First Inkling of Horror
On June 1, 1981,
it was raining when three detectives went to check on a call about a
corpse discovered at the Moonlit Hotel in Villa Park, an outlying area
of Chicago. It wasn't a surprise to receive such a call, since this
hotel, located among junky shops, bars, and fast-food places, was known
for its shady characters. It was rumored to be a place where you could
meet someone for quick sex or to find a drug fix.
maid first brought the grisly discovery to someone's attention. Jaye
Slade Fletcher, a Chicago police officer and author of true crime
articles, collected the available information on the case in Deadly
Thrills. She describes how the maid reported a terrible odor from
somewhere near the hotel that grew worse by the day. The Moonlit's
manager walked out into a trash-strewn field behind the hotel to see
what he could do to get rid of it. There he found the source of the
smell, which was not, as he had expected, a dead animal. It was a young
woman, whose remains consisted largely of bones and some clinging flesh.
He turned around immediately and called the police.
arrived and they could see that this victim had been there a while.
Quite a while. In fact, she was so decomposed that they could see her
skeletal structure, but the maggots were still there, doing their
workóan unusual combination of postmortem characteristics. The woman
clearly had been murdered, because she had been bound with handcuffs
before being left hereóprobably before she had died. She also had cloth
in her mouth used as a gag, and still wore a sweater and panties, but
they had been pulled down to her thighs. In her socks was a small wad of
dollar bills, so robbery had not been a motive.
The key issue at the moment was to first establish the
corpse's identity, and then figure out the time interval from the moment
of her discovery to the moment she had died. In the condition this body
was in, that would be difficult. In those days, there was no Body Farm,
an institution set up in Knoxville, Tennessee to help establish time of
death, for remains like this. In fact, the best information they had at
that point about such estimations was mostly anecdotal.
Only an expert could offer an answer.
Investigators also needed to
establish whether this was the primary crime scene, where she had been
killed, or rather a secondary scene, where she had been dumped after she
was dead. The fact that no one had yet reported the body indicated that
it might not have been here long. However, that possibility implied that
whoever had killed her was able to tolerate decomposing remains long
enough to carry them and place them here. One thing the detectives knew
they could check was the soil beneath her body, to determine whether
body fluids had leached into it.
But there was no use trying to
analyze the situation at the moment. They had to deliver the body to the
deputy coroner, Pete Siekman, so that he could attempt to determine the
cause and manner of death, as well as take fingerprints and teeth
impressions to compare to records, if they existed. Then they could
stake out the scene and start searching for evidence.
A search of missing persons
reports turned up no leads, so detectives called the Chicagodepartment,
who told them that the practice of rolling money inside socks probably
indicated that the victim had been a hooker. That made the process of
identifying her much more difficult. But the fingerprints and dental
records helped, and in less than two weeks, they had an ID: Linda
Sutton, 21. As they had suspected, she proved to be a prostitute with a
string of arrests. She was also the mother of two children, both of whom
lived with Sutton's mother.
But a twist in the case came from
the coroner: Despite the advanced state of decomposition of the body, he
had determined that she had been dead for only three days. The remains'
advanced rate of decomposition was due to two rather large wounds to her
chest where her breasts had been removed, which had allowed for an
invasion of parasites that had devoured the body in record time. This
woman had been brutally assaulted and mutilated.
And she was not to be the last one
to be found.
A String of Murders
thirty-five-year-old cocktail waitress was abducted from her car on
February 12, 1982. The gauge showed that the tank was empty, implying
that she had run out of gas and possibly sought help when she was
abducted. Her purse was on the front seat and the keys were still in the
ignition. A search turned up her nude body on an embankment near the
road. She had been raped, tortured and mutilated. The press was asked
not to report that her breast had been amputated, according to Bill
Kelly in Homicidal Mania, so that the police could retain that
detail for interrogation purposes.
A few days later, the body of a
Hispanic woman wearing an engagement ring was discovered. She had also
been raped and strangled. While her breasts were not removed, they had
been badly bitten. Her killer had also masturbated over her body. A
psychiatric assessment of this crime pegged the attacker as a local man
who probably loved animals and had a family. He also had a dark side
that no one knew, turning into a cruel psychopathic murderer at night.
