse and stepped into the living room. She found Gloria Davy nude, her hands tied behind her, a strip of cloth knotted so tightly that a roll of skin puffed over the cloth around her neck, her head hanging from the couch, her skin a dusty blue. Murdered.
She fled to the town house of the housemother, Mrs. Bisone, yelling, "There's trouble in 19!"
The housemother woke her other student nurses and ran from the house toward 2319, Leona Bonczak trailing behind.
Cora jumped from the 10-foot ledge and stood on the front stairs, frozen between the horror in the house and the outside world. "Everyone on the sampan has been killed." She kept pleading to everyone not to go in, the killer might still be inside.

Patricia Matusek
Patricia Matusek
Leona and Mrs. Bisone arrived on the scene. Leona touched Gloria Davy on the couch and said. "Davy," as if what she was seeing could not be true and Gloria Davy would moan or stir to give some sign of life. She didn't.
Slowly Leona mounted the stairs and looked down the hall. In the bathroom she found a body. "Matusek!" she said. No answer. Another dead classmate. She crept into the other two bedrooms where she found the rest of the students drenched with so much blood that she was unable to recognize all of them except for Nina Schmale. A pillow covered most of her face, but she could see it was Nina. She lay on her back, hands tied behind her, legs spread for all the world to see, a knife wound in her heart, a tight cloth around her neck.

Nina Schmale
Nina Schmale
Cold, numb with the reality that eight of her fellow students were dead, Leona walked downstairs. Mrs. Bisone was waiting. She told her not to go up, that everyone was dead, and there's nothing that can be done.
Mrs. Bisone grabbed the phone, shaking, sick, called South Chicago Community Hospital and told them all her girls had been murdered. When the hospital asked who had been killed, she told them she was unable to tell them, the only thing she said was "I need help."

"Oh, my God, they're all dead!"

Someone flagged down Officer Daniel Kelly, a young patrolman who had only been on the job 18 months. He radioed in that there was trouble, then entered the house. Inside, he was shocked to learn that he knew Gloria Davy. He had dated her sister in the past. Upset, he drew his gun, searched the house and found the other bodies. Kelly ran outside to his car radio.
On July 13, Joe Cummings, WCFL radio police reporter, decided to roll on the city's southeast side. He was making the rounds to the different police stations to see if anything was happening. Past midnight, July 14, he had gone to a house fire he heard over the radio. It turned out to be nothing. Around 5:30 a.m., he headed back to the WCFL radio station in Chicago. While driving back, he heard something on his zone radio. He had city wide, but this call was coming in on the zone radio.
"Help! Help! Help!...Oh, my God, I dated her sister! Oh, my God, I never seen nothing like this!...Oh gimme the sergeant...gimme my lieutenant...Oh, God." Joe heard the dispatcher say, "Where are you...where are you?" over and over.
But Kelly kept saying, "Oh, my God, they're all dead!"
Now Joe was talking to the radio asking where, what address, just like the dispatcher, knowing something had happened. He could feel it right in the pit of his stomach...this was big. Finally, the cop said, "I'm at 2319 East 100th Street."
Dispatcher said, "Fine...we'll get some help over there." Joe said to himself," that's about a block away." He swung his car around, shot down the street, adrenaline pumping. He pulled up in front of 2319, grabbed his tape recorder, jumped out the mobile unit, and ran toward the cop. There was no one else on the street. Mrs. Bisone, Leona, and Judy were trying to calm down Cora inside 2315.
Joe noticed that Kelly was going in circles. He had his cap on backwards, his shirt tail hung over his pants, his face red, his eyes darting all over the place.
"I'm Joe Cummings, WCFL police reporter, what's happened? I'm not a policeman...I'm a police reporter...what do you got here?" he asked.
"It's a homicide," said Kelly.
"I'm going in...I won't touch nothing," Joe said.
Joe opened the door, stepped inside and saw the body of a white female that was murdered. He went back out and walked up to the cop again and said, "Say, you've got a homicide in the living room." At that moment, Joe couldn't understand why the cop appeared agitated with a routine murder.
"Go upstairs," Kelly said.
Joe went back in and looked for the stairs. He went up to the second floor, looked down the hall and turned right. It was still dark, the sun had begun to rise. He walked down the hall. To his right, he saw bodies inside the bedroom, their skin a sickly ochre. A little further down the hall, he saw another bedroom with three more bodies and said. "Oh my God." The same mantra as Kelly. He turned to go down stairs, passed a bathroom and found another body inside. That made seven upstairs and one downstairs.

