The Night the Nurses Died: The Victims of Richard Speck
Early in the morning hours of July 14th, 1966, the voice of a young woman could be heard screaming from the second story window of 2319 East 100th Street in the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois. Those responding found Corazon Amurao screaming from the second story of the townhouse where she had pushed the window screen out. She screamed “They are all dead! They are all dead! My friends are all dead. Oh, God, I’m the only one alive” (Breo & Martin, 1993). Inside, authorities found the bodies of eight young women, all of which were student nurses at South Chicago Community Hospital. This is the story of the victims of Richard Speck.
In 1966, nursing students at South Chicago Community Hospital lived in dormitories or hospital owned townhomes in order to be close to the hospital and ensure the nurses displayed proper behavior for the nursing profession. The hospital was a tenant of a few townhouses standing next to each other on East 100th Street. A house mother stayed in one of the townhomes with several students, but other nurses were in the neighboring townhome at 2319 East 100th Street. Inside, there were eight roommates: Gloria Davy, Suzanne Farris, Patricia Matusek, Nina Schmale, Pamela Wilkening, Corazon Amurao, Merlita Gargullo, and Valentina Pasion.
The nurses were instructed to follow strict rules and would be subject to dismissal from the nursing program for disobeying. Some of these rules included improper dress, improper conduct, failure to keep rooms neat, using laundry washer on a day not assigned to you, and disobeying the curfew and lights out policy. Students were supposed to be in their rooms with lights out by 1 am. Most students were expected to be home earlier, but students could request a late pass in order to attend a date. In that case, they were expected home by 12:30 am.
Gloria Jean Davy was born July 12th, 1944, in Dyer, Indiana. She was one of six children, including only one brother. Gloria was a popular and beautiful young woman with dark hair. In high school, she was a Future Farmers of America Sweetheart, head cheerleader, and a columnist for a community paper on teen issues. She graduated from SS. Peter and Paul High School in 1961. She attended Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, where she was a pledge to Alpha Zi Delta Sorority. She had previously worked as a nurse’s aide at a hospital and was now a senior in the 1966 graduating class of South Chicago Community Hospital’s nursing program.
Suzanne Bridgit Farris was born September 10th, 1944, in Chicago. She was one of three children born to John and Mary Farris. Suzanne was a graduate of Aquinas High School. A devout Catholic, Suzanne attended mass almost every morning before beginning her nursing duties at the hospital. Suzanne was engaged, planning a wedding in June of 1967. Her fiancé was Philip Jordan, the brother of her best friend Mary Anne. Suzanne planned to be a pediatric nurse after graduation.
Mary Ann Jordan was born October 4th, 1945, in Michigan. Although she was a student nurse as well, Mary Ann lived at home with her parents. However, she spent many nights with Suzanne and the other nurses at the townhome. She had four other siblings besides brother Philip, who was engaged to Suzanne. Mary Ann was also a graduate of Aquinas High School and was a member of the Future Nurses of America. She was also set to graduate in August of 1966.
Patricia Ann Matusek was born December 8th, 1945, in Chicago. She was one of two daughters born to Joseph and Bessie Matusek. Patricia preferred to be called Pat and was known to be a gentle friendly woman. She was engaged, planning to marry shortly after graduation. She was also planning to work as a nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Pat had thick dark hair and an infectious smile.
Nina Jo Schmale was born on December 27th, 1941, in Wheaton, IL. She was the daughter of John and Dorothy Schmale. A senior in the nursing program, Nina planned to specialize in psychiatric nursing. Nina had a great sense of humor, dressed very sophisticated, and was very popular. Nina had previously worked in a nursing home, leading to her decision to become a nurse. She had been in a relationship for seven years, planning to marry after graduation.
Pamela Lee Wilkening was born August 2nd, 1945, in Chicago Heights. She as the daughter of John and Lena Wilkening. Pam had graduated from Thornton Fractional High School where she was active in the Future Nurses Club, Pep Club, and swimming. Pam had a love for children and fast cars. She had babysat a neighbor’s daughter, teaching her the piano during her babysitting sessions. She was the class representative for the Student Nurse Association of Illinois.
Valentina Pasion was born February 14th, 1942, in the Philippines. Unlike the American girls, the Filipino girls were not students. They were working nurses that were brought over just months earlier from the Philippines as an exchange program to solve a nursing shortage. Valentina was one of six children in a very poor family in the Philippines. She was shy and reserved but had two admirers back home that she frequently wrote to, a doctor and a dentist. Like most of the Filipino nurses, Valentina sent most of her $350 per month salary back to her family to make ends meet.
