American Monsters Volume 9

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The Chicago Rippers

On June 1, 1981, a maid working at the Moonlit Hotel in Chicago’s Villa Park area went to the manager to complain about a dreadful stench. It appeared to be coming from the garbage-strewn field behind the building and had been getting progressively worse over the last few days. She insisted that the manager do something about it. At first, the manager was disinclined to investigate. It was raining outside and he was in no mood to get soaked on some fool’s errand. But the maid was so insistent that he eventually gave in. Walking out into the lot under an umbrella, he half-expected to find a dead animal. What he found instead was the body of a young woman, the remains reduced to bones by decomposition. He immediately returned to the hotel and called the police.

The detectives who arrived on the scene viewed the body and realized right away that the woman had been murdered. The handcuffs on her wrists bore witness to that. What confused them though, was the condition of the body. It appeared that it had been there for quite some time, yet there was still evidence of maggot activity – a most unusual combination of circumstances. Perhaps the medical examiner could shed some light on the situation.

The body was removed to the care of the coroner, in order to determine cause and time of death. An identification followed two weeks later. She was Linda Sutton, a 21-year-old prostitute and mother of two. And the coroner was able to provide an answer to the mystery of the body’s condition too. Despite the advanced rate of decomposition, Sutton had been dead for only three days. However, two large wounds to her chest where her breasts had been removed, had allowed for the acceleration of parasitic activity. It was a brutal killing. It would not be the last.

On February 12, 1982, the nude body of a thirty-five-year-old cocktail waitress was discovered on an embankment near a road. Her car was found nearby, the fuel tank empty, implying that she may have run out of gas and sought help from the person who had killed her. What worried police though, were the injuries inflicted on the body. She had been raped and tortured and, as in the case of Linda Sutton, one of her breasts had been removed.

Just a few days later, another female corpse was discovered. The victim had been raped and strangled and, while her breasts had not been removed, they had been savagely bitten. Her killer had also masturbated over her body.

In May 1982, another young woman, Lorraine Borowski, was abducted as she crossed a parking lot on her way to work. Her mutilated body was later found in the Clarendon Hills Cemetery. She’d been raped and her breast had been hacked from her body before her attacker bludgeoned her to death with an axe.

Given the murderer’s signature of severing his victim’s breasts, the police by now knew that they were dealing with a serial killer. However, they had no clues as to who the perpetrator might be, and it wasn’t long before he struck again.

On May 29, 1982, Shui Mak was returning home from her family's restaurant in Streamwood. She had been riding in her brother's car, but they had gotten into an argument and he’d dropped her at the side of the road to wait for relatives who were following behind. She was never seen alive again. It would be four months before her mutilated body was discovered, buried on a construction site.

Eventually, in June 1982, the police got a break in the case when a young woman named Angel York, was abducted off the street by two men. They bundled her into a red van where they handcuffed her and then subjected her to repeated rapes and torture. Sometime during the ordeal, one of the men handed her a large knife and ordered her to cut her own breast. This drove one of the men into a near frenzy, the woman later told police. He masturbated into the wound before closing it with duct-tape. Then he dumped the woman on the street. She was lucky to be alive.

York reported the assault to the police and while it provided some solid clues it didn’t stop the men claiming their next victim. In August, the body of Sandra Delaware turned up in the Chicago River. Her wrists were bound with a bootlace and her bra was knotted around her neck. Like the other victims her breast had been severed.

Within the space of the next two weeks, 42-year-old Carol Pappas went missing as did Rose Beck Davis, a 30-year-old marketing executive. Davis was found stabbed, raped, and strangled on September 8, 1982, her body stowed under the staircase of a North Lake apartment building. Her face had been pulverized by blows from a hatchet and her abdomen had numerous slashes and puncture wounds.

By October, another prostitute, Beverly Washington, 20, had been abducted, raped, mutilated, and then dumped. Her attacker left her for dead, but somehow she survived and was able to give police a description of the man and his vehicle. He’d been driving a red panel van with blacked out windows, she said. He was a slender white man of about 25, with greasy brown hair and a mustache. He’d been wearing a flannel shirt and square-toed boots. He had offered her more money than she usually made for a ‘date,’ so she’d gotten into the van. He’d then told her to get into the back, but she’d just done so when he produced a gun. He ordered her to remove her clothes after which he handcuffed her and forced her to perform oral sex. Afterwards he held out a handful of pills and instructed her to swallow them. The man threatened to shoot her if she refused, so she did as instructed. As she passed out, she saw him pick up a rope and was certain she was going to die.

She woke sometime later, dumped among some trash, in great pain, her clothing drenched in blood. Fortunately, someone spotted her and called an ambulance and she was rushed to hospital. There it was discovered that one of her breasts had been severed and the other severely mutilated.

Three weeks after the attack on Beverley Washington, on October 20, 1982, the police pulled over a red van similar to the one she’d described. The description of the driver though, was way off. The man said his name was Eddie Spreitzer, and that the van belonged to his boss, Robin Gecht. Officers then followed Spreitzer to Gecht's house and had him call Gecht outside. The minute they saw him they knew he was their man. The description fit exactly, right down to the plaid shirt and the square-toed boots. Yet, Gecht denied knowing anything about the abduction and seemed genuinely unconcerned by the police questioning.

The officers next called on Beverley Washington. They showed her a selection of mug shots and she unflinchingly picked out Robin Gecht as the man who had attacked her. When detectives returned to question Gecht, they found him in the company of a lawyer.

It was clear from the start that Gecht was going to be a tough nut to crack, and the investigators therefore focused their attention on Spreitzer who looked like he might be on the verge of a breakdown. He refused to talk, though, and it was soon clear why. He was terrified of Gecht. Still, investigators knew that they needed Spreitzer's confession to get to Gecht. They continued to lean on Spreitzer and, eventually, he talked.

Spreitzer first admitted to driving the van as Gecht committed a drive-by shooting in which a man was killed an another left paralyzed. Then he described how the two of them picked up a black prostitute (Linda Sutton). Gecht had sex with her and then killed her and used a knife to remove her left breast. Gecht had shot another woman in the head, he said, and had bludgeoned another with a hammer. He’d then removed the breasts and used them for sexual gratification. On other occasions he’d insert his penis into the woman's gaping wounds. Spreitzer confessed that he mutilated one woman himself, but had done so under instruction from Gecht.

By the time he was done, Spreitzer had described seven homicides and one case of aggravated battery. Armed with Sprietzer’s confession they decided to have another crack at Gecht. They laid out photographs of the victims in front of him and asked him if he knew them. Gecht looked at the photos without interest and said no. Next they tried another tack. They took Gecht into an area where Spreitzer was talking to some police officers. The idea was for Gecht to see that Sprietzer was talking and to intimidate him into confessing himself. But the move backfired. As soon as Sprietzer saw Gecht, he clammed up.

He also changed his confession, insisting now that Gecht had never killed anyone. Instead, he laid the blame on another man - Andrew Kokoraleis. Dismayed, that there might be a third member to this killing crew, the police pulled Kokoraleis in for questioning. The story he told veered this already bizarre investigation off in a whole new direction. Kokoraleis readily admitted to kidnapping women off the streets, raping them, then mutilating them with knives, razors, tin can lids, and can openers. He described amputating and mutilating the women’s breasts with piano wire and then masturbating into the wounds. He admitted to the murders of Rose Beck Davis and Lorraine Borowski, and confessed that he had been involved in the deaths of eighteen women.

While the interrogations were ongoing, the police were also talking to friends and family of the three men and the answers given by one of them, Andrew Kokoraleis's slow-witted brother Tommy, made them suspicious. It soon emerged that he had been the forth member of the Ripper Crew and his confession added yet more, gruesome details.

The four men had been engaged in satanic worship, Tommy said, and they’d consumed the flesh taken from their victims, during rituals carried out in Robin Gecht’s attic. There, Gecht had an altar set up and they’d participate in macabre ceremonies during which Gecht would read verses from the Satanic Bible and hand out chunks of the freshly severed breasts to be consumed. Tommy explained that they had to do it because Gecht had supernatural powers and could harm them if they refused.

As the newspapers grabbed the story, and published lurid details about the “Ripper Crew” or “Chicago Rippers,” the four killers were moved to the Pontiac Correctional Center, held on $1 million bond. While they were there, another interesting detail emerged about Robin Gecht. He’d once worked as a construction subcontractor for the notorious serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. Gacy’s biggest mistake, Gecht would tell anyone bothered to listen, had been to bury his victims under his house. But for that he’d never have been caught.

Each member of the “Ripper Crew” stood trial separately. Robin Gecht attempted to escape justice by entering an insanity plea. After he was evaluated and found fit to stand trial, he insisted that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. This was quite obviously a lie, but there was no evidence to prove he’d actually killed any of the women, and as none of his accomplices was prepared to testify against him, the state was unable to pursue the murder charges. Nonetheless, he was found 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.

Tommy Kokoraleis tried to block his confession from being admitted into evidence, but lost. He was convicted for his part in Lorraine Borowski's murder, and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

His brother, Andrew, was tried separately for the murders of Rose Beck Davis and Loraine Borowski. In the Davis case, he confessed to abducting the woman, forcing her into the van, and killing her with a hatchet. He received a sentence of life in prison for the murder. The penalty in the other case was even more severe. Kokoraleis was given the death penalty for the rape and murder of Loraine Borowski. This sentence would eventually be carried out by lethal injection on March 16. 1999.

At his trial on April 2, 1984, Edward Spreitzer entered guilty pleas to the murders of Rose Davis, Sandra Delaware, and Shui Mak. He received life sentences for each murder, as well as jail time for multiple other charges. At his second trial, on February 25, 1986, he admitted to the killing of Linda Sutton. He and the others abducted Sutton as she was walking near Wrigley Field, he said. They took her to some woods where they handcuffed her, gang raped her, and cut off her breasts. She was then raped again and left in a field to die.

Sprietzer received the death penalty for this crime. Unlike Andrew Kokoraleis, though, he would escape his date with the executioner. Prior to leaving office in January 2003, Governor George Ryan commuted all death penalties, thus showing to Edward Spreitzer a degree of mercy he never showed to his victims.

American Monsters Volume Nine includes 11 more riveting stories of America's worst serial killers