Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Richard Speck, Born to Raise Hell

Cora's Story
Part II

Two other nurses, Mary Ann and Suzanne, back from a chat session, opened the door to the back bedroom and found Speck hovering over a bound and gagged Pamela, her eyes filled with terror. They bolted down the hall right into the big room and screamed when they saw all the other women tied up. Speck, in hot pursuit behind them, pushed them into another bedroom. He stabbed and strangled the two women as they fought back. Then, he washed up and returned to Pamela to finish her off with one stab to her heart. He washed again.

In the bedroom, the girls tried to squeeze themselves under the narrow bunk beds. Speck untied Nina's feet, led her down the hall to a bedroom, stabbed her in her neck and suffocated her with a pillow. Cora heard her say "Ah" and then the sound of water. Cora struggled even more to get her head under the bunk.

Valentina Paison
Valentina Paison

Speck appeared and took Valentina, not bothering to untie her feet. He easily lifted the 100-pound woman and carried her to her death. Cora heard "Ah," again and the water. He returned for Merlita, lifting her and carrying her off. Five minutes passed. Cora heard her say "Masakit," "It hurts."

Another 30 minutes passed and the water sounds. Before he took Pat Matusek, an athletic 155-lb woman, Cora heard him ask, "Are you the girl in the yellow dress?" He led Pat to the bathroom, punched her in the stomach, rupturing her liver, and then strangled her.

Speck came back to the room, disrobed Gloria, who was asleep from the drinking she had done that evening, and raped her. As the bedsprings squeaked and groaned, Cora watched, then closed her eyes and prayed. When she opened them again, they were gone.

Cora decided to switch beds, she rolled and scooted her way across the bedroom floor, knowing that any moment Speck could come in and drag her to her death. She made it under the bed and wedged herself in as tight against the wall as possible — and waited.

Speck defense team: Gerald Getty (left), Richard Speck, Public Defender Jerome Wexler (UPI )
Speck defense team: Gerald Getty (left),
Richard Speck, Public Defender
Jerome Wexler (UPI )

Cora's testimony made the events of that night come alive for everyone in the courtroom. Speck's comment about the yellow dress clearly indicated that Speck had seen the girls before the murders. He planned the killing spree. Getty tried to dispute the fingerprints by calling in expert witness, but it backfired. The prosecution made a great case.

On April 15, 1967 in the Peoria County Courthouse, after 49 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Richard Benjamin Speck guilty of the murders. The court was cleared and Judge Paschen gave Speck the death sentence.

Speck avoided the death penalty when the Supreme Court changed its ruling on capital punishment. He was re-sentenced to 50-100 years in prison. He never spent even 20 years in prison. Instead, Speck died on December 5, 1991 from a massive heart attack. On autopsy, they found he had an enlarged heart and occluded arteries. He had blown up to 220 lbs.; his doughy face remained covered with pockmarks; his body was bloated like a dead fish. No one claimed his body, no family, and no friends. Speck was cremated, his ashes thrown in an unknown location.

 

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