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A.K.A.: "The Chicago Rippers" - "The Ripper Crew"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Cannibalism - Rape - Mutilation
Number of victims: 18 +
Date of murders: May 23, 1981 - October 8, 1982
Date of arrest: October 20, 1982
Date of birth: November 30, 1953
Victims profile: Women
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to 120 years in prison on February 17, 1984

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Ripper Crew or Chicago Rippers was a satanic cult composed of Robin Gecht (who once worked for the serial killer John Wayne Gacy) and three associates (Edward Spreitzer with brothers Andrew and Thomas Kokoraleis). They were suspected in the disappearances of 18 women in Chicago, Illinois.

Gecht and his gang allegedly drove around in a van looking for prostitutes to sacrifice in Gecht's apartment. They claimed to have removed one breast from each victim and eaten it as Robin read passages of The Satanic Bible. It has also been said that they, after severing the breast, took turns raping the open wound. They then proceeded to each masturbate into the flesh of the breast, chop it into pieces, and devour it.

These men were arrested in 1982 for the stabbing of a teenaged prostitute. Although Gecht's associates and other witnesses implicated him in some of the deaths, investigators never had enough evidence to charge him with murder. Gecht is serving 120 years in Menard Correctional Center for mutilating and raping an 18-year-old prostitute.

Edward Spreitzer and Andrew Kokoraleis were sentenced to death. On March 16, 1999, 35-year-old Andrew Kokoraleis was executed by lethal injection at Tamms Correctional Center in Southern Illinois for the 1982 strangulation murder of Lorraine Borowski, a 21-year-old secretary at a real estate office who had been abducted on her way to work. Her mutilated body was found in a cemetery.

Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Andrew Kokoraleis was coerced into confessing. They also argued that new information cast doubt on the credibility of confessions by two co-defendants who accused him. Andrew, who had been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Rose Beck Davis, was the first prisoner executed at a new super-maximum-security prison in southern Illinois.

Thomas Kokoraleis was convicted of Lorraine Borowski's murder and received a life sentence.

On March 7, 1999, Robin Gecht's son David and three others were charged with first-degree murder in connection with a shooting death which police believe the killing to be gang-related.

Edward Spreitzer's death sentence was commuted in George H. Ryan's last minute commutation of all death sentences in Illinois in 2003. Incidentally, Andrew Kokoraleis was Governor Ryan's only execution, just over two months into his administration.


The Chicago Rippers

Robin Gecht, Ed Spreitzer, Andrew Kokoraleis, y Tommy Kokoraleis

In 1981 and 1982 Chicago was  besieged with a string of gruesome killings that began with Linda Sutton, 28, being raped and stabbed to death on May 23. Her corpse was found ten days later in Villa Park, her left breast missing.

In May of 1982 Lorraine Burrowski and Shui Mak were abducted, their bodies not recovered until that fall. Next was Angel York, who survived an attack on June 13. Not as fortunate was Sondra Delaware who was found strangled on a river bank with her left breast missing on August 28. Rose Davis suffered a similar fate and was found in an alleyway on September 8.

The slayings continued with Carol Pappas, wife of a Chicago Cubs player, who was abducted on September 11 while shopping and never seen again.

The unknown killers made their telling mistake on October 6 when Beverly Washington, a twenty-year-old prostitute, was found near death alongside some railroad tracks. Despite being raped, slashed, and having her left breast severed, Washington survived to give a fiar description of her attacker and the van she was taken in.

This info soon led to a group of men who had once lived together at a motel near the dump sites of Sutton and Burrowski. They were Robin Gecht, Ed Spreitzer, and brothers Andrew and Tommy Kokoraleis. Gecht, who had once worked for John Gacy, was identified as Washington's attacker and evidently the leader of the murderous gang.

It wasn't long before the Kokoraleis brothers and Spreitzer made confessions, including the gory revelation that the four had cannibalized their victim's amputated breasts before Gecht placed them in a "trophy case", but Gecht himself has always claimed innocence.

All four were eventually convicted at several seperate trials. Gecht's tight-lipped strategy was rewarded when authorities could only manage to give him 120 years for Washington's attack.

Thomas Kokoraleis used his helpfulness and a technicality to barter his sentence down to seventy years for his role in Borowski's slaying. Meanwhile his brother Andrew and Spreitzer were both sentenced to death for the roles in the murders.

Andrew Kokoraleis was subsequently executed on March 17, 1999. All told the Chicago Rippers are believed to have killed as many as eighteen women.


Background on Robin Gecht

After reading about the savage crimes of the "Chicago Rippers, " there was something I just had to ask Robin Gecht, the gang's alleged leader. Why was he so obsessed with womenís breasts? 

In almost every murder his gang is suspected of committing, there was grotesque mutilation of their victimsí breasts. "Well, in answer to your question on obsession with breast," Gecht replied, "It is a thing with my entire family going back as Iím told to great grandfather."  Gecht explains, "Each of us men have married large breast women. My ex-wife is a 39D and yes she was very satisfying to me."

Then again, Robin later told me: "As to your question about having sex with breast...I have no real obsession with breast in that form. Only a very sick person would even think that." Edward Spreitzer, Gechtís alleged partner, claims that Robin once became so furious with his wife that he cut off her nipples.

