A member of the sadistic Ripper Crew, believed to be responsible for the cult-like mutilation sex slayings of as many as 20 women during the early 1980s, is scheduled to be paroled next month.
Ripper Crew Documentary
But, in an effort to thwart his release, prosecutors are reviewing whether Thomas Kokoraleis fits the legal standard to instead be held beyond his parole date as part of a civil commitment process for inmates who are deemed too sexually violent to be freed, sources tell the Tribune.
Kokoraleis, 57, is due to be paroled Sept. 29 after serving half of a 70-year sentence for the abduction, rape and fatal stabbing of Lorraine “Lorry” Ann Borowski, of Elmhurst. He is eligible for day-for-day credit for good behavior under old Illinois sentencing guidelines.
His older brother, Andrew Kokoraleis, 35, was the last inmate to be executed in Illinois. He died by lethal injection March 17, 1999, 12 years before the state’s death penalty was abolished.
The Kokoraleis brothers, of Villa Park, and two other men were part of a satanic gang that stalked streets in Chicago and the west and northwest suburbs in a red utility van, looking for lone women to kidnap, beat, rape, torture and kill. They cut off their victims’ breasts, often while the women were still alive, as part of cannibalistic, sexual rituals.
“This guy should never get out of prison,” said John C. Smith Jr., a retired DuPage County Jail chief who took Thomas Kokoraleis decades ago to his first jail cell. “I was appalled when I saw he was going to get out. My opinion? They all should have gotten the death penalty.”
Another member of the Ripper Crew, Edward Spreitzer, 56, is ineligible for parole. A DuPage County jury sentenced him to death in 1986 but then-Gov. George Ryan in one of his final acts in office in 2003 cleared out death row, commuting to life terms the sentences of all of the state’s condemned inmates.
The crew’s ringleader, Robin Gecht, an electrical contractor and handyman who employed the other men, is the only member who wasn’t convicted of a murder. He, unlike the others, never confessed. Instead, Gecht was sentenced in Cook County to 120 years for the rape and mutilation of a teenager working as a prostitute. She survived and provided police crucial information to end the crew’s cruel run.
Gecht, 63, has a projected parole date in 2042.
Borowski, 21, was kidnapped May 15, 1982, outside the Elmhurst real estate office where she worked, not far from her apartment. Her shoes, keys, purse and other belongings were found outside the office that Saturday morning after she tried to fight off her abductors, prompting prosecutors to say they “grabbed her right out of her shoes,” according to court records.
Her decomposed remains were found five months later in a Clarendon Hills cemetery.
A younger brother of hers, Mark Borowski, 49, told the Tribune his family just recently learned of Thomas Kokoraleis’ planned parole. The family is shocked and outraged, he said.
Borowski, who was 14 when his sister was killed, said he recalls many haunting details from that time — five months of passing out fliers and search parties, the grisly discovery of her skeletal remains and, finally, as Ave Maria played, a closed-casket Catholic funeral because her remains were too decomposed to view for a final goodbye.
“She was a go-getter,” Mark Borowski said of Lorry. “Happy-go-lucky, always striving to do better. She was going places, I’ll tell you that.”
He said his parents, Raymond and Lorraine Borowski, identified their daughter through her jewelry. The parents later watched Andrew Kokoraleis draw his last breath at the execution. Raymond Borowski died several years ago, his son said, likely with Lorry in his final thoughts.
“He never really got over her death,” Mark Borowski said. “You really never get over something like this. Time goes on and you work your way through the memories but it’s never gone. It’s always there.”
During Thomas Kokoraleis’ trial, jurors heard an audio recording of him confessing to his role in the Borowski slaying and that of Linda Sutton one year earlier.
Kokoraleis, though, later alleged he made it all up after police coerced and coached him with specific details. He admitted to being present during some of the sadistic attacks, but he denied raping or killing anyone.
At the time of his arrest, Kokoraleis was a 22-year-old painter who used cocaine and pot but did not have a criminal record. His attorney described his client back then as “borderline” mentally impaired with an IQ of 75 who tagged along with his brother and the others but never participated, according to court records.
John Millner, a former state senator and retired Elmhurst police chief, was a detective and polygraph expert at the time who initially interviewed Thomas Kokoraleis. Millner said he “knew too much” to have not been involved along with his brother and the others.
“He was definitely a follower and, when he spoke, he tried to help his brother and cover up for him,” Millner said.
Thomas Kokoraleis was convicted of Borowski’s sex slaying and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction later was reversed upon appeal based on a legal error made at trial. In July 1987, Kokoraleis pleaded guilty to Borowski’s murder in exchange for a 70-year sentence. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges related to Sutton’s case as part of the plea deal.
The agreement allowed for his parole date next month.
But, according to several Tribune sources, a joint effort is underway by prosecutors for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin to see if Kokoraleis qualifies as a sexually violent person under a 1998 civil commitment law.
To be committed, a person must have been convicted of a sexually violent offense and suffer from a mental disorder, according to the law. Prosecutors must prove the offender is likely to commit future acts of sexual violence if freed.
