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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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When 23-year-old Corazon Amurao opened the front door to Speck's knock, he forced his way in at gunpoint. Speck then rounded the nurses up and ordered them to empty their purses, before tying them all up. He proceeded to brutalize them in the most horrific fashion over the following few hours. Those who had been fortunate enough to be out at the time of his arrival found themselves also subjected to brutal attacks when they returned home later that evening.
A total of eight woman,
between ages 19 and 24, were robbed, raped, beaten, strangled and stabbed during Speck's frenzy. The body count was so high that he failed to notice that Amurao, who had opened the door for him on his arrival, had managed to hide herself under one of the beds. When he left, hours later, taking the money he had stolen, she cowered in her hiding place, terrified, for hours, before finally summoning the courage to seek help. She climbed out on a window ledge and screamed for help, at which point concerned neighbors summoned the police.
The police arrived to scenes of carnage, and took Amurao into custody, interviewing her and proceeding with the construction of an Identikit image. Fortunately, Amurao remembered the distinctive "Born to Raise Hell" tattoo that, along with the image, enabled police to identify their suspect as Richard Speck. Subsequent nationwide enquiries also raised the other incidents in which Speck was suspected, as well as his criminal record. In the days before automated fingerprint identification, it took almost a week to identify the prints found in the townhouse as his.
Media coverage splashed Speck's image all over the front pages and, in a desperate bid to escape, Speck tried to commit suicide on July 19, 1966, by slashing his wrists in the seedy hotel he was staying in. Changing his mind at the last minute, he summoned help, and was taken to Cook County hospital, where, again, his tattoo gave him away, and he was arrested and taken into custody. He was in need of surgery to repair his severed artery, and was watched over by a dozen policemen who were determined to ensure that his days of making lucky escapes were over.
Speck's trial began on April 3, 1967, and his claim that he had no recollection of the eight murders committed placed Corazon Amurao in the spotlight as the star witness. Despite concerns about her ability to testify after her harrowing ordeal, she gave a faultless performance, impressing the jury with every detail of that evening, identifying Speck unequivocally.
The trial lasted just 12 days and, on April 15, 1967, the jury found Speck guilty of all eight murders, after less than an hour's deliberation. The judge sentenced Speck to death.
In 1972, Speck's death sentence was commuted to 50 to 100 years in prison, when the U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment. Having served 19 years of that sentence, he died of a heart attack on December 5, 1991.
Speck was never officially charged with the murders of which he was suspected prior to the events that took place in the South Chicago townhouse and, officially, those cases remain unsolved.
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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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