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In 1966, Richard Speck committed one of the most horrifying mass murders in American history when he brutalized and killed eight student nurses living on Chicago's South Side.
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Richard Speck captured the nation's attention during the summer of 1966 after murdering eight female students who lived together on Chicago's South Side. Before then, he had been responsible for other acts of violence against his family and others but had a knack for escaping the police. After his killing spree in 1966, a manhunt ensued and he was captured two days later. He spent the rest of his life in prison until he died of a heart attack in 1991 at age 49.
Richard Benjamin Speck was born on December 6, 1941, in Kirkwood, Illinois, into a large, religious family, where he was the seventh of eight children. After the death of his father when Speck was six, his mother remarried, moving the family to Dallas, Texas. The children suffered considerable abuse at the hands of their drunken stepfather, and Speck's childhood was marked by juvenile delinquency and alcohol abuse, which soon led to petty crime.
In November 1962, Speck married Shirley Malone, and they had a daughter, Bobby Lynn, soon after. Their married bliss was short-lived, however, and Speck's reversion to type landed him a jail sentence for theft and check fraud, in 1963. Having been paroled in January 1965, he lasted only four weeks outside, before being arrested again for aggravated assault, and he was jailed for a further 16 months, of which he served 6 months.
During this period he had the words "Born to Raise Hell" tattooed on his arm, a sentiment that wife Shirley had experienced firsthand: She filed for divorce in January 1966. After Speck was arrested for burglary and assault, he fled to Chicago to seek shelter with his sister, Martha, a couple of months later. He spent a few days there before traveling to Monmouth, Illinois, where he stayed with some family friends from his early childhood.
For a short time he was a carpenter, but soon he was in trouble again: 65-year-old Virgil Harris was viciously raped and robbed in her own home on April 2, 1966, and on April 13 a barmaid in his local tavern, Mary Kay Pierce, was brutally beaten to death. He managed to deflect police questioning and escape once again, but police discovered some of Harris' personal effects in his vacant hotel room that conclusively tied him to her attack.
Speck found work on a ship, and it began to seem like bodies turned up wherever Speck had been. Indiana authorities wanted to interview Speck regarding the murder of three girls who had vanished on July 2, 1966, and whose bodies were never found. Michigan authorities also wanted to question him about his whereabouts during the murder of four other females, aged between 7 and 60, as his ship had been in the vicinity at the time. Speck, however, seemed to have a knack for making a quick escape and keeping police forces guessing.
These attacks, however, paled into insignificance on Saturday, July 13, 1966, when Speck arrived on the doorstep of a townhouse in South Chicago, which served as a communal home for a group of eight young student nurses from nearby South Chicago Community Hospital.
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Armed and ruthless, spree killers become infamous for turning a flash of anger and resentment into a deadly rampage. Columbine killer Dylan Klebold introduced America to the horrors of school shootings when he killed 13 students and teachers in 1999, and in 2007 Seung-Hui Cho made us relive the nightmare when he murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech. In the end killers like these often become their own victims, when they turn their weapons on themselves.
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