Merlita Ornado Gargullo was born September 1st, 1942, in the Philippines. She was shy but loved to sing with her beautiful voice. She was a 1964 graduate of Arellano University School of N000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000ursing. Merlita had only been in Chicago a short time but was very homesick. Back in the Phillippines, she had a boyfriend as well as the rest of her family.
Corazon Amurao was also born in the Philippines in 1943. Corazon was one of eight siblings in another poor Filipino family She was small and petite, standing 4’10” and weighing only about 100 lbs. Corazon was a graduate of the Far Eastern University of Manila. Although she had learned English in school since the first grade, her native tongue was Tagalong. Cora was known to be a bright, hardworking girl. She was a very religious woman, practicing Catholicism.
Only weeks away from graduation for the American girls, the shared townhouse was filled with excitement. Three of the American girls were planning weddings shortly after graduation, so they would often get together to discuss ideas and plans. Many were in each other’s wedding parties. Although there was no hostility, there was a distinct divide in the home between the American nurses and Filipino nurses. The Filipino girls were not students and were still in a bit of culture shock after arriving months earlier to the big city from their tiny villages. The three Filipino nurses often relied on one-another for companionship.
On the evening of July 13th, 1966, Corazon, who also went by Cora, was washing her nursing uniforms by hand. By the time she had finished, it was 8 p.m. She wrote some letters home alongside Merlita. As the hours flew by, the American girls began arriving home from their dates. Suzanne had a late pass that night, as did Gloria Davy. Suzanne spent the evening with her future sister-in-law Mary Ann Jordan. Mary Ann planned to stay the night at the townhouse with her best friend.
At 10:30 pm, Cora locked the front door and went to her room, also locking her bedroom door. Valentina, Pamela, and Pat were all lying in their beds in the other bedroom. Cora shared a room with Merlita, who was also in bed. Cora said her prayers for the night, climbed in her top bunk, and closed her eyes. Cora was awakened at eleven, however, when she heard a knock on her locked bedroom door. This was the knock that would change her life forever.
As Cora opened the locked bedroom door, she saw a man with a gun in one hand and a knife in the other. Cora, under threat, opened the door as the man began to wake up her roommate, shuffling all the girls into the larger bedroom. The man, in his early twenties, was a white man with a tattoo on his forearm of a serpent. He was calm and reassured the women that he was not there to hurt them. Cora, Merlita, and Valentina were scared and ran into the closet, locking the door behind them.
The women then heard a knock on the closet door. It was the three American roommates who were home: Pat, Pamela, and Nina. They reassured the Filipino nurses that the man was not going to hurt them, so the nurses exited the closet. The man sat all six women down in a circle on the floor of the room. Finally, one of the women asked him what he wanted. “I want some money. I am going to New Orleans”, the man said with a southern drawl (Breo & Martin, 1993).
The man was perfectly calm and seemed almost gentle. He explained that he came into the nurses’ apartment through the door, breaking the lock. The women agreed to give the man any money they had. Pamela asked if she could go get her purse. The man led the women, at gunpoint, as a single unit to each of their purses and collected all the money the nurses had. Afterwards, he led the nurses back to the bigger bedroom and counted them, counting six.
At that time, Gloria Davy was sitting outside in the car of her fiancé. She had just returned from her date at 11:40 pm. Gloria, who had some champagne that night, was slightly intoxicated. She called the house mother at the other townhouse to check in before proceeding to climb the stairs of the townhouse. Waiting at the top of the stairs was the man, who immediately pulled a gun on Gloria. Gloria was ordered to give the man her money and sit in the circle of women on the floor. He said “Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to kill you” (Breo & Martin, 1993).
The man sat with the nurses, casually talking and even joking as he smoked cigarettes and played with a switchblade knife. He then took some sheets and cut them into strips. The strips were then used to tie each of the women’s hands and feet. As he was almost done tying the women up, the doorbell rang. He led Cora and Merlita, the only two not tied up yet, down the stairs, but there was no one at the door. Later, authorities learned another student nurse stopped by to pick up something she left behind while studying with the other students that day. When no one answered the bell, she figured the nurses were all asleep and decided to try again in the morning.
