On this episode, we delve into one of the weirdest and most brutal crimes of the ’80s…the Chicago Rippers.
In a nearly 17-month span beginning in late May 1981, several women disappeared or were found murdered in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. On Saturday morning, May 15, 1982, real estate agent Donald Stibbe, arrived for work and to find his office door locked, a pair of women’s shoes, a keychain and some cosmetics strewn on the ground in front of the doorway. Thinking a woman might have lost her purse, he phoned Elmhurst police. That is when he noticed that the keychain bore his company’s name.It was then that Stibbe realized that the items on the ground belonged to his secretary, Lorraine “Lorry” Borowski. He and police searched the area around the shopping plaza but could find no trace of her.
Exactly two weeks later, on May 29, a second woman disappeared in the same county. Shui Mak, 30, had come to this country from Hong Kong only three years earlier. She lived with her family in Lombard. By day she worked in a Downers Grove factory with her mother, and at night she worked in the family-owned restaurant, Ling Ling`s, in Streamwood. It was in the early hours of Saturday, after the restaurant closed, that she disappeared. While riding home from work with her younger brother, Kent, they got into an argument. Kent pulled off the highway near Barrington and Irving Park Roads in Hanover Park and told his sister she could ride the rest of the way with their parents and sister, Ling, who were following in a second car. Ling. who was driving the tail car, did not see Shui in the dark, however, and passed her on the shoulder of the road.
It was not until the two cars arrived at the Mak home in Lombard that the family discovered that Shui had been left behind. They went back to pick her up, but she was gone.
On Wednesday, Sept. 8, a suburban Broadview woman, Rose Beck Davis, 30, was found beaten to death behind the wooden stairs of a three-story Lake Shore Drive apartment near Goethe Street in Chicago. She was lying on her back. Her sweater, which appeared to have been ripped off, was lying nearby. Her blue corduroy slacks were in disarray. Her shoes and her purse were missing. Broadview is just a few miles southeast of Elmhurst and authorities immediately thought there may be a connection.
Chicago and Broadview police still were investigating the Davis death when on the last day of September a truck driver spotted the decomposed body of a woman in a field about a mile from where Shui Mak had last been seen. The remains, he said, were clad in the same clothes Shui was wearing when she went missing. Ling Mak identified the clothing as her sister’s. A post-mortem examination showed that Shui had died of a fractured skull.
Less than two weeks later, on Sunday, Oct. 10, a hunter came upon the skeletal remains of Lorraine Borowski in a thicket in Clarendon Hills Cemetery near Westmont. Her clothing was found scattered nearby.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old convicted prostitute, Beverley Washington, was recovering in a Chicago hospital from a sadistic array of wounds. She had been brought unconscious to Illinois Masonic Hospital on the night of Oct. 6 after being found naked, bleeding profusely and near death alongside the Chicago & North Western railroad tracks near North Maplewood Avenue. She awakened in her hospital bed to discover that her left breast had been severed and her right one badly cut. She remembered nothing of the bloody surgery, but was able to fill in police on events leading up to it. Badly beaten and unable to speak, she used handwritten notes and hand signals to help the detectives piece together what happened to her.
Washington related that a young man in a red van picked her up while she was “working” the industrial area near Elston and North Avenues. She said he offered her $25. After driving her to a nearby vacant lot, the woman said, the man threatened her with a knife and a gun, handcuffed her hands and feet and tied her breasts with a rubber cord. “Then he raped me and shoved some pills into my mouth and made me wash them down with soda pop,” she said. “I blacked out, and the next thing I remember I was in the hospital.”
Police theorized that after cutting the woman’s breasts, the assailant tossed her out of the van and left her for dead along the tracks, where she was discovered by a scavenger looking for aluminum cans.
Washington was able to describe the red van and it’s contents in great detail. Details that would eventually lead to an arrest. A description of the van went out over the police radio, and on the night of Oct. 20 detective Thomas J. Flynn, a 23-year police veteran, and his partner, Philip Murphy, who had 24 years on the force, spotted the red Dodge. They curbed the vehicle and questioned its driver, 21-year-old Edward Spreitzer. He told them the van belonged to his boss, Robin Gecht of R&R Electrical Co. Gecht, Spreitzer and Gecht’s older brother, a cop devotee who had been awarded an honorary suburban police star, agreed to go to the police station.
Police ran a routine check on the three men and learned that two years earlier Robin Gecht had been arrested on a charge of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a 14-year-old girl. At that time he lived in northwest suburban Hanover Park, the same suburb where Shui Mak had disappeared. The Gecht brothers and Spreitzer were taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where the slash victim was recovering. An impromptu lineup was held in the corridor outside the women’s room. She quickly identified Robin Gecht.
Based on the woman`s identification, Gecht was charged with attempted murder, rape, deviate sexual assault, armed robbery (because her jewelry was taken) and aggravated battery. His van was impounded as evidence.
After arresting Robin Gecht police begin to link Washington’s assault with other unsolved crimes in the area. In thoroughly scouring Gecht’s life they even discovered that he had twice had done construction work for John Wayne Gacy. It was uncovered that and his two companions were suspects in as many as 17 Chicago-area homicides, including the Borowski and Sutton slayings and Shui Mak.
The gruesome link between many of the slayings in which the remains were still identifiable was that the victims` breasts had been mutilated or slashed off with a knife or piano wire. The first inkling that the killings might have been part of a cult ritual came when a former neighbor of Gecht in Villa Park told authorities that Gecht enjoyed reading books on torture practices of ancient cultures. “He told me that he was reading about how the ancients cut off the breasts of women and saved them for tobacco pouches,” she said. The theory that Satan worship was involved in the cult rites gained impetus when police found six crosses, some black and some red, painted on the walls of a tiny attic room in a house once occupied by Gecht. The room had contained an altar, made from a board covered with red cloth, where cult members cut up animal parts, and sometimes human parts, for sacrifice. The severed breasts of the murder victims would be removed from a box and placed on the altar. The rituals, while Gecht read passages from the Bible, involved cannibalism.
In all, they gave authorities information about 17 murders, some of which never might have been proved because the victims’ bodies cannot be found.
Gecht, the leader, is the only one who wasn’t convicted of murder. He was sentenced to 120 years for the rape and mutilation of the teenage prostitute who provided police with crucial details to ensure the Ripper Crew had claimed its final victim. He is due to be freed in 2042; he will be nearly 90.
Listen to the episode for more deets and inappropriate jokes about breast-slashing!
For more Unpopular Opinion, subscribe to all of our podcasts for just $5/month on Patreon. You should also check out our YouTube page to see us do video stuff a little now and a lot more in the future.