A Sole Survivor

Then, he saw a bloody handprint on the bedroom door. He leaned close and he could see fingerprints. He turned around to go back downstairs and he saw a screen pulled out. "So," he said to himself, "holy cow, what the hell's this...eight dead women!" He felt sick going down the stairs, his stomach began to churn. Joe passed through the living room, took one last look at the body, then went outside and vomited. He returned to the policeman and asked, "What's that noise?" Joe heard a noise like an alarm. "Ahhhhhhhhhh!"
"That's the survivor," Kelly said.
"Where?" asked Joe.
"Over there in that townhouse," said Kelly, pointing in the direction of 2315.
Joe ran up to the townhouse door and looked in. A man was giving a petite Asian woman a shot in the arm as she sat on the couch crying.
"I'm Joe Cummings, police reporter. Who's that?"
"She's a survivor, Cora Amurao."
"Where does she live?" asked Joe.
"Next door...we're trying to calm her down so she can keep her sanity."
"Sanity? That girl will never be the same again." Joe asked Kelly, "Who are these people?"
"They're student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital," Kelly said.
Joe ran back to his mobile unit, grabbed his two-way radio, called the station. "This is Joe Cummings. I'm on the southeast side. We got a mass murder out here." The station told him to take the cue we're on the top of the hour. Which meant the story would be in the six a.m. news. He had been on the scene for about six minutes.
He cued, then reported, "Eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital found stabbed to death...I'll have more in my next report." Joe ran back to the townhouse and up to the second floor. He didn't know why. From the hallway, he could hear sirens screaming through the streets, comfortable that more help was coming. He checked the rooms again, turned to head back downstairs and heard a funny sound, like squish, squish, squish. He looked down, saw blood on the rug so thick it pooled up over his soles hitting the top of his shoes. The blood had moved from the two bedrooms into the hallway. Disgusted, he left the townhouse and threw up again. In all his years working the combat zones of Chicago, he had never seen such brutality, even covering an airplane crash with bodies everywhere. It's expected to see bodies at a plane crash, not eight young women butchered in their own beds.
Police arrived and saw Joe vomiting. They started yelling, "Hey, Joe, what's the matter, can't take it? You must be getting old." All the whooping and cat calling stopped when the police entered the house, then came outside to share the vomit trough.

The Scene of the Crime

Several hours later, Frank Flannagan, commander of the citywide homicide unit, took Joe aside and said. "Do me a favor, when you do your reports for WCFL, just put in that their throats were cut."
"Why?" asked Joe.
"Because were gonna get every kook in the city saying he killed these girls. Leave the particulars out....only the killer will know what really happened to those girls," Flannagan said. Joe agreed.
Outside, the streets filled with cops. People ran from house to house alerting their neighbors. It was 6:30 a.m. Jack Wallenda related to the Flying Wallendas - -was the first detective on the scene. The big powerful man with a soft-spoken voice was shocked at the cruelty of the killings. Slowly, methodically, he viewed the bodies one by one.

Pamela Wilkening
Pamela Wilkening
First, Gloria Davy, nude, belly down on the couch, a strip of sheet tied with double knots knots that looked too perfect, too professional. He noticed what appeared to be semen between her buttocks. Buttons from her blouse were strewn over the stairs. The killer had torn them off her while walking her down the stairs. Tossed on the floor, a size 38-40, white BVD T-shirt was found. Wallenda checked the upstairs bedroom and found the body of Pamela Wilkening, gagged, stabbed through the heart. Near her, Suzanne Farris, lying face down in a pool of blood, a white nurse's stocking tied around her neck. Wallenda counted 18 stab wounds to her chest and neck.

Suzanne Farris
Suzanne Farris
Next, Mary Ann Jordan, Suzanne's close friend, lay on her back, stabbed three times in the chest, once in the neck, and eye. He moved on to the northwest bedroom where he found Nina Schmale, her night gown hoisted to her breasts, the same strips of sheet tied around her neck with the two characteristic knots. Stab wounds formed a ritualistic pattern although superficial around her neck. At closer examination, her neck appeared to be broken.
Under a blue cover, he found Valentina Paison, 24, face down, her throat cut bisecting her voice box. Thrown over her like a broken doll, lay Merlita Gargullo, body face-up, stabbed and strangled.

Mary Ann Jordan
Mary Ann Jordan
Wallenda walked through the door to his right. The legs of Patricia Matusek protruded from the bathroom - on her back, hands bound behind her, strangled with a piece of bed sheet, double knotted, her nightgown rolled up over her breasts, her white panties rolled down showing her pubic hair. It looked like she was kicked in the stomach. Bloody towels all over the bathroom floor. Although an experienced detective, Wallenda knew this was the worst crime he had ever seen.
Josephine Chan, director of Nursing, was brought in the townhouse, but could only recognize three of the victims: Gloria Davy, Patricia Matusek, and Pamela Wilkening.
Eight patrol wagons drove up. One by one, the Cook County Coroner, Andrew Toman, released the bodies to the wagons. The housed sealed, the crime lab technician went to work.