At approximately 12:15 am, the man untied Pamela Wilkening before placing the gun to her back and ordering her into the other bedroom. After a few minutes, Cora heard Pamela make a noise and then get quiet. The man had stuffed cloth in her mouth to muffle her screams as he attempted to sexually assault the woman. As Pamela was being assaulted, Suzanne returned home with Mary Ann as her guest. The two women headed up the stairs, unaware of what awaited them.
Once reaching the top of the stairs, they saw Pamela tied up and being assaulted by the man. They tried to run, but the man blocked the stairs and corralled them into the room where Pamela was still lying helpless. Cora heard yelling and noises that frightened her as Suzanne and Mary Ann attempted to fight off their attacker. The man used the switch blade to quickly and viciously attack the two women. He stabbed Suzanne eighteen times before using her stocking to strangle her. Mary Ann was stabbed in her eye with the switchblade as well as three stab wounds to the chest. The two nursing students had surprised the monstrous man.
Turning his attention back to Pamela, the man stabbed her in the heart, ending her life. He used a sheet to partially cover the victims and then closed the door to the bedroom. The man proceeded to the bathroom, at which point the women could hear water running for several minutes. The man was cleansing all the blood from himself and his knife. With three of the nine women now dead, the man returned to the big bedroom.
While Pamela, Suzanne, and Mary Ann were being murdered, the Filipino nurses begged the American nurses to fight for freedom. One suggested throwing a lamp out the window to get someone’s attention. The nursing students, however, had recently completed a psych rotation and felt that remaining calm and giving the man all their money was the best way to diffuse the situation and ensure their safety. The American nursing students overruled the Filipino nurses, but they were dead wrong.
Next, the man untied Nina and led her out of the room by gunpoint. The women heard her make the same noise as Pamela as Nina was gagged in the next room. The women were now all fearful for their lives, except Gloria Davy. Gloria had fallen asleep as her roommates tried to hide under the bunk beds. The Filipino women, much smaller in size and stature than the American women, were able to maneuver easier. Cora hid deep under one of the bunks.
After a short time with Nina, the women heard the man return to the bathroom and start the water once more. Between each murder, the man cleansed the blood from his hands and knife and hid his victim. This way, the next woman being led to her death was not fully aware of the fate of the last. Next, he chose Valentina, who made a significantly louder noise than the other women as she attempted to scream. After twenty more minutes, Cora heard the man return to the bathroom and once more run the water. He was systematically murdering each woman, one by one.
Merlita was chosen next. Cora listened as her fellow Filipino nurse yelled “Masakit”, which translated to “It hurts!”. Cora remained as silent and still as possible under the bed and prayed for her safety. After a half hour, the man once again returned to the bathroom to clean up. There were now six dead nurses in the other bedroom. The man had sexually assaulted some of the women and brutally murdered all of them.
Next, the man returned and untied Pat. He led Pat out of the room as Cora tried desperately to remain undetected under the bed. Cora heard the man say, “Lie down here” (Breo & Martin, 1993). He repeated his request to Pat, who again did not comply. The two were in the bathroom when he kicked her hard in the stomach to subdue her. He spent the next thirty minutes or so with Pat before the water once again began running. He left Pat on the bathroom floor covered in blood as he was no longer concerned with concealing his victims.
When the man returned to the bedroom, he found only Gloria Davy remaining. Cora had hidden under the bed and was out of sight. It was now two-thirty am. The man slammed the bedroom door shut, waking Gloria. The woman, still a bit tipsy, said “I dreamed by mother died” (Breo & Martin, 1993). Cora could see from her hiding place as the man removed Gloria’s jeans and panties and climbed on top of her. He asked her if she had done this before and requested that she wrap her legs behind his back.
After the sexual assault ended, the man took Gloria out of the room. Cora feared that the man had known she was under the bed. She decided to try to change her hiding place from that spot to under the other bunk bed. It took her nearly fifty minutes to wiggle her way under the other bunk bed and conceal herself with a blanket. During that time, the man was downstairs murdering Gloria on the couch. When he returned to the bedroom, he found no more girls. He had lost count. The man then left the home on foot as Cora remained hidden.
After a few hours of silence, Cora felt confident the man had left and was not returning to the townhouse. At this point, she exited her hiding place. As she walked through the apartment, Cora found the horrific murder scenes of her seven roommates and fellow nursing student Mary Ann. All eight women were brutally murdered and left to lie in puddles of their own congealed blood. Terrified, the Cora knocked out the window screen on the second story and started screaming. When help arrived, the Cora could only cry “They’re all dead” (Breo & Martin, 1993).
