Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Places

Student Nurse House, Chicago, Ill.: Richard Speck Sex Murders

Cora Amurao
Cora Amurao

Cora Amurao survived a night of hell at 2319 East 100th Street, a dormitory for women student nurses at South Chicago Community Hospital. Her eight roommates were stabbed to death on July 13, 1966, but she managed to hide, and the next day fled a scene of such great carnage that it made veteran cops and police reporters vomit.

Detectives would find Gloria Davy dead on the sofa, naked and sexually assaulted. Upstairs, Pamela Wilkening had been gagged and stabbed through the heart. Suzanne Farris was in a pool of blood, having been strangled with her own stockings and stabbed 18 times. Mary Ann Jordan was stabbed three times. Nina Schmale was stabbed in a pattern around her broken neck. Valentina Paison's throat had been cut. Merlita Gargullo had been stabbed and strangled. Patricia Matusek was also strangled. The women had been so disfigured that the director of nurses was able to recognize only 3 of them.

Speck's victims top row from left: Gloria Davy, Patricia Matusek, Valentina Paison, Merlita Garguilo; bottom row from left: Mary Ann Jordan, Nina Schmale, Pamela Wilkening, Suzanne Farris
Speck's victims top row from left: Gloria Davy, Patricia Matusek, Valentina Paison,
Merlita Garguilo; bottom row from left: Mary Ann Jordan, Nina Schmale, Pamela
Wilkening, Suzanne Farris

The description Amurao provided helped lead police to the Merchant Marine Union Hall at 2315 East 100th Street and to seaman Richard Speck. Born in Kirkwood, Ill., Speck had been raised in East Dallas, Texas, by his widowed mother and an alcoholic and violent stepfather, and he grew to have a drinking problem of his own. He married, but his wife filed for divorce a few months before his heinous night of crime; he had raped her at knifepoint. He would tell people that he had killed her ex-husband.

Richard Speck
Richard Speck

Speck had been questioned in connection with a rape and a rape-murder case earlier in 1966, but neither case developed to an arrest. It was the dormitory murders for which Speck would be punished, largely thanks to Amurao's positive identification of him and her testimony. He claimed that due to the quantity of alcohol and drugs he'd ingested that night meant he had no memory of the evening. According to Amurao, Speck, armed, had forced entry into the dormitory and tied up the women. She hid under a bed, forced to listen as he raped, beat, and killed each of her friends.

His was an easy conviction, and Speck died in prison when suffered a heart attack in 1991. But that's not the end of the story: in 1996, a local news anchor received a videotape showing a bizarre interview with Speck in prison. He'd had sex-change hormone treatments and was growing breasts; throughout the video, in which he confessed the crimes, he snorted cocaine with a $100 bill.

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