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Richard Speck, Convicted of Slaying Eight Student Nurses, Dies at 49 With BC-Speck-Mass

December 5, 1991 GMT

Richard Speck, Convicted of Slaying Eight Student Nurses, Dies at 49 With BC-Speck-Mass Killings

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) _ Richard Speck, the drifter who was convicted of methodically slaying eight student nurses a quarter century ago in their south side Chicago townhouse, died today, a prison spokesman said. He was 49.

Speck, who a prosecutor said showed the nation ″what evil is capable of,″ died of an apparent heart attack at a hospital this morning, said Nic Howell of the state Department of Corrections. He had been taken there after becoming ill Wednesday evening at Stateville Correctional Center.

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Will County Coroner Duane Krieger said the cause of Speck’s death would not be determined for certain until after an autopsy this afternoon.

″His death sort of relieves a great burden from all the families, I would say,″ said Jack Wilkening, whose sister Pamela was one of Speck’s victims. ″It eliminates us going to Stateville (for parole hearings) every three years - and that is a very traumatic experience to go through.″

John Schmale, brother of victim Nina Jo Schmale, said ″the pain will always be there″ but some of his feelings toward Speck had changed with the passing of time.

″I don’t have any feelings of revenge, I guess,″ he said. ″Maybe the years have kind of gotten rid of some of the revenge feelings.″

Jack Wallenda, a retired policeman on the scene of the murders in 1966, sounded a more bitter note: ″Too bad that he didn’t go to the chair. And he died a easy death; as far as I’m concerned, he should have suffered a lot more than he did.″

On July 14, 1966, Speck broke into a townhouse where nine seniors from the South Chicago Community Hospital School of Nursing were staying. He left only one alive.

The 24-year-old itinerant seaman bound all nine women with strips of bed sheets. He led eight of them one by one to other rooms in the townhouse. He raped one. He killed all eight by strangling them, or stabbing them, or both.

Corazon Amurao, a visiting exchange nurse from the Philippines, survived by wriggling under a bed while Speck was out of the room. She alerted authorities by climbing onto a ledge outside her room and screaming: ″They are all dead 3/8 My friends are all dead 3/8 Oh, God, I’m the only one alive 3/8″

″This case in a sense defined an era,″ said Bill Martin, who was chief prosecutor for the Cook County state attorney’s office and, at 29, led Speck’s prosecution. He spoke in an interview last summer as the 25th anniversary of the crime approached.

″Before July 14th of 1966, who ever would have thought that one man, ostensibly an intruder who only wanted money to go to New Orleans, and smiled, and said repeatedly he wasn’t going to hurt anyone, was capable of stabbing and strangling one by one over 4 1/2 hours these eight young women?″ said Martin, a Chicago criminal defense attorney.

″It ended the sense of security, even naivete, of the American public about the presence of evil and what evil was capable of.″

Speck attempted suicide two days after the murders and was taken to Cook County Hospital. He was arrested after a physician recognized an arm tattoo that read ″Born to Raise Hell,″ which Amurao had described to police.

He was convicted of murder in 1967 after a jury deliberated less than an hour.

Speck was first sentenced to death. But when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, he was resentenced to serve eight consecutive terms of 50 to 150 years each.

Howell said Speck died at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet about 6 a.m. today. He was taken there Wednesday evening after suffering chest pains.

Speck was born Dec. 6, 1941, one of seven children. He was born in the western Illinois town of Monmouth but spent much of his childhood in Dallas.

As an adult, he worked at a succession of unskilled jobs - trucker’s helper, bakery worker, construction worker, seaman - but never for long.

Speck had several scrapes with the law and served two sentences before the mass killing, one of them on a burglary charge.