The Chicago Rippers had four members. At age 30, Gecht was the only adult and assumed the role of mentor and leader. Spreitzer was 21 and the Kokoraleis brothers, Tommy and Andrew, were only teenagers. In 1981 and 1982, the group reportedly committed dozens of murders involving rape, torture and mutilation.

Gecht claims that he is innocent of the murders, innocent of any murder for that matter, and that he didnít even know the other members when most of the victims were killed. "First considering me a serial not considered one...I have never killed or took part in any such acts nor ever charged in any murders of anyone."

This last part ó about being charged ó is true. Of the four men supposedly responsible for these killings, Gecht is the only one who was not charged with murder. The other three not only confessed to their involvement, but claimed that Gecht was in charge and they were only following his lead.

Edward Spreitzer is adamant about Gechtís guilt and offers detailed descriptions of his sick escapades: "A black female was picked up, blindfolded and gagged. Robin shoot her point blank in the head. Put chains around her neck and legs, attached two bowling balls and threw her in the water. I understand her body was not found."

In the spring of 1981, the "Rippers" found their first known victim, Linda Sutton, behind the Brer Rabbit Hotel in Chicago, a well-known hang-out for prostitutes.

According to Spreitzer, Sutton was gang-raped, sodomized and her left breast was cut off while she was still alive. About a year later, a red van pulled up alongside Lorry Borowski as she was walking to work. When she declined the driverís offer of a ride, two men jumped out of the van and grabbed her.

They took her to a hotel room where they gang-raped and beat her. A wire was wound around one of her breasts and tightened until it was severed from her body and fell to the floor. According to Spreitzerís sworn testimony, Gecht "had sex" with Borowskiís breast and then finished her off with an ax.

Only days later, the "Rippers" abducted a young Chinese woman named Shui Mak, drove her to an isolated wooded area where they raped her, cut off her breasts, sliced her body to ribbons and buried her in a hole.

Apparently, Rose Beck, a businesswoman known for her independent mind and outspokenness, was a victim who was not willing to go without a fight. When her body was found, a pool of dried blood lay beneath her anal cavity and her face was crushed beyond recognition.

The "Ripperís" last known victim, a teenage prostitute, lived to tell her tale and was able to identify Gechtís van. After Edward Spreitzer went to the police and gave them a full confession, police closed in on the group and arrested them.

By that point, many, many women had come forward with chilling tales of the tortures they said Robin Gecht had inflicted on them. Most of these tortures included some form of breast mutilation with needles and knives. Several women said Gecht had asked them to cut off their own nipples because Robin wanted to see "how they worked." Not surprisingly, Robin denies this.

Gecht was charged with kidnapping, rape and attempted manslaughter of this last victim and incarcerated in Menard Correctional Facility in Illinois. The kidnapping and rape charges have since been dropped. Gecht is still desperately trying to obtain the DNA testing that he is certain will clear him of all charges. So far, he has been unsuccessful; no one will budge on the issue of DNA testing.

"I donít only face the injustices, but the nightmares that follows. You have no idea the pain and hurt I face and feel every single day I sit here and loose hope. Iím not an angel...but I never intentionally hurt anyone unless it was to protect myself or my family. I could never live with killing or knowing I was responsible for taking ones life."

Despite powerful eyewitness testimony, there is simply no hard evidence to prove that Robin Gecht is guilty of anything but attempted murder of the last victim. Gechtís family, especially his wife, are 100 percent behind him, believe in his innocence, and look forward to the day when he will be eligible for parole in 2022.


Cannibal Murders - Illinois

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 life sentence on March 18. 

Kokoraleis was executed by lethal inyection March 16, 1999.

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.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers


Robin Gecht

In the early eighties Robin Getch, a former employee of John Wayne Gacy, and three associates, Edward Spreitzer and brothers Andrew and Thomas Kokoraleis, had a Satanic cult suspected for the disappearances of 18 women in the streets of Chicago.

Known as the Ripper Crew, Gecht and his gang drove around in a van looking for prostitutes to sacrifice in Gecht's apartment. They would remove one breast from each victim and eat it as Robin read passages of the bible.

Getch and his friends were arrested in 1982 for the stabbing of a teenaged prostitute. Like every good Satanist they all started squealing on each other. Though Robin's associates and other witnesses implicated him in some of the deaths, investigators never had enough evidence to charge him with murder.

Robin is serving 120 years in Menard Correctional Center for mutilating and raping an 18-year-old prostitute. Fellow cultist Edward Spreitzer and Andrew Kokoraleis were sentenced to death. Kokoraleis' brother Thomas was sentenced to life for his role in the murders.

On March 16, 1999, Andrew Kokoraleis was executed by lethal injection at Tamms Correctional Center in Southern Illinois for the 1982 strangulation murder of Lorraine Borowski, a 21-year-old secretary at a real estate office that was abducted on her way to work. Her mutilated body was found in a cemetery. Kokoraleis, 35, sighed three times, licked his lips and appeared to be speaking quietly to himself before he died.

Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Andrew was coerced into confessing. They also argued that new information cast doubt on the credibility of confessions by two co-defendants who accused Kokoraleis. Kokoraleis, who had been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Rose Beck Davis, was the first prisoner executed at a new super-maximum-security prison in southern Illinois.

On March 7, 1999, David A. Gecht, the son of Robin, and two others, were charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of a Northwest Side man. The killing is believed be to gang-related, police said.


The Chicago Rippers

By Katherine Ramsland

First Inkling of Horror

On June 1, 1981, it was raining when three detectives went to check on a call about a corpse discovered at the Moonlit Hotel in Villa Park, an outlying area of Chicago. It wasn't a surprise to receive such a call, since this hotel, located among junky shops, bars, and fast-food places, was known for its shady characters. It was rumored to be a place where you could meet someone for quick sex or to find a drug fix.

A hotel maid first brought the grisly discovery to someone's attention. Jaye Slade Fletcher, a Chicago police officer and author of true crime articles, collected the available information on the case in Deadly Thrills. She describes how the maid reported a terrible odor from somewhere near the hotel that grew worse by the day. The Moonlit's manager walked out into a trash-strewn field behind the hotel to see what he could do to get rid of it. There he found the source of the smell, which was not, as he had expected, a dead animal. It was a young woman, whose remains consisted largely of bones and some clinging flesh. He turned around immediately and called the police.

Three detectives arrived and they could see that this victim had been there a while. Quite a while. In fact, she was so decomposed that they could see her skeletal structure, but the maggots were still there, doing their workóan unusual combination of postmortem characteristics. The woman clearly had been murdered, because she had been bound with handcuffs before being left hereóprobably before she had died. She also had cloth in her mouth used as a gag, and still wore a sweater and panties, but they had been pulled down to her thighs. In her socks was a small wad of dollar bills, so robbery had not been a motive.

The key issue at the moment was to first establish the corpse's identity, and then figure out the time interval from the moment of her discovery to the moment she had died. In the condition this body was in, that would be difficult. In those days, there was no Body Farm, an institution set up in Knoxville, Tennessee to help establish time of death, for remains like this. In fact, the best information they had at that point about such estimations was mostly anecdotal. Only an expert could offer an answer.

Investigators also needed to establish whether this was the primary crime scene, where she had been killed, or rather a secondary scene, where she had been dumped after she was dead. The fact that no one had yet reported the body indicated that it might not have been here long. However, that possibility implied that whoever had killed her was able to tolerate decomposing remains long enough to carry them and place them here. One thing the detectives knew they could check was the soil beneath her body, to determine whether body fluids had leached into it.

But there was no use trying to analyze the situation at the moment. They had to deliver the body to the deputy coroner, Pete Siekman, so that he could attempt to determine the cause and manner of death, as well as take fingerprints and teeth impressions to compare to records, if they existed. Then they could stake out the scene and start searching for evidence.

A search of missing persons reports turned up no leads, so detectives called the Chicagodepartment, who told them that the practice of rolling money inside socks probably indicated that the victim had been a hooker. That made the process of identifying her much more difficult. But the fingerprints and dental records helped, and in less than two weeks, they had an ID: Linda Sutton, 21. As they had suspected, she proved to be a prostitute with a string of arrests. She was also the mother of two children, both of whom lived with Sutton's mother.

But a twist in the case came from the coroner: Despite the advanced state of decomposition of the body, he had determined that she had been dead for only three days. The remains' advanced rate of decomposition was due to two rather large wounds to her chest where her breasts had been removed, which had allowed for an invasion of parasites that had devoured the body in record time. This woman had been brutally assaulted and mutilated.

And she was not to be the last one to be found.

A String of Murders

A thirty-five-year-old cocktail waitress was abducted from her car on February 12, 1982. The gauge showed that the tank was empty, implying that she had run out of gas and possibly sought help when she was abducted. Her purse was on the front seat and the keys were still in the ignition. A search turned up her nude body on an embankment near the road. She had been raped, tortured and mutilated. The press was asked not to report that her breast had been amputated, according to Bill Kelly in Homicidal Mania, so that the police could retain that detail for interrogation purposes.

A few days later, the body of a Hispanic woman wearing an engagement ring was discovered. She had also been raped and strangled. While her breasts were not removed, they had been badly bitten. Her killer had also masturbated over her body. A psychiatric assessment of this crime pegged the attacker as a local man who probably loved animals and had a family. He also had a dark side that no one knew, turning into a cruel psychopathic murderer at night.

In May, according to Amanda Howard and Martin Smith in Rivers of Blood, another young woman, Lorraine Borowski (Fletcher calls her Lorry Ann, as her family had done) was abducted from where she worked as she crossed the parking lot alone. She was repeatedly raped and then subjected to having a wire wrapped around her breast to sever it from her body. Finally, one of her attackers killed her with a hatchet. The woman's remains were discovered at a dump site which was in the same general area where Sutton had been dumped, although this time it was in a cemetery known as Clarendon Hills.

The unknown attacker did not wait as long for the next assault. Two weeks after Borowski had been abducted and killed, Shui Mak was abducted on May 29 as she was returning home from her family's restaurant in Streamwood. She had been riding in her brother's car, but after they argued, he dropped her off to wait for a ride with other relatives whom he believed were following behind. They never saw her again, because she was abducted. Her body was discovered four months later at the end of August, buried at a construction site, and it, too, had been similarly mutilated.