In May, according to Amanda Howard
and Martin Smith in Rivers of Blood, another young woman,
Lorraine Borowski (Fletcher calls her Lorry Ann, as her family had done)
was abducted from where she worked as she crossed the parking lot alone.
She was repeatedly raped and then subjected to having a wire wrapped
around her breast to sever it from her body. Finally, one of her
attackers killed her with a hatchet. The woman's remains were discovered
at a dump site which was in the same general area where Sutton had been
dumped, although this time it was in a cemetery known as Clarendon
The unknown attacker did not wait
as long for the next assault. Two weeks after Borowski had been abducted
and killed, Shui Mak was abducted on May 29 as she was returning home
from her family's restaurant in Streamwood. She had been riding in her
brother's car, but after they argued, he dropped her off to wait for a
ride with other relatives whom he believed were following behind. They
never saw her again, because she was abducted. Her body was discovered
four months later at the end of August, buried at a construction site,
and it, too, had been similarly mutilated.
The police now had a number of
similar killings to deal with and the link seemed obvious: young women
who all had lost a breast in a similar manner. They had a difficult time
finding any leads, however, until another victim turned up. But this
one, Angel York, had survived, according to Howard and Smith. She was
able to report that two men were using a red van to abduct women and
hold them inside with handcuffs for rape and torture. They had even
forced her to use a large knife to cut her own breast, which drove one
man into a frenzy. He cut her more and then masturbated into the wound
before closing it with duct-tape and dumping her into the streets. That
was in June 1982. She reported what she knew to the police.
However, they were unable to stop
the men from killing another woman. In August, Sandra Delaware was found
dumped along the side of the Chicago River. Her wrists were bound
together behind her with a shoelace, says Fletcher, and her left breast
had been removed in the same fashion as the prior victims. A bra was
knotted around her throat. She was just a kid, but as a prostitute, she
had been vulnerable. They estimated her death at approximately six hours
In less than two weeks, Carol
Pappas, 42, turned up missing, as did Rose Beck Davis, 30, a marketing
executive. She was found stabbed, raped, and strangled on September 8,
1982 behind a stairway of a North Lake Shore apartment building. A black
sock was tied around her neck and her clothing was in disarray. Her face
was crushed and blood pooled beneath her. It turned out later that she
had been beaten with a hatchet. Deep cuts were evident on her breasts
and her abdomen was full of small punctures.
Ressler from the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit was asked for a profile.
He indicated that this woman's attacker was uncertain about his
sexuality and was probably bisexual. He expected the man to look
By October, another prostitute,
Beverly Washington, 20, was grabbed, mutilated, raped, and dumped. Her
abductors had left her for dead, but she survived and was taken to the
hospital. She was able to give the police a description of the gang of
men who were grabbing women off the streets and subjecting them to an
extreme form of sadistic sexual abuse.
Howard and Smith state that
despite her condition, Beverly Washington managed to provide the
officers with several significant characteristics about the man who had
attacked her. Fletcher provides more detail. The driver had been a
slender white man who looked to be around 25, wearing a flannel shirt
and square-toed boots. He had greasy brown hair and a mustache.
Washington said he had offered more money than she'd asked for and had
seemed unaccountably nervous. When he asked her to get into the back of
the van with him, he had a gun. He ordered her to remove her clothes and
she quickly obeyed. Then he placed handcuffs on her, forced her to
perform oral sex, and threatened her with violence if she did not
swallow the handful of pills he held out to her. As she passed out, she
saw him holding a cord over her, and she feared that she was going to
The man dumped her into the trash,
one breast severed and the other nearly so, but someone discovered her
and called the police. Rushed to the hospital, she was saved. Police
officers who questioned her asked her about the van he was driving, and
she said that it had been red with tinted windows and a wooden divider
inside. She also told them that there were feathers and a roach clip
hanging from the rearview mirror.
Those details proved to be helpful
in making an arrest. Within three weeks, on October 20, 1982 (according
to Howard and Smith, while Kelly says November 7 and Fletcher says
October 5), the police pulled over a red van and questioned the driver.
He had red hair and did not resemble the victim's description, but the
van fit it perfectly. The driver told them his name was Eddie Spreitzer,
and that the van belonged to his boss, Robin Gecht. The officers
directed Spreitzer to Gecht's house and had him beckon Gecht outside.