Inside the townhome, the bodies of Suzanne, Mary Ann, Pamela, Nina, Merlita, Valentia, Pat, and Gloria were found clearly deceased. The women had all been stabbed, Suzanne and Mary Ann in more of a frenzy compared to the other nurses. Several had ligatures around their necks in addition to multiple stab wounds and signs of sexual assault. What happened in that Apartment on July 14th, 1966, was equivalent to the goriest and most horrific slasher movie. Only this was real life.
Cora was quite hysterical, as anyone would be after surviving such an experience. After she was treated medically and psychologically examined, she provided the police with information. The investigators arranged for her mother and cousin to come to the United States to support her. Cora described the man as a white male in his early twenties, speaking with a southern American accent, and he had a serpent tattoo on his forearm and another tattoo that read “Born to Raise Hell”. She explained that he had a knife and a gun. She told the authorities that the man stated he planned to go to New Orleans. She was able to provide extensive detail of the horrible experience.
Nearby the apartment of the nurses was the National Maritime Union Hiring Hall. This prompted police to ask if any men awaiting assignment had been acting suspiciously. They came up empty, however. The police went canvassing the neighborhood. They learned that a man matching the sketch artist’s drawing, based off Cora’s description, had been in the station on July 13th and had asked the attendant to hold his bags. The man stated he was supposed to be assigned to work on a ship, but the assignment failed. He offered that he planned to go to New Orleans. Meanwhile, crime scene detectives discovered fingerprints at the scene that did not match any of the women. They were collected for comparison to any suspects.
Detectives, armed with a sketch of the suspect, entered seedy bars that were often frequented by men working for the Maritime Union. They asked the bartender if anyone matching the description had been in the bar, to which the bartender denied. News of the crime had hit national media and the sketch was plastered all over the news. A man inside the bar, playing pool, asked the detectives if there had been any progress in finding the suspect. Detectives explained they were still working to identify the man. However, other detectives had already identified the man as Richard Speck. The man playing pool inside the bar was, indeed, Richard Speck, the man they were looking for.
Detectives had used the gas station attendant’s statement regarding the man whose ship job had fallen through. Returning to the union hall, just across the street from the crime scene, the police were able to identify the man as twenty-four-year-old Richard Speck. Speck had been given an assignment aboard a ship on July 13th, only to learn that the spot was taken by another employee. Angered, Speck began drinking and staying in run down hotels on the lower east side of Chicago.
Richard Speck was born in Kirkwood, Illinois, on December 6th, 1941. Richard was the seventh of eight children born to religious parents. Unfortunately, Richard’s father died when he was just six years old. Following his father’s death, his mother remarried and relocated to Dallas with Richard and his younger sister. His older siblings were quite a bit older and already living on their own at that time. Richard’s siblings once said he was extremely spoiled and not raised with the same religious expectations that the older siblings were (Breo & Martin, 1993).
Richard’s stepfather hated the boy and was extremely verbally, physically, and mentally abusive. Growing up in a home with an abusive and alcoholic stepfather, Richard began to act out at an early age. He was abusing alcohol and committing petty thefts as a young man. Speck struggled in school, in part due to his refusal to wear glasses that he needed in order to read. He often refused to speak at school and repeated the eighth grade. He dropped out of the ninth grade at age sixteen.
By this time, Speck had been getting drunk almost daily. He had been arrested for at least a dozen petty crimes. He was working for the 7-Up bottling company when he met fifteen-year-old Shirley Malone at the Texas State Fair. Three weeks later, Shirley was pregnant and the two married. Richard was frequently abusive to his young wife. His daughter was born in the summer of 1962, but Richard was in jail at the time of her birth. By 1963, he was sentenced to prison for forgery and burglary. His wife divorced him, and Speck was basically an absent father.
Richard Speck was paroled by the State of Texas in 1965, but quickly reoffended. A week after his release in January of 1965, Speck attacked a woman with a knife. The woman yelled, spooking her attacker who then ran on foot. Police quickly captured him, and he was sent back to prison for the assault and parole violations. He was supposed to serve an additional sixteen months, but due to an error, he was released after six months when the parole violation sentenced concluded. By the end of 1965, Speck was a free man once again.