The police now had a number of similar killings to deal with and the link seemed obvious: young women who all had lost a breast in a similar manner. They had a difficult time finding any leads, however, until another victim turned up. But this one, Angel York, had survived, according to Howard and Smith. She was able to report that two men were using a red van to abduct women and hold them inside with handcuffs for rape and torture. They had even forced her to use a large knife to cut her own breast, which drove one man into a frenzy. He cut her more and then masturbated into the wound before closing it with duct-tape and dumping her into the streets. That was in June 1982. She reported what she knew to the police.

However, they were unable to stop the men from killing another woman. In August, Sandra Delaware was found dumped along the side of the Chicago River. Her wrists were bound together behind her with a shoelace, says Fletcher, and her left breast had been removed in the same fashion as the prior victims. A bra was knotted around her throat. She was just a kid, but as a prostitute, she had been vulnerable. They estimated her death at approximately six hours earlier.

In less than two weeks, Carol Pappas, 42, turned up missing, as did Rose Beck Davis, 30, a marketing executive. She was found stabbed, raped, and strangled on September 8, 1982 behind a stairway of a North Lake Shore apartment building. A black sock was tied around her neck and her clothing was in disarray. Her face was crushed and blood pooled beneath her. It turned out later that she had been beaten with a hatchet. Deep cuts were evident on her breasts and her abdomen was full of small punctures.

Robert Ressler from the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit was asked for a profile. He indicated that this woman's attacker was uncertain about his sexuality and was probably bisexual. He expected the man to look somewhat effeminate.

By October, another prostitute, Beverly Washington, 20, was grabbed, mutilated, raped, and dumped. Her abductors had left her for dead, but she survived and was taken to the hospital. She was able to give the police a description of the gang of men who were grabbing women off the streets and subjecting them to an extreme form of sadistic sexual abuse.


Howard and Smith state that despite her condition, Beverly Washington managed to provide the officers with several significant characteristics about the man who had attacked her. Fletcher provides more detail. The driver had been a slender white man who looked to be around 25, wearing a flannel shirt and square-toed boots. He had greasy brown hair and a mustache. Washington said he had offered more money than she'd asked for and had seemed unaccountably nervous. When he asked her to get into the back of the van with him, he had a gun. He ordered her to remove her clothes and she quickly obeyed. Then he placed handcuffs on her, forced her to perform oral sex, and threatened her with violence if she did not swallow the handful of pills he held out to her. As she passed out, she saw him holding a cord over her, and she feared that she was going to die.

The man dumped her into the trash, one breast severed and the other nearly so, but someone discovered her and called the police. Rushed to the hospital, she was saved. Police officers who questioned her asked her about the van he was driving, and she said that it had been red with tinted windows and a wooden divider inside. She also told them that there were feathers and a roach clip hanging from the rearview mirror.

Those details proved to be helpful in making an arrest. Within three weeks, on October 20, 1982 (according to Howard and Smith, while Kelly says November 7 and Fletcher says October 5), the police pulled over a red van and questioned the driver. He had red hair and did not resemble the victim's description, but the van fit it perfectly. The driver told them his name was Eddie Spreitzer, and that the van belonged to his boss, Robin Gecht. The officers directed Spreitzer to Gecht's house and had him beckon Gecht outside. They hoped that he would be their guy, and when he came out, he did indeed fit the description, down to his shirt and boots. Yet he acted as if he had no worries at all and was quite willing to help. Either he was innocent of these crimes or utterly arrogant, confident that he was untouchable.

Later, the victim picked Gecht out of a set of photos as the man who had assaulted her, but when detectives went back to see him, Gecht had a lawyer. It was clear that he was going to be quite careful in his dealings with the police, and in fact they found him difficult to shake up. According to some sources, he had an interesting association with a notorious criminal from the area, arrested three years earlier in 1979. Chicago, it seemed, had attracted its share of unusual offenders.


Within two weeks, investigators had linked the other young woman who had survived an attack similar to that of Beverly Washington with the red van. She had been forced to cut her breasts with a knife and had been thrown out onto the streets. The police believed that Gecht and Spreitzer were responsible for at least three such incidents, but they would soon learn about more.

At first, Spreitzer and Gecht did not yield much useful information, but eventually Spreitzer looked like he would break down. He seemed to be genuinely afraid of Gecht. Authorities leaned on him and he succumbed, feeling guilty about what he had done. Spreitzer's interrogation produced a 78-page statement.

Spreitzer first admitted to driving the van as Gecht committed a drive-by shooting in which a man died and another was left paralyzed. Investigators quickly identified the incident. Then Gecht directed him to slow down to pick up a black prostitute. Gecht had sex with her and then took her into an alley and used a knife to remove her left breast. He placed it into the van on the floor. Spreitzer was quite upset as he spilled out these gory details, claiming he did not like all the blood. He added that during such incidents, Gecht sometimes had sex with the breast on the spot. He also described how Gecht had shot a black woman in the head, chained her up, and used bowling balls to weight her down in water. He believed that she had never been found. According to what he told Jennifer Furio in The Serial Killer Letters years later in prison, he had watched Gecht batter a woman with a hammer; the sight made him vomit. But on another woman, he removed the breast himself, cutting off both. He thought she was dead when he did this, but did not try to find out for certain. He said that Gecht had forced him to have sexual contact with the woman's gaping wounds.