They hoped that he would be their guy, and when he came out, he did
indeed fit the description, down to his shirt and boots. Yet he acted as
if he had no worries at all and was quite willing to help. Either he was
innocent of these crimes or utterly arrogant, confident that he was
Later, the victim picked Gecht out
of a set of photos as the man who had assaulted her, but when detectives
went back to see him, Gecht had a lawyer. It was clear that he was going
to be quite careful in his dealings with the police, and in fact they
found him difficult to shake up. According to some sources, he had an
interesting association with a notorious criminal from the area,
arrested three years earlier in 1979. Chicago, it seemed, had attracted
its share of unusual offenders.
Within two weeks, investigators
had linked the other young woman who had survived an attack similar to
that of Beverly Washington with the red van. She had been forced to cut
her breasts with a knife and had been thrown out onto the streets. The
police believed that Gecht and Spreitzer were responsible for at least
three such incidents, but they would soon learn about more.
At first, Spreitzer and Gecht did not yield much useful
information, but eventually Spreitzer looked like he would break down.
He seemed to be genuinely afraid of Gecht. Authorities leaned on him and
he succumbed, feeling guilty about what he had done.
Spreitzer's interrogation produced a 78-page statement.
Spreitzer first admitted to
driving the van as Gecht committed a drive-by shooting in which a man
died and another was left paralyzed. Investigators quickly identified
the incident. Then Gecht directed him to slow down to pick up a black
prostitute. Gecht had sex with her and then took her into an alley and
used a knife to remove her left breast. He placed it into the van on the
floor. Spreitzer was quite upset as he spilled out these gory details,
claiming he did not like all the blood. He added that during such
incidents, Gecht sometimes had sex with the breast on the spot. He also
described how Gecht had shot a black woman in the head, chained her up,
and used bowling balls to weight her down in water. He believed that she
had never been found. According to what he told Jennifer Furio in The
Serial Killer Letters years later in prison, he had watched Gecht
batter a woman with a hammer; the sight made him vomit. But on another
woman, he removed the breast himself, cutting off both. He thought she
was dead when he did this, but did not try to find out for certain. He
said that Gecht had forced him to have sexual contact with the woman's
time Spreitzer was finished, writes Fletcher, he had offered details for
seven outright murders and one aggravated battery. His interrogators
were shaken by the aberrant nature of the acts, yet they believed they
now had some leverage with Gecht, who was in another interrogation room.
They collected photographs of known victims and laid them before Gecht.
He looked at them without much interest and denied knowing any of the
women featured in them. The detectives then took him to an area where he
could plainly see Spreitzer showing something to other officers, but he
still did not waver. He acted as if he had nothing to hide. Because
Spreitzer had clearly implicated him, the detectives found his behavior
But Gecht's nearness had an odd
effect on Spreitzer. He suddenly changed his story, as if afraid, and
said that Gecht had not murdered anyone. His account became so chaotic
that his interrogators did not know what to believe. Spreitzer now said
that another man, his girlfriend's brother, Andrew Kokoraleis, had been
the killer, but he could not offer many details about the man. Gecht
confirmed that he knew Kokoraleis and even provided police with an
address, but once again, his demeanor was undisturbed. He seemed not to
know things about Kokoraleis that Spreitzer did.
Dismayed, the police went to
question this third member of the killing crew. They wondered if three
men could really kill together in such a horrendous manner. They did not
yet know the half of it.
long before Kokoraleis also confessed. Bill Kelly relates the details:
Kokoraleis talked about how they had kidnapped women off the streets,
raped them, and stabbed them with knives, razors, tin can lids, and can
openers. With piano wire, they then amputated one or both breasts and
masturbated onto them. He admitted to the murders of Rose Beck Davis and
Lorraine Borowski, and inadvertently confessed that he had been involved
in the deaths of eighteen women. As he described the assault on Sandra
Delaware, he said that he had shoved a rock into her mouth to keep her
from screaming, forced a wine bottle into her that made her bleed badly,
and stabbed her with a knife. Her autopsy report confirmed these
Along with the interrogations,
detectives were also asking acquaintances of the suspects about their
characters and personal habits. It soon became clear that Gecht had a
breast fetish, asking girls he knew to let him stab them with pins. He
allegedly forced his wife to endure much more, including infected
wounds, although she never turned him in. But when the detectives began
questioning Kokoraleis's slow-witted brother, Tommy, they were in for
another rude surprise. His odd behavior indicated that he, too, had been
on this Ripper Crew. Shortly, he broke down and confessed, adding even
more gruesome details.
