A Crime To Remember: The Dark & Twisted Legacy Of Richard Speck’s Killing Spree

Eight nursing students, dedicated to saving lives and helping others, were murdered in their dorm apartment. One survived to confront Richard Speck, the killer.

Police were shocked to learn that one man could take so many lives. Authorities also knew that if they didn’t catch the killer quickly, he would likely strike again.

To complicate the investigation, Chicago police were stretched thin due to escalating violence at the riots downtown. And the police assigned to the case only had a vague physical description from the lone survivor and three fingerprints to guide their search.

The night of July 13, 1966, marked the end of innocence for many Americans and helped spawn a new era of suspicion and paranoia. To really understand why the Richard Speck murders forever changed America, you have to examine Chicago in 1966 and Richard Speck’s disturbing legacy.

National Guard patrolling streets, of Chicago, Ill during riots, July 17, 1966. Photo: Associated Press

National Guard patrolling streets, of Chicago, Ill during riots, July 17, 1966. Photo: Associated Press

Civil Rights Movement Heads North

Chicago in the summer of 1966 was experiencing an unprecedented cultural shift. The Civil Rights Movement was bringing change to the city and violent clashes followed. Newspaper headlines alternated between the search for the killer and the riots that gripped the West Side.

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The day after Richard Speck murdered 8 nurses, 118 people were arrested, while six police officers and numerous civilians were shot in the local riots. The city was on high alert, with the buses shutdown and main streets closed. Tensions were boiling over and a madman was roaming the streets. Many living in the city at the time felt like “the world was going to hell.”

Travel was a nightmare in the summer of 1966 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Travel was a nightmare in the summer of 1966 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

An Airline Strike Halts The Investigation 

As noted in the latest episode of A Crime to Remember, police faced numerous challenges in catching the killer. Authorities were able to find three fingerprints at the scene of the crime, but Chicago Police records did not reveal a match. The FBI was able to collaborate, discovering a match from a previous Texas arrest. Unfortunately, the police had to wait for the hard copies to be mailed from Washington, D.C. to Chicago.

Complicating matters, the International Association of Machinists, which world on five airlines across the the country, went on strike on July 9, 1966 — just 4 days before the murders. For the next 43 days, 60% of commercial airlines were shut down.

Richard Speck, sitting in courtroom before being transported to Cook County Prison Photo: AP Photo/Charles Harrity

Richard Speck, sitting in courtroom before being transported to Cook County Prison Photo: AP Photo/Charles Harrity

The XYY Syndrome Defense 

Several studies between 1965 and 1968 popularized the theory that males with XYY syndrome (males with an extra Y chromosome) were more prone to violent behavior and criminal activity. Early reports claimed that men with XYY syndrome had lower IQs, severe acne, and behavioral problems such as impulsivity, antisocial behavior, and defiant actions. Speck’s attorney jumped on the theory, pointing to Speck’s acne and aggressive behavior as definitive proof that he was the quintessential XYY man.

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Numerous studies since then have cast doubt on the XYY syndrome link to criminal activity. Furthermore, two separate chromosome tests showed that Speck had a normal XY chromosome count. Despite the limited scientific evidence to support the XYY criminal theory and conclusive proof that Speck didn’t even have an extra Y chromosome, Speck remained that poster child for the syndrome. For decades after the trial, Speck appeared in text books as the archetypical XYY male.

Stateville Correctional Center Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Stateville Correctional Center Photo: Wikimedia Commons

1988 Prison Video Solidifies Speck’s Legacy 

In May 1996, journalist Bill Kurtis received video footage of Stateville Prison. Speck was a prisoner at Stateville when the footage was captured in 1988. The videos were part of a campaign to expose widespread corruption within the Illinois prison system, including drug dealing, sex, and abuse.

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The shocking footage, showcasing explicit sex, drug use, and money exchanged between prisoners, showcased Richard Speck. The videos feature Speck performing oral sex on a fellow inmate, snorting a large quantity of cocaine and wearing silk panties. Speck also openly displays his large female-like breasts as a result of taking smuggled hormone treatments while in prison. Along with Speck’s shocking actions and surprising physical appearance, he asserted his complete lack of remorse:

“If they only knew how much fun I was having, they’d turn me loose.”

And when asked if he felt guilty for killing 8 innocent women, he candidly noted his indifference:

“Like I always felt … had no feeling. If you’re asking me if I felt sorry, no.” 

Along with effectively exposing corruption within the Illinois police system, the videos solidified Speck’s legacy as a ruthless killer.

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Main photo: From left, top are: student nurses Gloria Davy, 23, Mary Ann Jordan, 23, Suzanne Farris, 22, and Valentia Pasion, 23, and bottom, Patricia Matusek, 21, Marlita Gargullo, 21, Pamela Wilkening, 22, and Nina Schmale, 21, who were slain in 1966 by Richard Speck. Photo credit: Associated Press

  • Charlennag

    ICK! This guy was brutal, twisted, and sickening…there’s a fine line between kinky and killing machine some times and this loser pole-vaulted over it!

    • Kathleen Ward

      He was a horrible, horrible man.

  • Luann

    I thought they were slain in 1966…. I’m confused…..

    • Kathleen Ward

      You are correct. He may have come up for parole in 1978 or something. Speck was originally sentenced to death, but later that was changed to life without parole.