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Richard Speck was born in Kirkland, Illinois on December 6, 1941. His mother raised the family under strict religious rules; this included the abstinence of alcohol. His father died when he was six years old; when his mother remarried the family relocated to Dallas, Texas. When his mother remarried, her attitude changed. Richard’s step-father had violent drunken episodes and Speck was often the victim of his abuse. He later grew to be a poor student and a juvenile delinquent that was prone to violent behavior.
He married someone who was fifteen years old when he was twenty. Her name was Shirley Malone, and they had a child together. Because of his violent nature, he regularly abused Shirley and Shirley’s mother. This abuse included spousal rape at knife point as often as several times a day. He was a part-time garbage man and a petty thief. In 1965, his criminal activity escalated; he attempted to rob a woman at knife point. Richard was caught and spent fifteen months in jail. His marriage to Shirley was over by 1966.
To avoid being questioned by authorities for various crimes that was believed to be involved in, he moved into his sister’s home in Chicago when he got out of prison. Speck attempted to get a job as a merchant seaman, but most of his time was spent in bars where he drank and bragged about past crimes. Richard rented sleazy hotel rooms when he could, and lived with his sister when he couldn’t. He was tall, unattractive, a drug addict, alcoholic, and he was jobless; he had a violent streak that was waiting to be released.
Mary Kay Pierce was found dead behind the bar she worked at on April 13, 1966; her liver had been ruptured because of a blow to her abdomen. As a result, Richard was questioned by the police about the murder. However, Speck feigned illness and promised the police he would return on April 19 to answer questions. He didn’t return and the police went to the hotel he was staying at, the Christy Hotel. There, the police found items from local burglaries when they searched his room. They found jewelry that belonged to Mrs. Virgil Harris who was 65 years old and had been robbed and raped at knife point that very same month.
Speck tried to get work on a barge while he was on the run and he was registered at the National Maritime Union Hall. There was student housing for nursing students directly across the street from the union hall. These students worked at the South Chicago Community Hospital. On the 13th of July in 1966, Richard Speck was at the bar under the rooming house he was staying at; he had several drinks that night. He left the bar with a hunting knife, a pocket knife, and a borrowed .22 caliber pistol; it was a thirty minute walk to the nurse’s townhouse, and at around 10:30 pm on July 13, 1966 Speck entered the townhouse through a screen door and gathered the nurses inside.
He assured the young women that all he wanted was money, but that wasn’t true. With a gun and a knife, he terrified the girls into submission and he got them all into a bedroom. In the bedroom, he bound each woman at the ankles and the wrists with strips of bed sheets he had cut and then he began moving them one by one to different parts of the house where he carried out their murders. The women that were waiting to be murdered tried to hide under beds, but Speck found them; two more nurses were murdered when they returned to their home. All of this was completed by 3:30 am. Only one woman remained unfound, and she survived.
The name of the woman who survived was Corazon Amurao. To avoid being caught, she went under the bed and pushed tight against the wall. She had to endure listening to Richard Speck rape a woman by the name of Gloria Davy on the bed above her; she was taken away to be murdered. When Speck left the room, Corazon knew she would be the next victim. The house was silent for the rest of the night, and Amurao came out from under the bed around 6:00 am and then climbed out the window and sat on the ledge. It was there that she began to scream, “My friends are all dead! I’m the only one alive!” A student that lived across the street, Judy Dykton, had gotten up early to study and her attention was diverted to the screams of Amurao. She ran across the street, saw the scene, and then ran back to her own townhouse to tell her housemother, Mrs. Bisone, that there was trouble in the house across the street.
Mrs. Bisone entered the house and brought Leona Bonczak with her. Bonczak entered the house first and the first body she saw was Gloria Davy. Gloria was naked, had her hands tied behind her back, and a strip of cloth was wrapped around her throat. Leona checked her for any signs of life, and then continued on further into the house where she examined all of the other bodies. When she went back downstairs, she told Mrs. Bisone that everyone was dead and Mrs. Bisone then called the South Chicago Community Hospital and told them that all of the girls had been murdered; she told them to send help.
A person on the street flagged down officer Daniel Kelly. He was a patrolman who had only been on the job for 18 months. Kelly radioed in the incident and entered the house where he was shocked to find the body of Gloria Davy in the living room. He drew his gun and searched the house for the other bodies. In some places, the blood on the carpet was so thick that it pooled over his shoes. Daniel Kelly went outside to his car radio and called the massacre in. Jack Wallenda was the first detective on the scene. He said “it was the worst crime scene that he had ever witnessed.”
Based on Corazon Amurao’s description of the killer, investigators knew he was about six feet tall, blond, and he had a deep southern accent. Because of Richard Specks unique accent and appearance, people that he encountered remembered him and it led investigators to eventually catching him.
Speck tried to commit suicide when he found out that the police knew his name and identity. He cut his wrists and inner elbows with jagged glass to carry out the deed. However, he was unsuccessful and taken to the hospital. Leroy Smith, a first-year-resident, called the police when he recognized Richard Speck.
Dressed as a nurse, Corazon Amurao went into Richard’s hospital and identified him for the police as the murderer. Speck was then arrested and put on trial for the murder of eight nurses. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to death. The Supreme Court, however, ruled against capital punishment and Speck’s sentence was changed to fifty to to one hundred years in prison.
Richard Speck died from a heart attack in prison at the age of 49 on December 5, 1991. Speck was fat, bloated, had ash-white pockmarked skin, and hormone-injected breasts when he died. No one in his family would claim his remains, so Speck was cremated. His ashes were thrown in an undisclosed place.
A videotape of Speck with female-like breasts having sex with a fellow prisoner surfaced in May of 1996. This video was sent to news anchor Bill Curtis. Also in the video, Richard Speck could be seen doing what could only be assumed to be cocaine and he answered questions about the murder of the nurses in an interview-like discussion. He said he didn’t feel anything when murdering the nurses and that it just wasn’t their night.
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