The Manhunt

The cops fanned out and hit the streets around the area. They figured only someone who knew the area could be involved, since the nurse residence was not highly visible. Acting Lieutenant Victor Vrdolyak, Sergeant Mike Clancy from Burglary, Edward Wielosinski, John Mitchell and Edward Boyte formed another of the teams for the manhunt. Cora had given the description of the killer: six feet tall, blond hair, 160 lbs. with a southern drawl. Wielosinski spoke to an attendant at a gas station nearby, a regular hang out for the area's shady characters. He remembered hearing about a guy from one of the managers that left his bags at the station two days before, complaining about missing a ship and losing out on a job.
The team also checked out the Merchant Marine Union Hall on 100th Street, walking distance from the townhouse. Shoving their way through the crowd that had formed in front of the union hall, the team questioned the agent. The agent did not recall anyone with that description. Back to the gas station, they again questioned the attendant making him call Dick Polo, the manager, at home, waking him from his sleep. He told them he, indeed, held two bags for a tall blond guy with a heavy southern drawl. Yes, the guy told him he had missed his ship, so Polo sent him to a rooming house on 94th and Commercial.
Now, the cops hit the flophouses and the 24-hour taverns in the area. Wielosinski knew the South Side like the back of his hand. The shadier area was a mere mile from the death scene, easily accessible by foot. More cops joined, forming two teams that canvassed the neighborhood. Nothing turned up.
Wielosinski went back to the Union Hall, sure there was another lead. A bell struck when the agent remembered an irate seaman who lost out on a double booking two guys sent for one job, a common practice dealing with the alcohol-addled seamen. Dumping the wastebasket, he fished out a crumpled assignment sheet. He remembered the guy had a southern accent, in fact, he could barely understand him. The assignment sheet read, Richard B. Speck.

Dallas Sheriff's 1965 mugshot of Richard Speck
Dallas Sheriff's 1965 mugshot of Richard Speck
Wielosinski got the file of the seaman from the union hall records. Speck matched the description perfectly from the gas station manager. They also checked with the department to see if Speck had a record. Nothing showed up locally.

Speck Lucks out

Speck arrived at Pete's Tap around 10:30 a.m., fresh, clean, and rested. From his belt hung a 12-inch hunting knife. Not the knife used in the killing, Speck didn't feel a bit anxious showing it off. A month earlier, Speck pawned his 25-jewel watch for some booze. Now with a few bucks on him, he bought the watch back from Ray Crawford, the bartender. Then he asked Crawford to put the hunting knife behind the bar. Comfortable, Speck began to spin a tall tale about his time in Vietnam. How he used the knife to kill several people there.
Speck, at one point, reached behind the bar, got the knife, then sneaked behind the bartender, put his left arm around his chest and held the knife at his throat. He told Crawford, this is the way he'd kill someone if he had to. Crawford, angry and not impressed, read him the riot act. Speck, with his southern charm, claimed it was just a big joke.
William Kirkland, a regular at the bar, bought the knife from Speck. He told Kirkland he purchased the knife from a vet aboard ship. In reality, the knife was given to Speck by his brother-in-law, Gene Thornton.
The drunken duo traipsed across the street to another bar, the Soko-Grad, and continued to drink. It was there that Speck for the first time heard that there was a survivor from the massacre. Turning to Kirkland, he said, "it must have been some dirty motherfucker that done it." Then he started on another tale of how he hit his brother-in-law over the head with a bottle and was thrown out of the house. But not before his sister gave him $85.00.
He hooked up with another drinking buddy, Robert R. "Red" Gerald, a fellow hillbilly. From bar to bar, they drank until Red, wrecked from too much booze, needed to crash. Speck took his drunken buddy Red back to his room at the Shipyard Inn so he could sleep it off. Before he let Red sleep, Speck told him about shacking up the night before with a hooker who thought he was so good he got it for free. Speck left Red, went downstairs to the bar and belted down a few more until being pulled away for a telephone call.
Wielosinski had the agent call Speck's last known telephone number, his sister's. The agent told Speck's brother-in-law that Speck was needed to ship out, the union hall had found him a job. Gene Thornton told the agent he would try to find Speck, happy to know that his low life brother-in-law would be out of his hair.
Thornton called the Shipyard Inn were he found Speck. He told Speck to call the union hall because they had a job for him. Speck called the union hall and the agent told him to come down for his assignment on the ship Sinclair Great Lakes. Clever Speck knew that the Sinclair had shipped out a few days before. He told the agent he was up north and it would take an hour to get there, but he'd be down to pick up the assignment. He never showed up.
Immediately, Speck went upstairs, woke Red, packed his bags, went downstairs and ordered a cab. Red, still woozy, sat outside on the curb holding his head. Speck waited inside Shipyard Inn bar and began playing pool by himself. When three plainclothes cops came in looking for a tall, blond guy with a southern accent, Speck played cool. He listened and continued to play pool just ten feet from the officers. The bartender was no help.