By the time Spreitzer was finished, writes Fletcher, he had offered details for seven outright murders and one aggravated battery. His interrogators were shaken by the aberrant nature of the acts, yet they believed they now had some leverage with Gecht, who was in another interrogation room. They collected photographs of known victims and laid them before Gecht. He looked at them without much interest and denied knowing any of the women featured in them. The detectives then took him to an area where he could plainly see Spreitzer showing something to other officers, but he still did not waver. He acted as if he had nothing to hide. Because Spreitzer had clearly implicated him, the detectives found his behavior frustrating.

But Gecht's nearness had an odd effect on Spreitzer. He suddenly changed his story, as if afraid, and said that Gecht had not murdered anyone. His account became so chaotic that his interrogators did not know what to believe. Spreitzer now said that another man, his girlfriend's brother, Andrew Kokoraleis, had been the killer, but he could not offer many details about the man. Gecht confirmed that he knew Kokoraleis and even provided police with an address, but once again, his demeanor was undisturbed. He seemed not to know things about Kokoraleis that Spreitzer did.

Dismayed, the police went to question this third member of the killing crew. They wondered if three men could really kill together in such a horrendous manner. They did not yet know the half of it.

It wasn't long before Kokoraleis also confessed. Bill Kelly relates the details: Kokoraleis talked about how they had kidnapped women off the streets, raped them, and stabbed them with knives, razors, tin can lids, and can openers. With piano wire, they then amputated one or both breasts and masturbated onto them. He admitted to the murders of Rose Beck Davis and Lorraine Borowski, and inadvertently confessed that he had been involved in the deaths of eighteen women. As he described the assault on Sandra Delaware, he said that he had shoved a rock into her mouth to keep her from screaming, forced a wine bottle into her that made her bleed badly, and stabbed her with a knife. Her autopsy report confirmed these details.

Along with the interrogations, detectives were also asking acquaintances of the suspects about their characters and personal habits. It soon became clear that Gecht had a breast fetish, asking girls he knew to let him stab them with pins. He allegedly forced his wife to endure much more, including infected wounds, although she never turned him in. But when the detectives began questioning Kokoraleis's slow-witted brother, Tommy, they were in for another rude surprise. His odd behavior indicated that he, too, had been on this Ripper Crew. Shortly, he broke down and confessed, adding even more gruesome details.

Satanic Rituals

Ostensibly, these young men had joined in a fad that was sweeping the country during the 1980s, especially among teenagers, of satanic worship. Yet the Rippers had taken their rituals much farther than most who believed they could somehow contact the Dark One. Gecht's associates took the flesh they had removed from their victims, according to Tommy's confession, cut it up, and consumed it as a form of ancient devilish communion. Gecht allegedly had an altar in the attic of his Northwest Side home, where they gathered during the evening hours after his wife was gone to work. Supposedly, he had painted six red-and-black crosses on the walls and covered the altar with a red cloth.

Tommy told the police that they would all kneel together around the altar and Gecht would produce the freshly-removed breasts. He would read passages from the Bible as each man masturbated into the fleshy portion of the body part. When everyone was finished, Gecht would cut it up and hand around the pieces for them to eat. Tommy said that he had witnessed two murders himself and had participated in nearly a dozen such rituals. When the detectives asked him why he had done such macabre and illegal activities, he told them in all seriousness that Gecht had the power to make them do whatever he wanted. "You just have to do it," he said with conviction. Apparently he was convinced that Gecht had some supernatural connection, and he was afraid of what Gecht might do to him if he did not do as he was told.

After the interrogations, the team killers were held in Pontiac Correctional Center on $1 million bond on a variety of charges. Gecht adamantly refused to admit to the charges, although he had worked as a construction subcontractor for John Wayne Gacy during the 1970s, and it had supposedly been said that Gacy's single mistake was not the killing of 33 young men but keeping most of the bodies under his house. In other words, Gecht showed no awareness of the wrongness of Gacy's brutality. He just thought the man had gone about it the wrong way.

As the police interviewed more people, they learned that Spreitzer and the Kokoraleis brothers were not alone in their fear of Gecht or their belief in his powers. Others also claimed that he had a real ability to draw people to him and get them to do his bidding. One person warned detectives to never look into Gecht's eyes. No matter how sick or disgusting an act might be, he could inspire others to get involved. He got his start by molesting his sister, according to some accounts, and was then sent to live with his grandparents (though he denies this in letters to Jennifer Furio). During adolescence, he developed his keen interest in Satanism and its secret rituals.

The newspapers grabbed the story, using headlines that linked the "Ripper Crew" or the "Chicago Rippers" with the notorious Jack the Ripper. Each member of this deadly crew faced his own separate trial.