Ostensibly, these young men had joined in a fad that was sweeping the
country during the 1980s, especially among teenagers, of satanic
worship. Yet the Rippers had taken their rituals much farther than most
who believed they could somehow contact the Dark One. Gecht's associates
took the flesh they had removed from their victims, according to Tommy's
confession, cut it up, and consumed it as a form of ancient devilish
communion. Gecht allegedly had an altar in the attic of his Northwest
Side home, where they gathered during the evening hours after his wife
was gone to work. Supposedly, he had painted six red-and-black crosses
on the walls and covered the altar with a red cloth.
Tommy told the police that they
would all kneel together around the altar and Gecht would produce the
freshly-removed breasts. He would read passages from the Bible as each
man masturbated into the fleshy portion of the body part. When everyone
was finished, Gecht would cut it up and hand around the pieces for them
to eat. Tommy said that he had witnessed two murders himself and had
participated in nearly a dozen such rituals. When the detectives asked
him why he had done such macabre and illegal activities, he told them in
all seriousness that Gecht had the power to make them do whatever he
wanted. "You just have to do it," he said with conviction. Apparently he
was convinced that Gecht had some supernatural connection, and he was
afraid of what Gecht might do to him if he did not do as he was told.
After the interrogations, the team
killers were held in Pontiac Correctional Center on $1 million bond on a
variety of charges. Gecht adamantly refused to admit to the charges,
although he had worked as a construction subcontractor for John Wayne
Gacy during the 1970s, and it had supposedly been said that Gacy's
single mistake was not the killing of 33 young men but keeping most of
the bodies under his house. In other words, Gecht showed no awareness of
the wrongness of Gacy's brutality. He just thought the man had gone
about it the wrong way.
As the police interviewed more
people, they learned that Spreitzer and the Kokoraleis brothers were not
alone in their fear of Gecht or their belief in his powers. Others also
claimed that he had a real ability to draw people to him and get them to
do his bidding. One person warned detectives to never look into Gecht's
eyes. No matter how sick or disgusting an act might be, he could inspire
others to get involved. He got his start by molesting his sister,
according to some accounts, and was then sent to live with his
grandparents (though he denies this in letters to Jennifer Furio).
During adolescence, he developed his keen interest in Satanism and its
The newspapers grabbed the story,
using headlines that linked the "Ripper Crew" or the "Chicago Rippers"
with the notorious Jack the Ripper. Each member of this deadly crew
faced his own separate trial.
Gecht attempted to avoid trial by
offering an insanity excuse. He was evaluated for competency and found
to be competent to stand trial, as well as being considered to have been
sane at the time of the offenses. He did have a mistrial, so his second
trial began on September 20, 1983.
The prosecutor had some rather
compelling evidence. In a search, the police had found the "chapel,"
Michael Newton writes, as well as a rifle used in a shooting. They also
found satanic literature and a "trophy" box owned by Gecht in which
Andrew had described seeing as many as fifteen pieces of female breast.
From victim reports, the MO was detailed for the jury: women had been
kidnapped, held against their will, and tortured with implements such as
needles and ice picks. They were also gang-raped and then forced to
endure having their breasts sliced off with a garroting wire so the men
could use them for a Satanic sacrifice. Often the victims died, but they
had likely felt the horrendous pain of this mutilation before they
finally expired. Yet two had survived it and now lived with the memories
of their ordeals.
Gecht took the stand to speak in
his own defense. Howard and Smith report that he had admitted that he
had attacked Beverly Washington, but in court, he insisted that he had
killed no one and was innocent of rape and aggravated battery. He
protested that during the time when most of the murders had occurred, he
was not even acquainted with the other defendants. Despite compelling
eyewitness testimony, as well as testimony from women who claimed that
Gecht had asked them to cut off their nipples for him, the confessions
of the others implicating Gecht were not admissible against him. With no
physical evidence linking him to murder, he could not be prosecuted for
any of the killings, and his accomplices were not willing to testify
Nevertheless, the jury found Gecht
guilty on all counts with which he was charged: attempted murder, rape,
deviate sexual assault, aggravated battery, and armed violence. He was
sentenced to 120 years in prison.
