The Chicago Rippers
Left to Right: Andrew Kokoraleis, Tommy Kokoraleis, Robin Gecht, Edward Spreitzer
It was a case with all the grisly drama of a Hollywood
production. A serial slayer, predictably dubbed "Jack the Ripper" by newsmen,
was stalking young women in Chicago and environs, discarding their mutilated
corpses like so much cast-off rubbish. Homicide detectives had no inkling of the
killer's motive or identity; they couldn't even manage to agree upon a
body-count. The speculation published daily in Chicago's press was bad enough;
the truth, when finally exposed, was infinitely worse.
On May 23, 1981, 28-year-old Linda Sutton was abducted by persons unknown from Elmhurst, a Chicago suburb. Ten days later, her mutilated body -- the left breast missing -- was recovered from a field in Villa Park, adjacent to the Rip Van Winkle Motel. The evidence suggested Sutton had been kidnapped by a sadist, but police had nothing in the way of solid clues.
A year would pass before the next acknowledged victim in the series disappeared. On May 15, 1982, 21-year-old Lorraine Borowski was scheduled to open the Elmhurst realtor's office where she worked. Employees turning up for work that morning found the office locked, Borowski's shoes and scattered contents from her handbag strewn outside the door. Police were called at once, but five more months elapsed before her corpse was found, on October 10, in a cemetery south of Villa Park. Advanced decomposition left the cause of death a mystery.
Two weeks later, on May 29, Shui Mak was reported missing from Hanover Park, in Cook County, her mutilated body recovered at Barrington on September 30. On June 13, prostitute Angel York was picked up by a "john" in a van, handcuffed, her breast slashed open before she was dumped on the roadside, alive. Descriptions of her attacker had taken police nowhere by August 28, when teenage hooker Sandra Delaware was found stabbed and strangled to death on the bank of the Chicago River, her left breast neatly amputated. Rose Davis, age 30, was in identical condition when police found her corpse in a Chicago alley, on September 8. Three days later, 42-year-old Carole Pappas, wife of the Chicago Cubs' pitcher, vanished without a trace from a department store in nearby Wheaton, Illinois. Detectives got the break they had been waiting for October 6. That morning, prostitute Beverly Washington, age 20, was found nude and savaged beside a Chicago railroad track. Her left breast had been severed, the right deeply slashed, but she was breathing, and emergency treatment would save her life. Hours later, in a seemingly unrelated incident, drug dealer Rafael Torado was killed, a male companion wounded, when the occupants of a cruising van peppered their phone booth with rifle fire.
Two weeks later, on October 20, police arrested unemployed carpenter Robin Gecht, age 28, and charged him with the cruel assault on Beverly Washington. Also suspected of slashing prostitute Cynthia Smith before she escaped from his van, Gecht was an odd character, once accused of molesting his own younger sister. Authorities immediately linked him with the "Ripper" slayings, but they had no proof, and he made bail October 26.
Meanwhile, detectives had learned that Gecht was one of four men who rented adjoining rooms at Villa Park's Rip Van Winkle Motel, several months before Linda Sutton was murdered nearby. The manager remembered them as party animals, frequently bringing women to their rooms, and he surprised investigators with one further bit of information. The men had been "some kind of cultists," perhaps devil-worshippers. Two of the Rip Van Winkle tenants -- brothers Thomas and Andrew Kokoraleis -- had been kind enough to leave a forwarding address, for any mail they might receive. Police found 23-year-old Thomas at home when they called, and his inconsistent answers earned him a trip downtown. The suspect promptly failed a polygraph examination, cracking under stiff interrogation to describe the "Satanic chapel" in Gecht's upstairs bedroom, where captive women were tortured with knives and ice picks, gang-raped, and finally sacrificed to Satan by members of a tiny cult including Gecht, the Kokoraleis brothers, and 23-year-old Edward Spreitzer. As described by the prisoner, cultic rituals included severing one or both breasts with a thin wire garrote, each celebrant "taking communion" by eating a piece before the relic was consigned to Gecht's trophy box. At one point, Kokoraleis told detectives, he had counted fifteen breasts inside the box. Some other victims had been murdered at the Rip Van Winkle, out in Villa Park. He picked a snapshot of Lorraine Borowski as a woman he had picked up, with his brother, for a one-way ride to the motel.
Police had heard enough. Armed with search and arrest warrants, they swept up Robin Gecht, Ed Spreitzer, and 20-year-old Andrew Kokoraleis on November 5, lodging them in jail under $1 million bond. A search of Gecht's apartment revealed the Satanic chapel described by Tom Kokoraleis, and lawmen came away with a rifle matched to the recent Torado shooting. Satanic literature was also retrieved from the apartment occupied by Andrew Kokoraleis. With their suspects in custody, authorities speculated that the gang might have murdered 18 women in as many months. Tom Kokoraleis was charged with the slaying of Lorraine Borowski on November 12, formally indicted by a grand jury four days later. Brother Andrew and Edward Spreitzer were charged on November 14 with the rape and murder of victim Rose Davis. When the mangled body of 22-year-old Susan Baker was found on November 16, at a site where previous victims had been discarded, police were worried that other cult members might still be at large. No charges were filed in that case, however, and authorities now connect Baker's death with her background of drug and prostitution arrests in several states.
Facing multiple charges of attempted murder, rape, and aggravated battery, Robin Gecht was found mentally competent for trial on March 2, 1983. His trial opened on September 20, and Gecht took the witness stand next day, confessing the attack on Beverly Washington. Convicted on all counts, he received a sentence of 120 years in prison. Tom Kokoraleis had suffered a change of heart since confessing to murder, attorneys seeking to block the reading of his statements in forthcoming trials, but on December 4, 1983, the confessions were admitted in evidence. Meanwhile, on April 2, 1984, Ed Spreitzer pled guilty on four counts of murder -- including victims Davis, Delaware, Mak and Torado. Sentenced to life on each count, he received additional time on conviction for charges of rape, deviant sexual assault, and attempted murder.
Tom Kokoraleis was convicted of Lorraine Borowski's murder on May 18, 1984. While awaiting sentencing, he led police to a field where Carole Pappas was allegedly buried, but searchers could find no remains. On September 7, the killer's helpful attitude was rewarded with a sentence of life imprisonment. Eighteen days later, Kokoraleis, his brother, and Ed Spreitzer were indicted for the murder of Linda Sutton. Andrew Kokoraleis and Spreitzer were also named in a second indictment, covering the murder of Lorraine Borowski. On February 6, 1985, a statement from Andrew Kokoraleis was read to the jury in his trial for the Davis murder. In his confession, the defendant admitted he was "cruising" with fellow cultists Gecht and Spreitzer when they kidnapped Davis, with Andrew stabbing her several times in the process. Convicted on February 11, he received his death sentence on March 18. A year later, on March 4, 1986, Edward Spreitzer was convicted of murdering Linda Sutton, formally sentenced to death on March 20. Authorities declared that Spreitzer had agreed to testify against Gecht in that case, but at this writing no further charges have been filed in Chicago's grim series of cannibal murders.