Richard found work as a delivery driver but lost the job after several motor vehicle accidents on the job. In January of 1966, Speck stabbed another man during a bar fight in Texas. His mother, now separated from his stepfather, hired a lawyer who was able to negotiate with prosecutors to lower the charge to disturbing the peace. For this violent assault, Richard Speck was spent three days in jail and was fined twelve dollars, which he never paid.
On March 5th, 1966, Richard robbed a grocery store of seventy cartons of cigarettes. Once his vehicle was identified, a warrant was issued for his arrest. If captured, this would have been the forty-second arrest in the twenty-four-year-old’s life. Instead, his younger sister drove him to the bus station where Richard Speck caught a ride to Chicago, Illinois. His older siblings lived in Illinois and were sure to help the young man.
Once in Illinois, Richard spent some time in Monmouth, Illinois, where his brother lived. While barhopping in Monmouth at the end of March, Richard threatened a man with his knife and was briefly detained by local authorities. The news of his outstanding warrant in Texas did not reach the Illinois authorities, so Speck was released. On April 3rd, 1966, a sixty-five-year-old woman returned to her Monmouth home to find an intruder. The young man, believed to be Richard Speck, was polite and spoke with a southern drawl. He tied her up, raped her, ransacked her home, and stole her money.
A week later, barmaid Mary Kay Pierce disappeared from the Monmouth bar she worked at, Frank’s Tavern. Her body was found shortly after she was reported missing in an empty hog house behind the tavern. Mary Kay had died of a ruptured liver after suffering blunt force trauma to the abdomen. She was a married mother of two children at the time of her death. Richard Speck has been doing some carpentry work at the establishment and was often seen near the hog house. He was brought in for questioning, but he claimed to be ill during the interrogation and left. He promised to return, but never did. Later, items belonging to Mary Kay were found in the hotel room Richard Speck had been staying in. Police also found items reported missing by the sixty-five-year-old woman following her attack. By time police had evidence to tie him to the crimes, he has fled town to Chicago to stay with another sibling.
Richard arrived at his sister’s home in Chicago. He claimed to be on the run after refusing to sell narcotics to the mob. Richard was always telling tall tales and most people knew he was a pathological liar. His sister, a Registered Nurse, and her husband were very religious and did not approve of Speck’s lifestyle. Richard’s brother-in-law, a United States Navy veteran, took Richard to the Maritime Union Hall to help him find work as an apprentice seaman. In order to qualify, Speck had a physical and his fingerprints were taken. These fingerprints later matched to the fingerprints left in the nurses’ townhouse.
Speck soon found work aboard a ship, but that job quickly ended after he suffered an appendicitis and had emergency surgery in Michigan. While recovering from surgery, Richard befriended a nurse who cared for him. The two began to correspond with letters after Richard was discharged from the hospital and returned to Chicago. After Speck’s next assignment ended as a result of a fight with another seamen, he went to stay with the nurse in Michigan briefly. The nurse was going through a divorce and not seeking a romantic relationship. Richard Speck returned back to Chicago with eighty dollars given to him by the nurse.
On July 8th, 1966, Speck reported for a third ship assignment. However, he lost the job to a union member with seniority. Three days later, his sister asked him to leave her home. Richard used what little money he had to pay for a room at a boarding house on Chicago’s lower east side and alcohol for a multi-day drinking binge. During his frequent trips to the union hall, Speck noticed the nurses coming and going from the townhouse.
On July 13th, 1966, Speck spent the day drinking in run down bars and telling tall tales of stabbing a man aboard the ship during his last assignment. He later followed a bar fly named Ella Mae Hopper out of a bar. He took the fifty-three-year-old woman to his room at the Shipyard Inn and raped her. Before he let her leave, he stole her mail-order 0.22 caliber Rohm pistol, which the woman had paid sixteen dollars for. After this assault, he returned to the bar and continued drinking until 10:20 pm. Armed with the gun and his knife, he headed to east 100th Street where the nurses resided.
Richard Speck was in fact the young man with the southern drawl who brutally murdered eight nurses one-by-one in the early morning hours of July 14th, 1966. After the six-hour long crime, and unaware he had left a survivor, Speck walked back to his room at the Shipyard Inn, tossing his knife in a river along the way. He went to sleep without hesitation, awaking the next day only to continue drinking. While playing pool at the Shipyard Inn Tavern, Speck spoke with detectives searching from someone matching the description provided by Cora. Only then did he learn he had left a survivor. He went undetected by the investigators, but Speck knew he had to get out of the area.