What Happened to the Crew?
Tommy Kokoraleis, 23, attempted to
block his confession from being admitted into his trial, but lost. He
was convicted in 1984 and was sentenced to 70 years in prison for his
part in Lorraine Borowski's murder. Andrew Kokoraleis was tried in two
separate counties. The first trial was for the murder of Rose Beck
Davis. In his confession, he had admitted that he had abducted Davis
with the other men, forced her into the van, and had beaten her with a
hatchet until she was dead. The jury deliberated just over three hours
before finding him guilty of rape and murder. They sentenced him to life
At his second trial, Kokoraleis
decided to recant everything he had confessed (four different times) and
to deny that he had killed or raped anyone. He claimed that the police
had coerced each of his confessions, had made false promises, and had
even beaten him into admitting what they wanted him to say. Prosecutor
Brian Telander went through the interrogations performed by six separate
detectives and two prosecutors, but , Kokoraleis insisted they had told
him exactly what to say. He also indicated that one police officer had
told him the details of the crime scene, giving him all that he needed
to confess. Yet when Detective Warren Wilcosz took the stand to describe
his interrogation, he said that when he had shown Kokoraleis a line of
photos, Kokoraleis had picked out Loraine Borowski and said, "That's the
girl Eddie Spreitzer and I killed in the cemetery."
down to a matter of who was more believable. Kokoraleis was sullen and
angry, and his story that eight different officials had all treated him
in the same unethical manner seemed far-fetched, to say the least. The
jury deliberated only three hours, Kelly reports (some accounts indicate
that it was one hour), before returning their verdict. They found
Kokoraleis guilty of the murder of Lorraine Borowski and sentenced him
to death. At his sentencing hearing, he once again denied the charges,
and his attorneys argued later that despite the verdict, the act did not
merit the death penalty. In addition, a prison chaplain and a counselor
testified that Kokoraleis was non-threatening and could be
rehabilitated. In addition, Kokoraleis agued that he had received
ineffectual counsel at sentencing, and that in the case of the murder of
Rose Beck Davis (from the earlier trial), that offense had not warranted
the death penalty but life in prison. He insisted that the court had not
proven his intent to kill or any degree of premeditation. Nevertheless,
the court saw otherwise, as the panel of judges dismissed the appeals
and upheld the sentence in 1989.
So his attorneys tried a different
tack. They argued that Kokoraleis was a killer suffering from
schizophrenia, so that he had not known what he was doing when he
committed the murder. They claimed that the trial lawyers should have
entered an insanity defense, but had not. They had not even had him
psychiatrically evaluated, which was a significant oversight on their
part. The appeals attorneys also argued that when those lawyers had
failed to see the need for an evaluation, the trial judge should have
ordered one for the court. He had not, however. In fact, a prison
psychiatrist had diagnosed Kokoraleis with borderline personality
disorder and found him incompetent to stand trial. (However, psychiatric
diagnosis would not make him incompetent or insane, so it was a weak
argument at best.) They argued that Kokoraleis had been "vulnerable" to
a strong influence and was therefore not entirely responsible for what
he had done.
When the district judge queried
the trial attorneys about these issues, they claimed that no pattern of
aberrant behavior had made anyone who knew the defendant suspect a
psychiatric disorder. That satisfied the judge that the pending
affidavit was unpersuasive. Yet the appeals attorneys pointed to
Kokoraleis's bizarre behavior as proof of his aberrant condition. The
court considered this and decided that abnormal behavior does not imply
the type of mental impairment required for a finding of insanity. In a
41-page opinion, the court said that it found no reversible error and
affirmed the sentence again.
But that was not the end of the
story, for a movement was afoot to overturn all death sentences in the
Last to Die
Andrew Kokoraleis was scheduled to
be executed on March 17, 1999. Last-ditch efforts were made on his
behalf with then-Illinois Governor George Ryan, and Supreme Court
Justice Moses Harrison was persuaded to order a stay of execution, as
well as calling for a moratorium on all executions in Illinois.