Speck Lucks out Again

When a cabby came in and yelled "Commercial," Speck slugged his drink down, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and slipped out the side door. He piled his belongings and Red into the taxi and told the cabby to go north. Before heading north, Speck told the cabby to drop off Red. He told Red he had a job on the Sinclair starting at 7 a.m. the next morning. The cabby, a full-time bartender and part-time cabby, became suspicious when Speck couldn't give him the address of his sister, claiming she lived in a real poor slummy section of town. "You know," said Speck, "where all the beatniks are."
The cabby drove north, asking his customer about the address. Speck, clueless about his whereabouts, pointed to a building, Cabrini-Green, in the projects. Speck made sure he watched the cabby drive off.
Fanny Jo Holland watched her husband walk to his job down the street. She was shocked to see a white man getting out of a cab with suitcases in the middle of the projects. The sun was so bright, she could see his tattoos. Speck walked toward Rush Street, a trendy area packed with singles bars. Antsy in the nice area, he headed down Dearborn for the Raleigh Hotel, another flophouse. Originally a luxury apartment building built in 1882, known for its red and green terracotta stone, now, the Raleigh had dissolved into single rooms, devoid of its earlier elegance. Speck was at home. Neat, clean and using that special charm, he rented a room from manager Otha Hullinger under the name of John Stayton, one of Speck's friends from back in Texas.
At the Raleigh, Algy Lemhart, a clerk, remembered a drunken Speck and his "cracker" accent coming in with a "colored girl" giving him the wrong room number. He remembered he did not want to wake his boss, Mrs. Hullinger, so he let Speck go up. He watched the couple and before the elevator closed he heard the girl call him "Richard." A half-hour later, the girl came down and told the clerk that Speck had a gun.
In the morning, Lemhart told Hullinger about the man with the gun. From the description, Hullinger figured it was "Stayton." Suspicious and perturbed, she called the police to sort it out. Two officers showed up at 8:30 a.m. from the 18th District Police Station a few blocks away. Speck, groggy from booze, woke up to see two cops standing over him. He lay fully clothed on his bed with a gun sticking out from the pillow. The cops asked Speck why he had a gun. He denied it and told him it belonged to the hooker. When asked what his name was, he told them Richard Speck.
The police checked his wallet and found his seaman's I.D. and passport. Nothing connected yet. Not all the police were alerted to the identity of the killer. For 15 minutes, Speck was questioned. The officers confiscated the gun and left. However, they did not report the gun. Cops told the clerk Speck was harmless. He lucked out again.

Gone to Ground

By evening, Speck hit the dive bars walking distance from the Raleigh each one the same as the others: the stench of stale beer, piss-perfumed air, low lights, sticky carpets that have never seen the light of day. A perfect place for those needing to get lost in the folds of darkness. Speck holed up in the Pink Twist Inn, hugging the jukebox and slugging down Jim Beam cokes.
The coppers were still checking the leads on the South Side, never realizing Speck had escaped. Back at headquarters, the Chicago Police Department asked the FBI to check on Speck's fingerprints. His whereabouts had been tracked to the Shipyard Inn and the Commercial Cab Co. The cabby told the police he dropped Speck off at Cabrini-Green. Police were dispatched there with rifles.
Clancy hooked up with Speck's sister, Martha Thompson, and got a good itinerary of his travels since leaving Dallas. They picked up Speck's drinking buddy Red, still in a drunken stupor, but able to give an account of Speck's actions. The police put out a stop order for Speck at the union hall.
While armed police canvassed Cabrini-Green, Speck bumped into two winos, Claude "One Eye" Lunsford and "Shorty" Ingram, passing a bottle back and forth outside a resale shop. Never one to pass up a drink, Speck hung around fascinated with One Eye, a hobo who had recently come up from Dallas on a freight. The winos were staying at the Starr Hotel. Quickly, Speck shot back to the Raleigh, packed his bags, and headed to the Starr to meet his new buddies. Otha Hullinger and Algy Lemhart spotted Speck leaving. "I'm going to the laundry," he said, as he walked out the door, never to return. Exactly 15 minutes after Speck left, two detectives came in and showed a photo of Speck to the clerks. Mrs. Hullinger stared at the photo and her eyes widened. "It's him, it's Richard, he just left."