Speck took a cab to the northern region of Chicago and spent the next two days drinking his life away in the seedy bars of skid row. On his first night on the northside of Chicago, Speck brought home a hooker. However, he fell asleep, and she noticed his gun and promptly left. She told the hotel attendant about the gun, which was against the hotel rules. The attendant called the police who showed up to find a Speck passed out. The police confiscated the gun but did not recognize Speck, who had registered under another name. He was not arrested or charged with any crime. He left the hotel the next day, just hours before the hotel attendant realized he was the man wanted for the murders of eight nurses.
Richard used what little money he had left to finance a room, more like a cubicle, at the Starr hotel. He spent the next day, July 15th, drinking with Carl Lunsford, a newfound friend. Carl explained that he had once hopped freight trains to get out of town. Speck, using a false name again, begged his new friend to help him catch a train out of Chicago. Speck’s new friend had grown annoyed and suspicious of him already, however, and refused to help him. He thought he recognized the man as the wanted murder whose picture was all over television. Carl made an anonymous phone call that night to the police and told them what room at the Starr Hotel their suspect could be found in. However, this lead was not followed up on.
Around midnight on the morning of July 17th, the hotel clerk at the Starr Hotel was notified that there was an emergency in one of the rooms. It was Carl’s room, but inside was Richard Speck. He had been bleeding profusely from his wrists from self-inflicted wounds. The pale, barely conscious Richard Speck begged for water as he was transported to Cook County Hospital for treatment. The emergency physician worked diligently to save the man’s life, even after he recognized the tattoos and identified the man as Richard Speck.
Police were summoned to Cook County Hospital where Richard Speck’s life had been saved by the very man who identified him and notified police of his whereabouts. Due to his critical condition, investigators declined to question Speck for almost three weeks as his physician advised against it. Authorities were careful not to act in a manner that would jeopardize the prosecution of this monster. While still in the hospital, however, Cora was dressed in her nursing uniform and brought into Speck’s room. She pretended to be an employee and left quickly, confirming the identify of Speck as her attacker to police.
Richard Speck faced eight charges of first-degree murder and the death penalty. While awaiting trial, a panel of three psychological experts determined Speck was competent to stand trial and was not insane at the time of the crime. Richard Speck maintained his innocence as he met with another psychologist, Dr. Martin Ziporyn. Ziporyn stated he believed Speck was not a sociopath and suffered from “organic brain syndrome” resulting from cerebral injuries he suffered earlier in life. He believed that Speck was a good person and was competent to stand trial but believed that Speck was insane at the time of the crime as a result of drug and alcohol consumption combined with organic brain syndrome. Before the trial began, both the defense and prosecution learned that Dr. Ziporyn was planning to publish a book about Richard Speck, which made him unsuitable as a defense witness.
The trial was moved from Cook County to Peoria County after the defense asked for a change of venue. In reality, Cook County is the most diverse and liberal county in Illinois and the defense truthfully did not want to move the trial to a more conservative county. The request was simply a tactic to give Speck a chance at appeal later. The trial began in April of 1967. Speck had confessed to a doctor while at the hospital but maintained that he had no memory of crime after his hospitalization. We would not testify at his trial.
The prosecution’s star witness, Cora, identified Speck at trial. She left the witness box and walked within feet of Richard Speck as she pointed him out to the jury. Despite months in hiding from the media and great concern over her ability to testify after the traumatic experience, Cora demonstrated poise and strength as a witness. Additional evidence included witnesses who placed Speck in the area before and after the crime, the physician testified about identifying the suspect in the hospital, the fingerprints matching Speck found at the crime scene, and the recovered knife he had thrown in the river. The gun evidence was not admissible because the police who confiscated the gun at the hotel had no warrant or legal authority to do so, meaning it was an illegal search.
On April 15th, the jury took just forty-nine minutes to reach a verdict. Richard Speck was found guilty on all counts. He was sentenced to death in the electric chair. However, Richard Speck would never be executed. In 1971, Speck’s sentence was overturned because an appellate court found that more than 250 potential jurors were eliminated from selection related to their religious beliefs in relation to the death penalty. Speck was supposed to face another sentencing trial, but in 1972 the United States Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was unconstitutional. Speck was resentenced to 400 to 1,200 years in prison.