A DuPage County judge first must agree, typically after a public court hearing, and the offender is re-evaluated on a regular basis. If that happens, Kokoraleis would be held in a secured facility within the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services for sex-offender treatment.
Since the law’s inception, 424 convicted sex offenders have been involuntarily held beyond their anticipated parole date, according to statistics provided by Madigan’s office. The attorney general also is seeking civil commitment in another 199 cases.
Thomas Kokoraleis was not convicted of a sexual offense, such as rape, but the law recognizes the charge of murder if authorities establish the killing was sexually motivated. His mental health history, however, is less clear and requires further evaluation, the sources said.
If his parole goes through next month as scheduled, Kokoraleis must serve another three years of mandatory supervised release under strict conditions that include electronic monitoring, counseling and further restrictions, including an internet ban.
He also likely will be required to register as a sex offender, state authorities said.
Kokoraleis may be aware of efforts to restrict his freedom. In a typed Aug. 3 letter filed in DuPage County court, Kokoraleis asked that certified paperwork be sent to prison officials to “clear this issue up” and prove the rape charge was long ago dismissed. The circuit clerk’s office complied with his request.
Kokoraleis was arrested in November 1982. Afterward, it was Smith’s job as a deputy in the DuPage County Jail to transport him to his cell, a temporary home until his trial.
“I just barely got around the corner and I heard a bit of ruckus,” Smith recalled. “I ran back and another inmate in the cell had already gotten to him. Tommy looked kind of petrified. I got him out of the cell and told him, ‘Tommy, it looks as if you wore out your welcome around here already.’ ”
Sexual sadists are about as reviled in the social hierarchy of correctional facilities as snitches and child molesters. Smith, who retired in 2003 after 24 years working in the sheriff’s office, including as the longtime jail chief, said Kokoraleis was kept in protective custody afterward.
“Inmates have their standards,” Smith said. “You could commit a burglary, armed robbery or regular run-of-the mill murder but if you kill a child or butcher women and the other things they were involved in, you’re not too popular.”
It’s unclear how well Kokoraleis fared in prison in the decades since but, according to one court record, he attempted suicide in the mid-1980s in prison and was under psychiatric treatment for depression.
He is now at a medium-security prison in west-central Fulton County. Gecht is in downstate Menard Correctional Center, and Spreitzer is at Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.
Authorities said Gecht controlled the others, described by police and prosecutors back then as “simpletons” and “genetic nobodies,” akin to followers of mass murderer Charles Manson who, like Gecht, gave orders to kill.
Police never tallied an exact death toll, which they estimated to be as high as 20 women and one man, based on the men’s statements and signature method of mutilation. The bodies of some were never found, despite extensive digging in forest preserves and other locations provided by the defendants.
The women suffered unimaginable pain, degradation and terror in their final moments as their assailants removed their victims’ breasts with knives and garroting wires in a ritualistic act that led to the crew’s nickname, a reference to Jack the Ripper.
Prosecutors won convictions in six of the killings and the attempted murder of the young Chicago prostitute who survived, court records and Tribune archives show. Evidence of the men’s guilt in some of the other sex slayings also were presented during their court proceedings.
Besides Borowski and Sutton, the victims whose deaths resulted in murder convictions included:
• Shui Mak, 30, of Lombard, disappeared in May 1982 in Hanover Park. After an argument with a brother while the two drove home from the family’s Streamwood restaurant, Mak got out of the car, never to be seen alive again. Spreitzer later was convicted.
• Sandra Delaware, 18, was stabbed and strangled in Chicago in August 1982. Spreitzer was convicted.
• Rose Beck Davis, a 30-year-old marketing executive, was abducted, raped, beaten with an ax and fatally stabbed in September 1982 in Chicago’s posh Gold Coast neighborhood. Spreitzer and Andrew Kokoraleis were convicted.
• Raphael Torado, 28, was shot while standing at a phone booth in Chicago in October 1982. Spreitzer was convicted.
Sutton was the first known victim. The 26-year-old mother of two, who had a history of prostitution arrests, was found mutilated outside a motel near Villa Park where Spreitzer was living after the men abducted her near Wrigley Field in May 1981.
Her brother, Chester Sutton, said his sister was the youngest of seven siblings and their mother’s “baby girl.” After the murder, he said, their mother raised her slain daughter’s kids.
“Obviously it was a really hard, trying time,” Sutton told the Tribune. “I remember when they first caught these people and, as a family, we all showed up in DuPage County for the trial. Afterward, my mom didn’t want to go back anymore because it was just too gruesome and difficult to hear what Linda went through.”
If Thomas Kokoraleis is released next month, Sutton and his sister, Ethel, said they are at peace.
“We’re a Christian family,” Chester Sutton said. “God will have the final word.”
But the slain woman’s children, Antone and Shavonna Sutton, who were 9 and 1 at the time of their mother’s death, said Kokoraleis is where he belongs. They said their mother’s legacy lives on in them, and the five grandchildren she never got to meet.
“We were cheated out of a life with our mother,” Antone Sutton said. “If the Lord is willing, we want to keep him locked up the rest of his life. If he gets out, where is he going to go? Is he still going to roam the streets?”
Article Org: chicagotribune.com
By Christy Gutowski Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune