The Freshman: The Murder of David Stukel
On September 16th, 1968, David Stukel was in his first week of his freshman year of high school at East Joliet High School. He had just completed his first cross-country practice that afternoon and began walking home with a friend. David never arrived home, however, and was found brutally murdered in a field nearby the route he walked from his high school to his home. The heinous nature of the murder of fourteen-year-old David Stukel shocked the Joliet community.
David Raymond Stukel was born May 24th, 1954, to Ray and Marilyn Stukel. He was one of three children, the only boy with two sisters. Ray and Marilyn provided a stable home for their children who always had the material things they needed as well as lots of love and parental attention. David and his father Ray were very close, often spending time together. He was a very good kid who made good grades and didn’t get in trouble. The Stukel family was almost your textbook “perfect” American family.
David played little league baseball as a child, but as a Freshman at Eastern Joliet High School in 1968, he was planning to run cross-country. On his fifth and final day of high school, David stayed after from cross-country practice. He ran with friends and acquaintances, enjoying the athletic venture. After practice, David changed back into his new school clothes, which were suitable even for church, and started to talk home with his friend. The walk wasn’t far, so David Stukel declined when a friend offered the boys a ride. His friend, however, accepted the ride. David continued walking home, but he never arrived.
As David made his way down the street, he saw two other boys that he did not know. Minding his own business, David tried to pass the boys, but they stopped him. They asked him if he wanted to buy a transistor radio, but David declined and again tried to pass the boys. They told him to stop and asked for his money. There were no cars or people around, so the two boys who crossed paths with David decided to rob him. Only, David claimed he did not have any money. Later, it was confirmed that David did not have any money on him at the time of the attack.
The two young attackers, both fourteen years old as well, were delinquents Billy Sprinkle and James Perruquet. The boys were both from homes very different from David Stukel’s. Their parents were not present, and certainly not providing supervision. Billy Sprinkle often hung around his older siblings, often getting into trouble. These two boys didn’t have parents who ensured they did their homework or even cared if they passed their classes. When the two met in junior high, they became quite the delinquent duo.
The boys, as seventh graders at the time, vandalized and robbed their neighbors and school. In fact, their junior high was once set on fire and the boys were suspected of causing the blaze. However, there was not enough evidence to press charges. The fire caused 1.5 million dollars in damages and put the life of first responders at risk. Billy Sprinkle had over sixty absences, and James had over fifty. They boys did not apply themselves in school, failing every class miserably. One teacher said “He just sits and does nothing; he says nothing. When I give him a test, I find the paper blank on his desk at the end of class, without even his name. I have tried to motivate him but I know of no way to do so” (O’Brien, 1968).
The boys were given “social promotions” from seventh to eighth grade despite failing grades and ongoing delinquent behavior. In the spring of 1968, the boys broke into a house nearby the very spot they accosted David months later. They stole booze, drinking straight from the bottles while still inside the home, as well as firearms found in the house. A neighbor, however, saw the boys and notified police. Police found them hiding in the kitchen closet upon arrival. Finally, the boys had to face consequences for their behavior.
Weeks later, Sprinkle and Perroquet faced burglary charges. In family court, as they were charged as minors, the boys were each given six months of probation. If they completed the terms of the “earn a dismissal” contract signed in court, the charge would be removed entirely from their records. The contract stated the boys were to attend different junior high schools the following year and the boys were given a curfew as part of the probation.
As always, Billy Sprinkle did not care about the rules and broke curfew that very night. He was picked up by Will County police for underage drinking, another violation of his probation, However, no action was taken against the fourteen-year-old. Shortly after starting their eighth-grade year at separate schools, the boys skipped class and hung out together. These were both violations of their probation as they were not supposed to associate with one another. This day was September 16th, 1968.
The boys proceeded to break their probation conditions repeatedly. First, the burglarized a house around 1:30 pm that day. They then drank beer and smoke cigarettes while skipping school. They used some money from the burglary to buy glue and proceeded to sniff the glue. They walked past the schools, whistling and harassing young girls in physical education class. Finally, they settled in an abandoned overgrown rural area near East Joliet High School. At 3:30 pm, the woman who had turned them in for burglary a few months earlier recognized the boys loitering in the field.
When David refused to buy the radio and declined to give them any money, the boys got angry and started to curse at him. David became nervous as the boys, who were the same age but much larger in stature, threatened him. James and Billy looked at each other before grabbing the boy and dragging him into the tall grass. The neighbor, seeing this and recognizing the boys, did not call authorities. She later stated that she didn’t really believe what she was seeing.
“Give us your fuckin’ money or I’m going to kick your ass” Sprinkle said (O’Connell, 2007). James echoed the threats as David nervously explained that he did not have any money to give them. The boys later said they chose David because he looked like someone who had money. James quickly took an old cable on the abandoned farm and used it to bind David’s legs together. As David insisted he didn’t have money, the boys took his textbooks and threw them on the ground before starting to punch the freshman.
As David tried to collect his schoolbooks, the boys continued punching him, kicking him, cursing at him, and making threats. They told him if he didn’t give them money, he wouldn’t get his stuff back. David turned his pockets inside out to show the boys he had no money, but they were not convinced and ordered the boy to remove all of his clothing. Under violent threat, David complied. The boys rummaged through his clothing as he stood in only his new underwear purchased for the new school year. They found no money.
The boys then started to rip pages out of David’s books, forcing him to rip pages too as they beat him. They kept asking where the money was, but David could not provide a satisfactory answer. Instead, Billy said “Take your goddamn underwear off”. Again fearful for his life, David complied. Billy and James then forced David to perform oral sex on each of them. Following the assault, they bent him over an old oil drum and took turns raping him. When they were done, they told the boy to put his clothes back on.
The boys didn’t stop the assault, however. They continued punching, kicking, and hitting David Stukel. The boys found rusty iron bars and repeatedly beat David with them, knocking out his front teeth and breaking his nose. The boys laughed and helped David up, only to hit him again until he was no longer able to get up. Finally, they took a piece of a concrete block and smashed it over David’s head until he was no longer breathing. Before they left, they flicked their lit cigarettes onto David’s lifeless body.
When David failed to arrive home after practice, the Stukel family knew something was wrong. Not only was David a well-behaved church-going Catholic boy, he never stayed out later than he was supposed to. After driving the route David used to walk home repeatedly, David’s parents and neighbors were unable to find him. They reported him missing, but Will County authorities explained to the distraught parents that it was likely a case of a juvenile runaway. Ray and Marilyn knew their son and knew this was not the case.
The family formed their own search party that night which included their neighbors and close family friends. The teenage son of the neighbor, who was raised alongside of the Stukel children, considered David a “cousin”. The teen, along with his father and Ray Stukel, set out to search the fields nearby the road David took home. In one of these fields, the teenager found the deceased and badly beaten body of fourteen-year-old David Stukel.
It did not take authorities long before the woman who saw the boys struggling with their victim earlier that day identified the boys. The boys had continued to burglarize homes after the murder, stealing clothes and a motorcycle. When the boys were located, they were in possession of the stolen property, giving authorities enough reason to bring them in for questioning. While there, the boys were asked about the murder of David Stukel. The boys both denied knowing anything about the murder or even being in the area despite an eyewitness placing them there.
Police relied on deception, a common police tool, to get a confession. Billy Sprinkle appeared to be the more experienced criminal and was not budging on his story. However, authorities ensured that James Perroquet and his father overheard them say that Sprinkle was confessing. This was enough to convince James to give a full confession of the crime. He spoke of beating and killing David Stukel without an expression of remorse. Both boys were arrested and charged as adults with murder and sexually deviate assault.
Billy Sprinkle and James Perroquet went to court in January of 1969. They both entered guilty pleas to murder and sexually deviate assault. The State’s Attorney, in exchange for the guilty pleas, recommended 75-90 years each for the murder and 14 years for the sexual assault (O’Connell, 2007). The judge stated, “Mr. Perrucquet and Mr. Sprinkle, I am going to follow the recommendations of the State’s Attorney with respect to the sentence to be imposed. And I will just tell you one thing now, and I think you are both old enough to understand what I am saying. In fact, I am sure you are. The one thing that keeps you boys out of the electric chair is your age. If you were older, you would be sentenced to death- that I can assure you because of the viciousness of your crime. But because of your age, I am going to follow the recommendation of the State’s Attorney” (O’Connell, 2007). They were each sentenced to 75-90 years for murder and 14 years for the sexual assault.
On their way out of the courtroom, Lorraine Sprinkle, Billy’s older sister, approached Mr. and Mrs. Stukel and exclaimed, “I hope you are satisfied!” (O’Connell, 2007). The grieving parents did not respond to this atrocious comment, but later told Bill O’Connell (2007) that it was as if Lorraine Sprinkle blamed them for her brother going to prison and did not comprehend the pain and agony the family was suffering.
Once Sprinkles and Perruquet became adults, they were transferred from juvenile prisons to the maximum-security Illinois prisons Menard Correctional Center and Pontiac Correctional Center. Both men began writing letters and applying for appeals, both stating the other had committed the crime solely and they were not responsible for each other’s actions. They denied sexually assaulting David and insisted they were mistreated in prison.