First Trial

Gecht attempted to avoid trial by offering an insanity excuse. He was evaluated for competency and found to be competent to stand trial, as well as being considered to have been sane at the time of the offenses. He did have a mistrial, so his second trial began on September 20, 1983.

The prosecutor had some rather compelling evidence. In a search, the police had found the "chapel," Michael Newton writes, as well as a rifle used in a shooting. They also found satanic literature and a "trophy" box owned by Gecht in which Andrew had described seeing as many as fifteen pieces of female breast. From victim reports, the MO was detailed for the jury: women had been kidnapped, held against their will, and tortured with implements such as needles and ice picks. They were also gang-raped and then forced to endure having their breasts sliced off with a garroting wire so the men could use them for a Satanic sacrifice. Often the victims died, but they had likely felt the horrendous pain of this mutilation before they finally expired. Yet two had survived it and now lived with the memories of their ordeals.

Gecht took the stand to speak in his own defense. Howard and Smith report that he had admitted that he had attacked Beverly Washington, but in court, he insisted that he had killed no one and was innocent of rape and aggravated battery. He protested that during the time when most of the murders had occurred, he was not even acquainted with the other defendants. Despite compelling eyewitness testimony, as well as testimony from women who claimed that Gecht had asked them to cut off their nipples for him, the confessions of the others implicating Gecht were not admissible against him. With no physical evidence linking him to murder, he could not be prosecuted for any of the killings, and his accomplices were not willing to testify against him.

Nevertheless, the jury found Gecht guilty on all counts with which he was charged: attempted murder, rape, deviate sexual assault, aggravated battery, and armed violence. He was sentenced to 120 years in prison.

What Happened to the Crew?

Tommy Kokoraleis, 23, attempted to block his confession from being admitted into his trial, but lost. He was convicted in 1984 and was sentenced to 70 years in prison for his part in Lorraine Borowski's murder. Andrew Kokoraleis was tried in two separate counties. The first trial was for the murder of Rose Beck Davis. In his confession, he had admitted that he had abducted Davis with the other men, forced her into the van, and had beaten her with a hatchet until she was dead. The jury deliberated just over three hours before finding him guilty of rape and murder. They sentenced him to life in prison.

At his second trial, Kokoraleis decided to recant everything he had confessed (four different times) and to deny that he had killed or raped anyone. He claimed that the police had coerced each of his confessions, had made false promises, and had even beaten him into admitting what they wanted him to say. Prosecutor Brian Telander went through the interrogations performed by six separate detectives and two prosecutors, but , Kokoraleis insisted they had told him exactly what to say. He also indicated that one police officer had told him the details of the crime scene, giving him all that he needed to confess. Yet when Detective Warren Wilcosz took the stand to describe his interrogation, he said that when he had shown Kokoraleis a line of photos, Kokoraleis had picked out Loraine Borowski and said, "That's the girl Eddie Spreitzer and I killed in the cemetery."

It came down to a matter of who was more believable. Kokoraleis was sullen and angry, and his story that eight different officials had all treated him in the same unethical manner seemed far-fetched, to say the least. The jury deliberated only three hours, Kelly reports (some accounts indicate that it was one hour), before returning their verdict. They found Kokoraleis guilty of the murder of Lorraine Borowski and sentenced him to death. At his sentencing hearing, he once again denied the charges, and his attorneys argued later that despite the verdict, the act did not merit the death penalty. In addition, a prison chaplain and a counselor testified that Kokoraleis was non-threatening and could be rehabilitated. In addition, Kokoraleis agued that he had received ineffectual counsel at sentencing, and that in the case of the murder of Rose Beck Davis (from the earlier trial), that offense had not warranted the death penalty but life in prison. He insisted that the court had not proven his intent to kill or any degree of premeditation. Nevertheless, the court saw otherwise, as the panel of judges dismissed the appeals and upheld the sentence in 1989.

So his attorneys tried a different tack. They argued that Kokoraleis was a killer suffering from schizophrenia, so that he had not known what he was doing when he committed the murder. They claimed that the trial lawyers should have entered an insanity defense, but had not. They had not even had him psychiatrically evaluated, which was a significant oversight on their part. The appeals attorneys also argued that when those lawyers had failed to see the need for an evaluation, the trial judge should have ordered one for the court. He had not, however. In fact, a prison psychiatrist had diagnosed Kokoraleis with borderline personality disorder and found him incompetent to stand trial. (However, psychiatric diagnosis would not make him incompetent or insane, so it was a weak argument at best.) They argued that Kokoraleis had been "vulnerable" to a strong influence and was therefore not entirely responsible for what he had done.

When the district judge queried the trial attorneys about these issues, they claimed that no pattern of aberrant behavior had made anyone who knew the defendant suspect a psychiatric disorder. That satisfied the judge that the pending affidavit was unpersuasive. Yet the appeals attorneys pointed to Kokoraleis's bizarre behavior as proof of his aberrant condition. The court considered this and decided that abnormal behavior does not imply the type of mental impairment required for a finding of insanity. In a 41-page opinion, the court said that it found no reversible error and affirmed the sentence again.

But that was not the end of the story, for a movement was afoot to overturn all death sentences in the state.

