From 1981 to 1982, a group of four men reigned terror on Illinois women. Armed with a van and disturbed thoughts, these men traversed the Illinois area hunting young women to abduct, torture, rape, and murder as part of a satanic ritual. This frightening group of monsters became known as The Ripper Crew.
The terror began on May 23, 1981, when 28-year-old Linda Sutton was abducted. Her body is found ten days later in Villa Park. She is face-down, handcuffed, and her left breast removed. $17 is found stuffed in her sock, leaving investigators to believe that she was a prostitute. As anyone who has worked in homicide will tell you, a dead working girl is often a dead end.
Working with Chicago P.D., detectives did the best they could to follow up leads, informants, and place where Sutton could have been, who she could have talked to, etc. But after multiple dead ends, the trail runs cold.
It would be a year before the Ripper Crew strikes again.
On May 15, 1982, Lorraine Borowski disappears outside of the realtor’s office where she worked. Borowski’s family, along with police, make a concerted effort to find the missing woman. They follow tips, they hand out fliers, but ultimately the case dried up. Lorraine simply vanished. Her body would be found five months later.
Over months following Borowski’s disappearance, more women disappear and are found mutilated, their left breasts having been amputated. The Ripper Crew abduct, rape, and torture more women in this period than police can find the bodies, often not finding them until months later. In each instance, their valuables are left behind but their bodies are tortured and assaulted in ritualistic ways.
Each of these women had been hacked with an axe, some their faces so badly beaten that it was difficult to identify them, and their left breast removed. All of this appeared to be conducted antemortem. A group of men was going around kidnapping women, brutalizing them, and killing them. It was a reign of terror with no end in sight.
But by December of 1982, the Ripper Crew had committed their last crime.
Beverly Washington was found by a railroad track on December 6th. Like every other victim of this horrific spree, her left breast had been amputated. What separates Washington from the other victims is that she survived. Not only did she survive, but she got a very good look of her attackers, and gave a detailed description.
She was handcuffed, forced to swallow unknown pills, and began her nightmare. Her attacker used what she described as “piano wire” to wrap around her left breast, pulled tighter and tighter, and that’s when she passed out.
She was, however, able to give an accurate description of the van used to abduct her: a red, older van. A similar van sighted at Borowski’s disappearance. One detail that helped police make an identification was that between the driver’s seat and the back was a plywood partition.
Ten days after Borowski’s body is found, police spot a van fitting Washington’s description. After pulling the van over police met the driver, Edward Spreitzer, who is visibly nervous, jumpy even. When pressed, Spreitzer informs police that he does not own the van, but that his boss, Robin Gecht, does.
Interestingly enough, Gecht once worked as a subcontractor for infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy. There is no evidence to suggest that one worked with the other in either of their crimes.
Police followed up on Gecht and found that he fit Washington’s description perfectly. That, with the van, was enough to bring Gecht in for questioning. While under interrogation, Gecht maintained his innocence. Although there was a positive I.D., police are unable to hold Gecht due to lack of evidence.
Unable to nail Gecht, police decided to bring Spreitzer in for questioning. It didn’t take very long for Spreitzer, unable to maintain any kind of cool, to confess to the horrific nature of these crimes.
According to Spreitzer, he and Gecht would pick up women, stab them, and Gecht would remove their breast and have sex with the wound. He continued to admit that the breast was later used in satanic rituals. They would collect the breasts in a little box that Gecht would masturbate into, cut up, and feed to his crew as part of the ritual.
Spreitzer confesses to the murder of seven women, including Borowski. But he also introduces another member of the Ripper Crew, Andrew Kokoraleis. He is quickly picked up and soon implicates himself in the murders, including the murders of Borowski and Sutton. More questioning leads police to Andrew’s brother, Thomas.
Police now had four suspects, three of whom confessed to abducting women, torturing them, raping them, removing their breasts, had sex with the wound, and finalized the act by chopping at the wound with an axe. These acts of violence made their way to Gecht’s attic where the bizarre breasts rituals would take place.
Thomas Kokoraleis confessed to the murder of Lorraine Borowski. He’s eligible for parole this year. His brother, Andrew, was charged with multiple murders, including Sutton and Borowski. He was executed in 1999. Spreitzer plead guilty to four murders and one attempted murder. He was sentenced to death for the murder of Linda Sutton.
Gecht was never charged with murder, only attempted murder. There wasn’t enough evidence to convict him. He will be eligible for parole in 2042. He will be 89. He continues to maintain his innocence.
To this day, no one knows for sure exactly how many women were murdered by the Ripper Crew.