In 1976, Billy Sprinkle was charged with an assault after another inmate was stabbed. He received a “prison ticket” (O’Connell, 2007), for the crime. Despite this, the Illinois laws at the time made the now young men eligible for parole shockingly early given their lengthy sentences. This was the same law that made Richard Speck eligible for parole despite being sentenced to 400-1,200 years in prison for his crimes. In fact, both Billy and James became eligible for parole after nine years in the Illinois prison system. In 1978, the laws that allowed the early parole eligibility were changed, but this did not apply to these two who were up for parole for the first time that very year.
Despite the objections of the Will County State’s Attorney and the Stukel family, Billy Sprinkles was released on parole July 27th, 1981, after his fourth parole board review. He was now twenty-seven, having served thirteen years in prison for David’s sexual assault and murder. July 19th, 1983, twenty-nine-year-old James Perroquet was released on parole after serving fifteen years for the crime. David Stukel’s attackers were free before they turned thirty.
Two years after his release, James Perroquet was now married with a child on the way and living in southern Illinois. His parole officer recommended release from the parole program as James was taking classes and seemed to be doing well adjusting to life outside of prison. When his son was just seven months old, James Perroquet was charged with burglarizing a store in Energy, Illinois and sent back to prison. That same year, 1986, Billy Sprinkle found himself returning to prison.
Shortly after his release in 1981, Billy Sprinkle was involved in a fight outside of a liquor store, but no charges were filed. He was then arrested for a DUI and other traffic related charges. Weeks later, he stole $300, but the charges were dropped. In 1986, he and his nephew tripped an alarm at a store and were charged with burglary. Both delinquents were back behind bars within five years of their release.
In 1989, James Perroquet was released from prison and reunited with his wife. He was released from the parole program finally, meaning he could no longer be sent back to face the 75–90-year sentence received for killing David Stukel. In 1990, James was arrested in Herrin, Illinois for theft. He was sent back to prison and released again in 1993. His wife left him, so James returned back to Joliet and found his second wife, who he married in Marion Illinois that year. He then was arrested for theft again and returned to prison. He was released again in 1994.
On April 10th, 1995, James and his wife put her children to bed and settled in to watch television. James became suspicious that the neighbor had been flirting with his wife. James drank several alcoholic beverages before starting an argument with his wife regarding the neighbor’s flirtations and her lack of rejection to those flirtations. Hearing the yelling in the house, the neighbor in question called the Perroquet home to check on the family. This enraged James, prompting him to make threats to the neighbor. The neighbor then called the police.
The neighbor, Chris Hudson, walked over the Perroquet home and tried to enter. James told him to stay out of the altercation, but he wanted to ensure the safety of James’ wife. Fighting with Chris to keep the door closed, James claims he felt something that he interpreted as a stabbing. He then knocked Chris down outside the home and stabbed him repeatedly, killing the neighbor. James, after stabbing Chris Hudson to death, fled the scene. Hudson was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital and James Perroquet was arrested and charged with a second murder. Although he claimed self-defense, James Perroquet was sentenced to life in prison. He remains in prison to this day.
Billy Sprinkle did not demonstrate successful rehabilitation in prison either. In 2001, he was drunk and attacked his wife, popping her shoulder out of the socket. He was sent back to prison for a third time. Nearly thirteen years later, in 2014, sixty-year-old Billy Sprinkle was released from prison. He spent thirty days more in prison for attacking his wife then he did for the rape and murder of David Stukel. This time, he was not placed on parole and is no longer under those supervisory guidelines.
After his release in 2014, Billy Sprinkle moved to Springfield, Illinois. He collects social security disability, possibly related to advanced hepatitis C and liver damage, which helps to pay his bills. He still drinks and is unable to maintain relationships. In fact, he disowned his own daughter after being released because she agreed to be interviewed for a book about the David Stukel case entitled “Fourteen” by Bill O’Connell (2007). Billy Sprinkle continues to claim innocence and fails to take responsibility for any of his actions.
In many of the court documents filed by Sprinkle and Perroquet’s attorneys, the men both claim they were raised in abusive home riddled with alcoholism. Despite denying responsibility for David’s murder, the two sociopaths seem to suggest they are not culpable related to their upbringings. However, many people are raised poor and suffer abuse. They do not attack and murder their peers. James Perroquet and Billy Sprinkles are sociopaths who had nothing better to do than attack someone they were jealous of. An innocent high school freshman lost his life in this senseless and tragic event. David Stukel’s father died at age ninety-six in 2022 and his mother still lives. She continues to keep her son’s memory alive as she wonders what his life might have been like.
(Above: Billy Sprinkles. Photo Credit: Mugshots.com)
(Above: James Perroquet. Photo Credit: Mugshots.com).
O’Brien, J. (1968). 2 youths indicted, face murder charge in slaying of Joliet High Freshman. Chicago Tribune. 18 Sep 1968.
O'Connell, B. (2007). Fourteen: The Murder of David Stukel. iUniverse.