In fact, thanks to a series of
crusading articles in the Chicago Tribune about injustices in the
legal system, twelve people had recently been exonerated and removed
from Illinois's Death Row, which had shaken Governor Ryan. Some were
exonerated by DNA evidence, and a few more were exonerated by
revelations of poor handling by the legal system. One case in
particular, that of Anthony Porter, was especially disturbing. Porter, a
black man with an IQ of 51, according to The American
Spectator, had been in prison for sixteen years for a double
homicide. After exhausting his appeals, he was awaiting execution on
September 23, 1998. But a Northwestern University professor and a
death-penalty abolitionist had turned up exculpatory evidence in the
case, so two days before the execution, a stay was ordered. Then another
man confessed to the crime. That was clear proof that the State of
Illinois had prosecuted and imprisoned an innocent man, and was about to
put him to death. Ryan pondered the situation but was not yet moved to
make a change in the system, especially in light of the fact that the
Kokoraleis case, which seemed obviously to deserve the death penalty.
The Illinois State Supreme Court
reversed Harrison's stay by a vote of 4-3, says Kelly, and hours before
Kokoraleis was to exit the world, Governor Ryan issued a three-page
statement to the effect that a jury had decided his fate according to
the law of the land. His attempts to appeal it had been rejected over a
span of sixteen years, so Ryan was not about to stand in the way. Thus,
there were no further barriers between this member of the Ripper Crew
and his death.
morning before his execution, Kokoraleis was convinced that it was not
going to happen. He was flown to a super-maximum security prison in
Tamms, IL, and he spent the rest of the day praying and fasting. He then
spoke to a few select friends on the phone, bidding them farewell. With
his brother (not Tommy), he prayed and cried. Yet Kokoraleis still
believed that there would be a last-minute pardon. Strapped onto the
gurney, he offered the Borowski family an apology, said that the Kingdom
of Heaven was at hand, and then received a lethal injection at 12:34
By January of 2000, Governor Ryan
had placed a thirteenth man on the list of people who should never have
been on Death Row, so he announced a moratorium on all executions in the
state. Thus, Andrew Kokoraleis gained the distinction of being the last
man executed before the moratorium. Some commentators believed that Ryan
had bided his time in issuing the moratorium until after Kokoraleis was
dispatched. He certainly had his doubts about the system prior to the
March execution date, and yet he had waited. Even so, only anti-capital
punishment advocates complained. Many others acknowledged that justice
had been done. Still, Ryan's decision had the opposite effect on the
One More Legal Fight
pleaded guilty on April 2, 1984, to murdering Rose Davis, Sandra
Delaware, Shui Mak, and a drug dealer named Rafael Torado. He received
life sentences for each murder, as well as time for a multitude of
charges, from rape to deviant sexual assault. Yet he still had to go to
trial for the Linda Sutton murder. He appeared in a bench trial in front
of Judge Edward Kowal on February 25, 1986, but retained his right to
have a jury decide his sentence. He admitted that he and his comrades
had abducted Linda Sutton as she was walking near Wrigley Field and took
her to a wooded field near a hotel where he was staying. He then
handcuffed her, raped her, and removed her breasts. Then she was raped
again and left to die.
His public defender, Carol
Anfinson, presented him as immature, impulsive and simplistic---a young
man just following orders of a gang leader. She asked the jury to spare
his life. In support, his relatives and associates testified that he was
a docile young man with a history of being bullied. But a friend of
Spreitzer's, the Chicago Tribune reported, testified that he had
bragged about what he had done, referring to the women as "broads" and
laughing over the fact that he had mutilated and killed several of them.
The ADA insisted that Spreitzer was "every woman's nightmare" and that
he was one of a "pack of weasels."
Spreitzer's bid for mercy failed
to work. He was convicted on March 4 of aggravated kidnapping and
murder. Two weeks later on March 20, a jury deliberated for an hour
before giving him the death penalty for this crime. He wound up on Death
Row in Pontiac State Correctional facility in Joliet, Illinois.
He exhausted all of his appeals,
despite claims by his attorney Gary Prichard that he had been denied due
process and that an examination after the trial indicated that he had
brain damage. Prichard argued that the jury had not been correctly
instructed. Yet, despite the appearance that this case was now at an
end, there was one more unexpected development.