Claude
Claude "One Eye" Lunsford
Speck hit bottom when he entered the Starr Hotel. The "rooms" were 85 cents a day. Actually, the place was divided into windowless cubicles with cement floors. Inside, a cot, footlocker and chicken wire over the cubicle gave the place a Third World feel. The foul air smelled of booze, puke, sweat and feces. Hacking coughs, delirious ranting, moaning forgotten men, and someone vomiting their guts up was the music that filled the air.
Speck dropped his bundle on the bed and left to meet One Eye and Shorty on the fire escape for some serious drinking. Sharing a bottle of cheap wine, they swapped stories about life. Speck always brought the subject back of hopping a freight. One Eye agreed to show Speck the ropes but felt there was something about Speck he didn't like.
In the morning, Speck rose early, packed his bags, ready to hop freights. He banged on One Eye's door. One Eye told Speck he would meet him down stairs. Instead, One Eye, fed up with Speck's insistence, ditched him and went down the street to a restaurant.

Rock Bottom

Speck found him and again insisted they hop a freight right away. One Eye told Speck he wanted to stay in Chicago and make more money as a day laborer. Giving up, Speck split to go sell some of his possessions.
On Saturday July 19, 1966, Homicide Commander Flannagan, still on the streets all night looking for Speck, received a call on his car radio. Lieutenant Emil Giese, the police department's fingerprint expert, told Flannagan that Speck's prints were a match from the prints taken from the townhouse. The word spread fast. Officers were in tears. The frenzied search had wearied them both physically and spiritually. Now, they hit pay dirt. Their hard work was paying off. Everyone knew Speck would be caught soon.

Prosecutor Wm. Martin
Prosecutor Wm. Martin
A police delegation of sergeants, Clancy, Murtaugh, Vrdolyak, with the detectives from the case were sent to the state's attorney office for an arrest warrant. There they were met by State's Attorney, Daniel P. Ward, Louis Garippo, Criminal Division Chief, and Assistant State's Attorney, William J. Martin.
Martin nervously typed up the arrest warrant, knowing that this would be the most significant case of his young life. State's Attorney Ward was concerned about the press. He didn't want anything jeopardizing the case. He called Police Chief Wilson to give him the guidelines, but was too late the chief was giving a press conference while Ward was on the phone. An all points bulletin was now out for Speck. The public would know the identity of the murderer.
Meanwhile, Speck had sold some of his belongings on Skid Row. Ready for another drunken binge, he picked up a pint of wine at the local liquor store and several newspapers with his name and photo splashed across. Speck went back to the Starr Hotel, sucked down the wine, slipped into the bathroom down the hall, smashed the bottle and cut his wrist and inner elbow. A blood trail led to a cubicle, not Speck's cubicle, but his buddy One Eye. Still trying to hide his identity, he switched cubicles. Speck lay on his cot bleeding, newspapers spread all over the floor, guilty eyes staring up from his own photo. He called out to his neighbor for water and help. He was ignored.

In Custody

One Eye, doing the rounds after work, caught a glimpse of the newspapers with Speck's picture. He went back to the Starr and found himself in the midst of Speck's suicide attempt. One Eye left, made an anonymous call to the police department, saying that the man they are looking for is at the Starr Hotel. The police did not dispatch a car.
Speck was rushed to Cook County Hospital, the same hospital that held the bodies of the nurses. The ambulance drivers chatted about politics while Speck cried out for water. They never noticed the police bulletin on their dash with Speck's photograph.

Speck recovering
Speck recovering
Inside the emergency room, Nurse Kathy O'Connor prepped Speck. Leroy Smith, a first year resident examined Speck's wounds. He noticed something familiar about him. He checked his arm and used his own saliva to wash off the blood looking for a tattoo. It was there, as he suspected, Born to Raise Hell. Smith asked the nurse to go get the newspaper he left in another room. He compared the photo to Speck. "Water," Speck pleaded..." Smith grabbed him by the back of the neck squeezing with all his might. "Did you give water to the nurses?" He dropped his head back on the gurney and called in a policeman who was guarding another patient down the hall. Smith told him he had Richard Speck, the suspect in the murders. Floored, the patrolman made the necessary calls and all hell broke loose.
One thing was certain Speck was going to get the best care possible. Bringing him to justice took priority over everything else.
It took about two hours to prep Speck for surgery on his severed artery. By then, Assistant State's Attorney Martin and about a dozen policemen had muscled their way down the halls of Cook County Hospital to Surgery.