Somehow, Speck was able to have parole hearings almost annually starting in 1976. Thankfully, he was denied parole at every hearing. In prison, Speck was known to traffic contraband including drugs and moonshine. He once said, “How am I going to get in trouble? I am in here for 1,200 years!” (Wikipedia). In 1978, Speck granted an interview to the Chicago Tribune in which he indirectly confessed to the crimes. He stated he didn’t remember the crime, but he knows he had no feelings at the time.
John Douglas, the famous FBI profiler, interviewed Speck while he was in prison. An injured sparrow had flown into Speck’s cell through a broken window. Speck nursed the bird back to health and attempted to keep it as a pet. When the guards told him he could not keep the bird, he threw the bird into a ceiling fan, causing its death. If Speck couldn’t have his bird, no one would have it.
The day before his fiftieth birthday, December 5th, 1991, Richard Speck was transported from Statesville Correctional Center to Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet, Illinois related to a medical emergency. Speck died that day of what was determined to be a heart attack. The coroner reported an enlarged heart, clogged arteries, and emphysema as the primary causes of Speck’s death. Speck’s brain was removed with the intention of being studied to determine if brain abnormalities may lead to violent behavior. The rest of his body was cremated and scattered in a location known only to his younger sister.
Speck’s brain was examined by Dr. Jane E Leestma at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery. She found two major abnormalities in Richard Speck’s brain. The hippocampus, responsible for memory, and the amygdala, responsible for rage and emotions, were overlapping each other. Tissue slides were created, and the remains of Speck’s brains were stored for further study. However, the slides and remaining brain tissue were stolen and have never been found! Photos from Dr. Leestma’s examination have been reviewed by fellow neurologists who all conclude that the abnormality is very rare with unknown consequences.
Five years after Richard Speck’s death, a video was given to Chicago television news anchor Bill Kurtis by an anonymous source. The video was recorded inside Stateville Correctional Center in 1988. On tape, Richard Speck is seen with fellow inmates consuming drugs and alcohol inside prison walls. Speck then performed sex acts on African American prisoners who questioned him about having sex with men. Speck stated he liked to have sex with the men. He took his shirt off, revealing female-like breasts. Speck had been trafficking illegal hormones to grow breasts while he was in prison. The man who prosecuted Speck believes Richard transformed in order to survive and gain protection while in prison.
During the two-hour long video, Speck also answered questions about the murders. When asked if he killed the nurses, Speck said, “Sure I did”. When asked why, he said, “It just wasn’t their night”. Speck went on to say he was not remorseful. He further commented about his time in prison, “If they only knew how much fun I was having, they’d turn me loose”. The video disgusted and outraged people across the state of Illinois. The videos release prompted prison reform, stopping the pattern of prisoners running the maximum-security Illinois prisons.
Richard Speck’s crime was dubbed “The Crime of the Century” by media in 1966. The murder of eight young nurses in one night became a notorious American true crime story. Richard Speck became an infamous monster who continued to live a strange and depraved life after his incarceration. Richard is suspected, while not convicted, of killing Mary Kay Pierce as well as several rapes and robberies. He was truly a monster, and perhaps if his brain had been more intensely studied, science could have uncovered evidence to prevent future crimes.
Cora remained in the United States, marrying and working as a nurse. She became a mother and grandmother, and she continues to live life to the fullest. She out-smarted and out lived Richard Speck.
Gloria Jean Davy (1944-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Suzanne Bridgit Farris (1944-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Mary Ann Jordan (1945-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Patricia Ann Matusek (1945-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Nina Jo Schmale (1941-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Pamela Lee “Pam” Wilkening (1945-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Valentina P Pasion (1942-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Merlita Ornado Gargullo (1942-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Corazon Amurao’s Amazing Story Of Survival: How She Escaped Richard Speck (ranker.com)
Mary Kay (Kathryn) Brasche Pierce (1933-1966) – Find a Grave Memorial
Outrage Over Explicit Prison Video of Richard Speck | AP News
Richard Speck – Video, Tattoo & Daughter – Biography
The Untold Truth Of Murderer Richard Speck (grunge.com)
Richard Speck – Interesting stories about famous people, biographies, humorous stories, photos and videos. (fampeople.com)
Breo, D. & Martin, W. (1993) The Crime of the Century. Skyhorse Publishing