October 2002, when Spreitzer was 41, he was among 140 of Illinois's 159
Death Row inmates having their cases heard, influenced by the moratorium
on capital punishment. Prichard sought mercy on his behalf, saying that
his low IQ of 76 and his troubled history had been instrumental in
making him easy for a person like Robin Gecht to manipulate. However,
the victims' families gathered in force to oppose a change in
Spreitzer's sentence. As quoted in the Daily Herald, some viewed
him as the "personification of evil." Prosecutor Michael Wolfe agreed,
saying that his crimes were "the worst of the worst."
While clemency was not granted to
Spreitzer at that time, the Chicago Tribune noted that as
Governor Ryan was leaving office in January 2003, he pardoned four of
the 164 Death Row inmates and offered blanket clemency to the rest,
including Edward Spreitzer. The families were outraged and vowed to
fight for restoring justice. But Spreitzer had at last won his
Jennifer Furio devised a project
of writing letters to serial killers to see how they would respond, and
Robin Gecht and Eric Spreitzer both sent letters that she printed in her
book, The Serial Killer Letters.
Spreitzer came first. Furio says
that he had turned himself in when the case was initially investigated
(although he did not). He told her that he felt badly about his
involvement in the crimes, and had even passed out at the sight of all
the blood, but insisted that he'd done it because he'd been afraid of
Gecht and his shotgun. "I never did bad things alone," he claimed. She
excuses him as being weak, vulnerable, directionless, illiterate, and an
easy target, thanks to a bad home life and substance abuse. Gecht had
offered him a job when he was down on his luck and made some empty
promises. According to Spreitzer, Gecht then blackmailed him with
obscene photographs that he said he would send to the police. Furio's
assessment is that he was sweet and gentle, and failed to come across as
a murderer. What he hoped for, during the time he had left before
execution (these letters were published prior to the commutation of his
sentence), was the love of a good woman, preferably someone who would
He insisted that the murders were
not planned; instead, they were random attacks. He had driven the van
and Robin would order him to stop whenever he saw a woman who appealed
to himóand he was always on the lookout for one with sizable breasts.
Spreitzer believed that the Kokoraleis brothers were also forced to do
these things, but he did not really know them well. And like many
offenders who have little thought for the victims and feel sorrier for
themselves, he believed he was too young to die.
curious about Gecht's obsession with women's breasts. He told her it was
"a thing with my entire family." He said that from his great-grandfather
onward, each male member of his family had married a woman with large
breasts. He expressed great satisfaction with his former wife, whom he
said was a size 39D.
He insisted that he was not a
serial killer and had had no part in the crimes. He had never murdered
anyone. He also said that the things printed about him in newspapers and
books were the result of Kokoraleis's stupid joke, which got repeated
again and again until people believed it. He claimed that the primary
book on the subject had been based on police bias. He also informed her
that two of the charges had been dropped and that he would be released
from prison sooner than expected. However, his persistent bid for DNA
testing was stymied over and over again.
The Mansonesque type of killer is
rareóthe person who can persuade others to kill or harm others for him.
According to three confessions, Gecht was exactly that type of person.
While Manson's brood was larger, the three men who followed Gecht were
just as deadly, and it's quite unusual to have four people involved in
such an extensive string of sexually sadistic murder.
Eric W. Hickey, a criminologist
who published a study involving over three hundred serial killers,
offered a line in Serial Murderers and Their Victims that seems
appropriate for this crew: "For some multiple killers, murder must be
simultaneously a participation and a spectator endeavor; power can be
experienced by observing a fellow conspirator destroy human life,
possibly as much as by performing the killing. The pathology of the
relationship operates symbiotically." The killers each add something to
the other's excitement. Perhaps what they could not do alone, they could
do within the chemistry of the dangerous association.
According to the study, 74% of team killers are white;
female killers participate with males around one-third of the time; and
the majority of cases involve only two offenders working together. Of
serial murder victims, some 15% were murdered by team killers and, in
the majority of cases, the victims were strangers. Sometimes the team
leader or dominant partner sends the others out to do what he wants, and
sometimes he participates. One person
always maintains psychological control.
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