Born To Raise Hell

Richard Benjamin Speck was born December 6, 1941, in Kirkwood, Illinois. Seventh of eight children, Speck adored his father. When Richard was six years old, his father died. Raised in a religious family, Speck's mother forbade alcohol in her home. But when she married Carl Lindberg, a Texan with an arrest record, she relaxed her distaste for alcohol. They moved to Dallas, Texas. Lindberg's drunken violent rages were taken out on Speck. A failure at school, Speck hooked up with older boys in their teens, boozing, fighting and whoring his way through life.
Speck married and, allegedly, fathered a child. Abusive to his wife and mother-in-law, the marriage was short-lived. He spent a good portion of his marriage in prison. His wife Shirley said Speck had raped her by knifepoint, claiming he needed sex four to five times a day. In January 1966, Shirley Speck filed for divorce, just six months before the murders of the nurses. In that same year in Dallas, he had been involved in a stabbing and a burglary. Speck, given a lesser sentence for the stabbing, was fined 10 dollars. The burglary would have put Speck back in prison. So, with the help of his sister Carolyn, he took the first bus out of Dallas to his sister Martha in Chicago.
Speck stayed a few days, then went to Monmouth, Illinois, a small town he had lived in as a child. He moved in with family friends. He worked for one month as a carpenter, then quit to spend time drinking in the local tavern. His favorite hangout was Palace Tap. Bragging as usual, he told barmaid Jane Boon that he had killed his ex-wife's husband in Dallas. Many people noticed his accent, his Texas drawl.
On April 2, 1966, Mrs. Virgil Harris, 65, was attacked in her home. Grabbed from behind, with a knife at her throat, the man spoke in a southern accent. He told her not to make a noise and proceeded to cut her housecoat into strips, tie her up and rape her.
On April 13, Mary Kay Pierce, a barmaid at Frank's Place, was found dead in a hog house behind the tavern. Her liver was ruptured from a blow to her abdomen. Police Chief Tinder and two deputies questioned Speck but, with his usual charm and cunning, the interview was cut short because Speck got sick. He promised to return on April 19 for more questioning but never showed up. They traced him down to the Christy Hotel where they found jewelry and a radio from Mrs. Virgil Harris's house. Searching further, they found other items from burglaries. The hotel manager/owner saw Speck leave the hotel hours before, carrying his suitcases. He said Speck told him he was "going to the laundromat." Instead, he was on a bus. Three months before the murders, angry, rejected, and on the run, Speck was a walking time bomb.

The State Prepares for Trial

The most important thing for Assistant State's Attorney William Martin was the hope that Speck would be found competent to stand trial. Martin carried on a vigil outside of Speck's room at Cook County Hospital to make sure no one got a drug-induced statement from him.
Martin graduated from Loyola's Law School where he was elected the outstanding law student of his class. In 1962, he received his law license. He applied to work for Gerald Getty, a liberal public defender of the poor and exploited. Martin never was asked to join Getty's office. Impressed with Getty's work, Martin modeled his own career after the famous Chicago lawyer. Shortly after, he obtained a position in the municipal division of police court as a Cook County assistant state's attorney. A shy man, Martin started out petrified of speaking in public. Assigned to the lowliest court cases, Martin soon became astute at arguing cases. For two years, he worked diligently, supplementing his education after hours.
Prosecuting Speck began with one important factor; keeping the witness Cora Amurao from cracking up or fleeing back to the Philippines in fear. Martin kept Cora out of the limelight. He brought her mother, Marcario, and her 27- year- old cousin, Rogelio, to Chicago for moral support. He put them up in a secret apartment with a 24-hour guard. Everybody in the media wanted to get to Cora. Hundreds of thousands of dollars could be made on book deals, articles, appearances. Even the Philippine government wanted to control Cora's future.

Corazon (Cora) Amurao
Corazon (Cora) Amurao
She steadfastly stayed away from the temptations until her court appearance.
Speck, recuperating in the hospital, was unaware that Martin had arranged for Cora to identify him. Dressed in nurse's attire, she went on rounds with another nurse, eventually arriving in Speck's room. For a full 3 and 1/2 minutes, she observed the man she saw that night her friends were brutally murdered. Leaving the room, she met Martin and several detectives. "It's really him," she blurted as she collapsed in an emotional heap, as if all the horrible experiences hit her for the first time. The case grew: fingerprints, Speck unable to tell his whereabouts during the murders, Cora's identification, witnesses that put him in the area, the knife recovered from Calumet River, T-shirts worn by the Speck left at the crime scene and sperm identified as Speck's.
Speck did not admit he did the murders. During interviews by Marvin Ziporyn, the psychiatrist, Speck told him many times, 'I must have done it if everybody says I did.' Speck claimed he blacked out from booze and dope that night. A group of psychiatrists found him competent to stand trial. Speck was declared sane, but a sociopath.
Martin asked Jim Gramenos, a former FBI agent and then an assistant public defender, to question Cora. For months, Cora was handled with the utmost care and it would soon pay off. Gramenos punched questions at Cora, leaving not one bit of information undiscovered. Cora, unemotional, answered each question thoroughly. At the end of the pretrial interview, Cora gave 133 pages of testimony about her night of horror. Martin, pleased at the testimony, knew his months of protecting Cora were worth it.

The Defense

Gerald Getty would butt heads with Martin as Speck's public defender the same lawyer Martin tried to work for a few short years before. Getty tried to suppress evidence through numerous motions 24 exactly. A key motion was whether Speck should be tried for one murder at a time or all of them at once. If Martin insisted on individual trials, then there was the possibility that a mistrial could be granted, based on the tremendous force each murder would have. In a case of a man who killed his wife and two children, each case was tried separately. He was given various sentences but not the death penalty until the last trial. His lawyer argued that the shear burden of trying a person for multiple murders forced the jury to eventually give the sentence the prosecution wanted death. Martin left it open. Speck's lawyer asked that Speck be given a single trial for all the murders. Martin agreed, feeling it was an advantage for his team.

Judge Herbert Paschen
Judge Herbert Paschen
Getty insisted that Speck could not get a fair trial in Chicago. He won a motion for the trial to be moved and a new judge chosen. Judge Paschen had been the judge from the beginning of the preliminaries. Getty was surprised, as well as everyone else, when Judge Paschen continued as the judge even though the trial moved to Peoria, a three-hour drive south of Chicago. Paschen placed a gag order on the press. The Chicago Tribune filed suit against him in the Illinois Supreme Court for Freedom of Press, but the gag order held.
Of the 609 people questioned for jury duty, 50 made it through the initial cut. On March 30, 1967, twelve men and women were chosen. The jury selection was a long and tedious process, taking six weeks of questioning. Speck sat through the whole thing, uninterested.
The prosecution's Team Speck, made up of Bill Martin, George Murtaugh, Jim Zagel, and John Glenville, geared up for the upcoming trial. Cora, her mother and her cousin slipped into Peoria quickly, hidden away from the press. All the players witnesses that saw Speck looking at the townhouse, Red, One Eye, numerous bartenders, flophouse clerks, cabbies, drinking buddies, the woman from Cabrini-Green, the hooker Speck stole a gun from, experts and detectives were all holed up at the Ramada Inn in Peoria.
Monday, April 3, 1967, the trial began. Martin had chosen the very young George Murtaugh over John Glenville, an older man, purely for strategy. Having two inexperienced young men fight against the venerable Getty might give points to their side.

The Trial

The courtroom was packed with the families of the murdered nurses and curious onlookers. The judge gave Martin the go-ahead to proceed. He took 75 minutes to explain how Richard Speck systematically murdered the nurses one by one. Glancing over his shoulder at Gloria Davy's father, Martin saw the terror in his eyes as if he were living through the last moments of his daughter's life.
Several key pieces of evidence had to be omitted. Martin knew that the gun had been obtained in an illegal search and he knew that the testimony of the hooker was questionable. The T-shirts found in the hotel had blood on them, but one of the detectives cut himself, opening the Speck's suitcase. Martin couldn't take a chance on the blood not being Speck's.
Getty's words gave Martin the clue to his opponent's strategy. Getty called the fingerprint evidence "smudges," claiming that the police planted the fingerprints. Getty was unaware that the radio announcer that was on the crime scene before the detectives had seen clear fingerprints. "The-cops-framed-Speck" accusation made Martin furious as his pen flew across his legal pad. Evidence or not, the whole trial revolved around Cora Amurao, the only eyewitness.
The petite woman took the witness stand. The courtroom was riveted to every word that came from her mouth. Asked to identify the man who killed her friends, Cora calmly opened the door to the witness box, walked up to Speck, looked him in the eye, and said that he was the man.
Speck looked disinterested. Dressed in a suit and black glasses, he looked like boy next door. Meticulously, she demonstrated how she and her friends were herded into the bedroom and tied up. Often she pointed to the small-scale model of the townhouse, never faltering once. This was her day in court.

Cora's Story Part I

Cora heard four knocks on the door. Opening it, she saw Speck, very tall, dressed in black, standing in the doorway, a small revolver in his hand. The bedroom light illuminated his blond hair. Cora stared at the gun. Speck pushed her back. "Where are your companions?" Speck asked and grabbed her arm.

Merlita Garguilo
Merlita Garguilo
By that time, Merlita had gotten out of bed. Speck walked both women down the hall to the large bedroom in the back. Flicking on the light, he saw three women sleeping. Cora, Merlita, and Valentina hid in a closet, frightened. Then, when one of the women knocked on the closet door and assured her roommates the man would not harm them, they came out.
Speck pointed the gun at Nina and Pat, while holding Pamela around the waist. He switched off the light and made the women sit in a semi-circle, their backs to the window. Speck sat facing them smiling, his long legs and slow Texas drawl made him seem like a buddy, someone close to their age. "I want some money. I'm going to New Orleans." Each asked permission to get their purses and gave Speck all their money.
After a while, Gloria Davy came home from a date with her boyfriend. She staggered up the stairs, somewhat drunk, and opened the door to the bedroom. She screamed a low guttural scream when she saw Speck with a gun. Gloria joined the circle. Speck got up, tore a sheet from one of the bunk beds and began cutting them up into strips. One by one, he tied each woman's hands and feet.

Cora's Story Part II

Two other nurses, Mary Ann and Suzanne, back from a chat session, opened the door to the back bedroom and found Speck hovering over a bound and gagged Pamela, her eyes filled with terror. They bolted down the hall right into the big room and screamed when they saw all the other women tied up. Speck, in hot pursuit behind them, pushed them into another bedroom. He stabbed and strangled the two women as they fought back. Then, he washed up and returned to Pamela to finish her off with one stab to her heart. He washed again.
In the bedroom, the girls tried to squeeze themselves under the narrow bunk beds. Speck untied Nina's feet, led her down the hall to a bedroom, stabbed her in her neck and suffocated her with a pillow. Cora heard her say "Ah" and then the sound of water. Cora struggled even more to get her head under the bunk.

Valentina Paison
Valentina Paison
Speck appeared and took Valentina, not bothering to untie her feet. He easily lifted the 100-pound woman and carried her to her death. Cora heard "Ah," again and the water. He returned for Merlita, lifting her and carrying her off. Five minutes passed. Cora heard her say "Masakit," "It hurts."
Another 30 minutes passed and the water sounds. Before he took Pat Matusek, an athletic 155-lb woman, Cora heard him ask, "Are you the girl in the yellow dress?" He led Pat to the bathroom, punched her in the stomach, rupturing her liver, and then strangled her.
Speck came back to the room, disrobed Gloria, who was asleep from the drinking she had done that evening, and raped her. As the bedsprings squeaked and groaned, Cora watched, then closed her eyes and prayed. When she opened them again, they were gone.
Cora decided to switch beds, she rolled and scooted her way across the bedroom floor, knowing that any moment Speck could come in and drag her to her death. She made it under the bed and wedged herself in as tight against the wall as possible and waited.

Speck defense team: Gerald Getty (left), Richard Speck, Public Defender Jerome Wexler (UPI )
Speck defense team: Gerald Getty (left), Richard Speck, Public Defender Jerome Wexler (UPI )
Cora's testimony made the events of that night come alive for everyone in the courtroom. Speck's comment about the yellow dress clearly indicated that Speck had seen the girls before the murders. He planned the killing spree. Getty tried to dispute the fingerprints by calling in expert witness, but it backfired. The prosecution made a great case.
On April 15, 1967 in the Peoria County Courthouse, after 49 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Richard Benjamin Speck guilty of the murders. The court was cleared and Judge Paschen gave Speck the death sentence.
Speck avoided the death penalty when the Supreme Court changed its ruling on capital punishment. He was re-sentenced to 50-100 years in prison. He never spent even 20 years in prison. Instead, Speck died on December 5, 1991 from a massive heart attack. On autopsy, they found he had an enlarged heart and occluded arteries. He had blown up to 220 lbs.; his doughy face remained covered with pockmarks; his body was bloated like a dead fish. No one claimed his body, no family, and no friends. Speck was cremated, his ashes thrown in an unknown location.

Back From the Dead


Speck at age 49 just before his death
Speck at age 49 just before his death
On May 1996, Bill Curtis, news anchor at CBS in Chicago, received a videotape. The video, shot in Statesville Correctional Institute, showed a bizarre, boastful Speck with women's breastsobviously from some hormone treatmentwearing blue silk panties and having sex with an inmate. Before the sexual exploit, he casually tells an off camera interviewer about the murders.
When asked why he killed the women he said, "It just wasn't their night." He was asked how he felt about the killings, "Like I always feel. Had no feelings." He added he did not feel sorry. Throughout the video, he ingested and smoked drugs with bravado. At one point he said, "If they only knew how much fun I was having, they'd turn me loose." He described in detail how it felt to strangle someone "...it's not like TV.... It takes over three minutes and you have to have a lot of strength."
John Schmale, the brother of one of the murdered nurses, said, "It was a very painful experience watching him tell about how he killed my sister...."
Even after death Richard Speck proved he was born to raise hell.

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