Last to Die

Andrew Kokoraleis was scheduled to be executed on March 17, 1999. Last-ditch efforts were made on his behalf with then-Illinois Governor George Ryan, and Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison was persuaded to order a stay of execution, as well as calling for a moratorium on all executions in Illinois.

In fact, thanks to a series of crusading articles in the Chicago Tribune about injustices in the legal system, twelve people had recently been exonerated and removed from Illinois's Death Row, which had shaken Governor Ryan. Some were exonerated by DNA evidence, and a few more were exonerated by revelations of poor handling by the legal system. One case in particular, that of Anthony Porter, was especially disturbing. Porter, a black man with an IQ of 51, according to The American Spectator, had been in prison for sixteen years for a double homicide. After exhausting his appeals, he was awaiting execution on September 23, 1998. But a Northwestern University professor and a death-penalty abolitionist had turned up exculpatory evidence in the case, so two days before the execution, a stay was ordered. Then another man confessed to the crime. That was clear proof that the State of Illinois had prosecuted and imprisoned an innocent man, and was about to put him to death. Ryan pondered the situation but was not yet moved to make a change in the system, especially in light of the fact that the Kokoraleis case, which seemed obviously to deserve the death penalty.

The Illinois State Supreme Court reversed Harrison's stay by a vote of 4-3, says Kelly, and hours before Kokoraleis was to exit the world, Governor Ryan issued a three-page statement to the effect that a jury had decided his fate according to the law of the land. His attempts to appeal it had been rejected over a span of sixteen years, so Ryan was not about to stand in the way. Thus, there were no further barriers between this member of the Ripper Crew and his death.

On the morning before his execution, Kokoraleis was convinced that it was not going to happen. He was flown to a super-maximum security prison in Tamms, IL, and he spent the rest of the day praying and fasting. He then spoke to a few select friends on the phone, bidding them farewell. With his brother (not Tommy), he prayed and cried. Yet Kokoraleis still believed that there would be a last-minute pardon. Strapped onto the gurney, he offered the Borowski family an apology, said that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and then received a lethal injection at 12:34 P.M.

By January of 2000, Governor Ryan had placed a thirteenth man on the list of people who should never have been on Death Row, so he announced a moratorium on all executions in the state. Thus, Andrew Kokoraleis gained the distinction of being the last man executed before the moratorium. Some commentators believed that Ryan had bided his time in issuing the moratorium until after Kokoraleis was dispatched. He certainly had his doubts about the system prior to the March execution date, and yet he had waited. Even so, only anti-capital punishment advocates complained. Many others acknowledged that justice had been done. Still, Ryan's decision had the opposite effect on the Spreitzer case.

One More Legal Fight

Spreitzer pleaded guilty on April 2, 1984, to murdering Rose Davis, Sandra Delaware, Shui Mak, and a drug dealer named Rafael Torado. He received life sentences for each murder, as well as time for a multitude of charges, from rape to deviant sexual assault. Yet he still had to go to trial for the Linda Sutton murder. He appeared in a bench trial in front of Judge Edward Kowal on February 25, 1986, but retained his right to have a jury decide his sentence. He admitted that he and his comrades had abducted Linda Sutton as she was walking near Wrigley Field and took her to a wooded field near a hotel where he was staying. He then handcuffed her, raped her, and removed her breasts. Then she was raped again and left to die.

His public defender, Carol Anfinson, presented him as immature, impulsive and simplistic---a young man just following orders of a gang leader. She asked the jury to spare his life. In support, his relatives and associates testified that he was a docile young man with a history of being bullied. But a friend of Spreitzer's, the Chicago Tribune reported, testified that he had bragged about what he had done, referring to the women as "broads" and laughing over the fact that he had mutilated and killed several of them. The ADA insisted that Spreitzer was "every woman's nightmare" and that he was one of a "pack of weasels."

Spreitzer's bid for mercy failed to work. He was convicted on March 4 of aggravated kidnapping and murder. Two weeks later on March 20, a jury deliberated for an hour before giving him the death penalty for this crime. He wound up on Death Row in Pontiac State Correctional facility in Joliet, Illinois.

He exhausted all of his appeals, despite claims by his attorney Gary Prichard that he had been denied due process and that an examination after the trial indicated that he had brain damage. Prichard argued that the jury had not been correctly instructed. Yet, despite the appearance that this case was now at an end, there was one more unexpected development.

In October 2002, when Spreitzer was 41, he was among 140 of Illinois's 159 Death Row inmates having their cases heard, influenced by the moratorium on capital punishment. Prichard sought mercy on his behalf, saying that his low IQ of 76 and his troubled history had been instrumental in making him easy for a person like Robin Gecht to manipulate. However, the victims' families gathered in force to oppose a change in Spreitzer's sentence. As quoted in the Daily Herald, some viewed him as the "personification of evil." Prosecutor Michael Wolfe agreed, saying that his crimes were "the worst of the worst."

While clemency was not granted to Spreitzer at that time, the Chicago Tribune noted that as Governor Ryan was leaving office in January 2003, he pardoned four of the 164 Death Row inmates and offered blanket clemency to the rest, including Edward Spreitzer. The families were outraged and vowed to fight for restoring justice. But Spreitzer had at last won his hard-earned reprieve.


