The Man Who Killed Eight Women and Was Never a Serial Killer
Richard Speck the killer caught because of his tattoo.
Richard Speck murdered eight nurses in 1966 but was never classed as a serial killer. Due to the fact, he murdered them during one horrendous night, he joined the long list of spree killers. Serial killers have to kill over a period of time. The murders were no less horrendous though, and Speck will be remembered for many years as a violent sadistic killer.
Speck was born in December 1941, in Illinois, his family where Jewish. He was one of eight children. His father died when he was six, and his mother went on to remarry. With this marriage, the family moved to Dallas, Texas. Their stepfather was an alcoholic and extremely abusive. This resulted in Speck following his example and drinking throughout his youth. He spent much of his time in trouble through his behaviour and petty crime.
In 1962, he married Shirley Malone and had a daughter named Bobby Lynn. Speck hadn't finished with his criminal ways and shortly after her birth he was sent to jail for theft and check fraud. He was released in 1965 only to return to jail four weeks later for aggravated assault. During this time, he had “Born to Raise Hell” tattooed on his arm. Shirley finally had enough and filed for divorce in 1966.
Speck found himself once again arrested for burglary and assault. He decided to run and went to join his sister in Chicago. This was short-lived and he soon, moved on again to Illinois to stay with friends from his childhood. He went through a period of constantly moving to avoid his crimes.
During his short time as a carpenter in 1966, sixty-five-year-old Virgil Harris was raped and robbed in her home. Two weeks later a barmaid was horrifically beaten to death. Speck avoided the police once again and escaped.
Speck went on to find work on a ship, and it seemed as though dead bodies were turning up wherever Speck had been. Indiana police wanted to interview him regarding the murder of three girls who had disappeared on July 2, 1966, despite their bodies still being missing. Authorities in Michigan also wanted to speak with him about his whereabouts during the slaughter of another four females, aged between 7 and 60, as his ship had been in the area at the time of their murders.
One Long Night of Deviancy
On July 13th, 1966 Speck escalated to a level no one thought was possible. During this evening he knocked on a townhouse in Chicago, that was a communal home for student nurses. Corazon Amurao opened the door, he forced her to let him in at gunpoint. He then gathered all the nurses and told them to empty the contents of their purses. With this done he tied them up. As nurses returned home they were treated to the same sadistic treatment. Eight women were bound, robbed, battered, strangled, abused and stabbed.
He was so engrossed in the abuse he did not see Amurao hide under one of the beds. When he left hours later with the money, she remained cowered in her hiding place, before finally finding the courage to emerge and seek help.
When the police arrived at the scene they took Amurao into custody to construct an Identikit image. Amurao recalled the distinctive “Born to Raise Hell” tattoo that the attacker had, along with an accurate description of Speck, enabling police to successfully identify their suspect.
The Net Closes
Nationwide enquiries revealed the other crimes, Speck was suspected of committing. It also showed his extensive criminal record. In the 60s, automated fingerprint identification was not common practice, so it took nearly a week to identify the fingerprints found in the townhouse as belonging to him.
Speck’s image was put on every front page. Speck tried to kill himself on July 19, 1966, by slashing his wrists while staying in a seedy hotel. After taking the blade to his wrists, he changed his mind and ran out of his room to summon help.
He was rushed to Cook County hospital, where his tattoo yet again gave his identity away. He was immediately arrested and taken into custody. He needed surgery to repair his severed artery and had a dozen policemen watching his every move, so he didn’t escape again.
Speck’s trial started on April 3, 1967, and he claimed that he had no recollection of the eight murders. Corazon Amurao took the stand and became the star witness.
There were initial concerns about her ability to testify after enduring such a traumatic and harrowing ordeal, but she told perfectly what she’d seen, heard and suffered at the hands of Speck. She impressed the jury with her detailed recollection of that fateful evening, and she identified him, with no doubt.
Lasting just 12 days, the jury found Speck guilty of all eight murders. They needed to deliberate for less than an hour. Speck was sentenced to death.
Speck’s death sentence was reduced to 50 to 100 years in jail in 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court dissolved capital punishment. Speck was never charged with the murders that he was suspected of committing before the South Chicago massacre, and those cases remain unsolved. It was this factor that made him a mass murderer, not a serial killer.
Five years after Speck’s death in 1996, a TV journalist released a prison video that showed Speck taking drugs and having sex with another inmate in the 1980s. In the video Speck has breasts as a result of the hormone treatment he received whilst in prison, he could also be seen wearing women’s underwear.
In the same video, Speck also admits nonchalantly to killing the nurses in South Chicago and described their strangulations in vivid detail, cruelly bragging about the strength needed to kill someone this way.
His criminal ways did not stop in prison where he was often found with drugs and moonshine. Punishments had little effect on him as he often said. “How am I going to get in trouble? I'm here for 1,200 years” He will forever be remembered as the sadistic killer who showed no remorse.