Jennifer Furio devised a project of writing letters to serial killers to see how they would respond, and Robin Gecht and Eric Spreitzer both sent letters that she printed in her book, The Serial Killer Letters.

Spreitzer came first. Furio says that he had turned himself in when the case was initially investigated (although he did not). He told her that he felt badly about his involvement in the crimes, and had even passed out at the sight of all the blood, but insisted that he'd done it because he'd been afraid of Gecht and his shotgun. "I never did bad things alone," he claimed. She excuses him as being weak, vulnerable, directionless, illiterate, and an easy target, thanks to a bad home life and substance abuse. Gecht had offered him a job when he was down on his luck and made some empty promises. According to Spreitzer, Gecht then blackmailed him with obscene photographs that he said he would send to the police. Furio's assessment is that he was sweet and gentle, and failed to come across as a murderer. What he hoped for, during the time he had left before execution (these letters were published prior to the commutation of his sentence), was the love of a good woman, preferably someone who would marry him.

He insisted that the murders were not planned; instead, they were random attacks. He had driven the van and Robin would order him to stop whenever he saw a woman who appealed to himóand he was always on the lookout for one with sizable breasts. Spreitzer believed that the Kokoraleis brothers were also forced to do these things, but he did not really know them well. And like many offenders who have little thought for the victims and feel sorrier for themselves, he believed he was too young to die.

Furio was curious about Gecht's obsession with women's breasts. He told her it was "a thing with my entire family." He said that from his great-grandfather onward, each male member of his family had married a woman with large breasts. He expressed great satisfaction with his former wife, whom he said was a size 39D.

He insisted that he was not a serial killer and had had no part in the crimes. He had never murdered anyone. He also said that the things printed about him in newspapers and books were the result of Kokoraleis's stupid joke, which got repeated again and again until people believed it. He claimed that the primary book on the subject had been based on police bias. He also informed her that two of the charges had been dropped and that he would be released from prison sooner than expected. However, his persistent bid for DNA testing was stymied over and over again.

The Mansonesque type of killer is rareóthe person who can persuade others to kill or harm others for him. According to three confessions, Gecht was exactly that type of person. While Manson's brood was larger, the three men who followed Gecht were just as deadly, and it's quite unusual to have four people involved in such an extensive string of sexually sadistic murder.

Eric W. Hickey, a criminologist who published a study involving over three hundred serial killers, offered a line in Serial Murderers and Their Victims that seems appropriate for this crew: "For some multiple killers, murder must be simultaneously a participation and a spectator endeavor; power can be experienced by observing a fellow conspirator destroy human life, possibly as much as by performing the killing. The pathology of the relationship operates symbiotically." The killers each add something to the other's excitement. Perhaps what they could not do alone, they could do within the chemistry of the dangerous association.

According to the study, 74% of team killers are white; female killers participate with males around one-third of the time; and the majority of cases involve only two offenders working together. Of serial murder victims, some 15% were murdered by team killers and, in the majority of cases, the victims were strangers. Sometimes the team leader or dominant partner sends the others out to do what he wants, and sometimes he participates. One person always maintains psychological control.


  • Colindres, Adriana, et al. "Cult Killer's Execution Set for Sept. 18," Chicago Sun-Times. March 29, 1991.

  • "Clemency Adds Fuel to Death Penalty Debate," Chicago Tribune. January 12, 2003.

  • Crimmins, Jerry. "Kokoraleis Found Guilty in Rape, Killing." Chicago Tribune. Feb. 12, 1985.

  • Fletcher, Jaye Slade. Deadly Thrills: The True Story of Chicago's Most Shocking Killers. New York: Onyx, 1995.

  • Frisbie, Thomas. "Du Page Man Guilty in Slaying," Chicago Sun-Times. March 19, 1987.

  • --"Man Sentenced to Death for '82 Murder of Elmhurst Woman," Chicago Sun-Times. March 21, 1987.

  • Furio, Jennifer. The Serial Killer Letters. Philadelphia: The Charles Press, 1998.

  • Gutowski, Christy. "Families Assail Plea for Mercy. Even Review Board Shocked by Member of Ripper Crew," Daily Herald. October 18, 2002.

  • Howard, Amanda and Martin Smith. River of Blood: Serial Killers and Their Victims. Boca Raton, FL: Universal Publishers, 2004.

  • Kelly, Bill. Homicidal Mania.

  • Knott, Andy. "Murder Suspect Told Police he Stabbed Woman Executive." Feb. 7, 1985.

  • Newton, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. NY: Checkmark Books, 2000.

  • Rodriquez, Alex and Dave McKinney. "Execution Case under Review." Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 24, 1999.

  • Schechter, Harold. The Serial Killer Files. New York: Ballantine, 2003.

  • York, Byron. "The Death of Death." The American Spectator. April 1, 2000.

  • Zorn, Eric. "Defense Attorney Admits Mutilation." Chicago Tribune. Feb 26, 1986.

  • --"Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty." Chicago Tribune. Feb. 25, 1986.

  • --"Spreitzer Sentenced to Death." Chicago Tribune, March 20, 1986.



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