The first known man to chemically “transition gender” while in a United States prison, Richard Speck was a serial rapist, mass murderer, intimate partner abuser and suspected serial killer. All of Speck’s victims were women.
Childhood of a Future Serial Rapist / Mass Murderer
The seventh of eight children born to Benjamin and Mary, Richard Speck was raised in a poverty-stricken family. His mother was a deeply devout Christian Presbyterian, once scolding her more relaxed husband for having a beer at a party.
Benjamin Speck died of a heart attack when his youngest son, Richard, was six-years-old. The boy took his father’s death hard, regressing to eating crayons and attention-seeking behaviors.
Pitying the grieving child, his sisters and female teachers babied him. Even into adulthood, Speck would often be financially dependent on his doting sisters, as he was perpetually drunk and frequently jobless.
The remarriage of Speck’s mother to Carl Lindberg three years later and the family’s subsequent relocation to Dallas, Texas gave the resentful boy an excuse to rebel against his strict religious upbringing. The family no longer struggled financially due to Lindberg’s lucrative career in insurance. However, Lindberg was an alcoholic with a criminal record that included drunk-driving and forgery, and he verbally demeaned Speck and his younger sister Carolyn.
Speck dropped out of school at age 15. The youth let loose, drinking heavily, consuming pills, frequenting prostitutes, and continually getting arrested for such *petty crimes as indecent exposure and forgery.
His Madonna / Whore Complex & Idolization of Mother
Speck’s mother stood by her son, loyally paying his bail and visiting him in jail each time he got in trouble.
Mary Speck’s unconditional love created an internal conflict within Speck. He could no longer be honest with himself about the resentment he felt toward his mother for demanding his rigid adherence to the dictates of the Christian faith, and for upending his world with the introduction of an abusive stepfather and relocation from the home he knew.
Speck began to idolize his mother, holding Mary Speck up as a saint to whom no woman could compare.
He unleashed the unresolved anger that lurked in his subconscious outward onto other women. He justified his hatred by deciding that too many women were sexually “easy,” and deserved any foul treatment he might inflict.
Speck viewed women through the prism of a Madonna / Whore complex, and treated them accordingly.
Domestic Abuse Against Wife Shirley
At age 20, Speck met 16-year-old Shirley Malone at a state fair. After three weeks of dating, the teen discovered she was pregnant, and the pair wed.
Speck viewed his teen bride as a sexually loose woman, and was plagued by the unsubstantiated fear that she was cheating on him. To punish Shirley Speck for these perceived slights, Richard Speck would routinely kiss and fondle women in a car in front of the house. When Speck saw his pregnant teen wife looking on, he would laugh, reveling in her pain before driving off.
Speck demanded sex from his wife four to five times a day, and would slap and choke her if she refused.
He missed the birth of his daughter, Bobby Lynn, as he was behind bars at the time, serving a brief stint on charges of theft and check fraud. When turned loose, Speck refused to pay the hospital expenses his wife had incurred during her pregnancy and labor.
Graduation to Serial Rape & Serial Murder of Women
Around this time, Speck sexually attacked a random woman at knife-point and nearly killed her. When arrested, he claimed he had blacked out and couldn’t remember the incident. He was permitted to plead down to aggravated assault, and got off with a slap on the wrist.
Shirley filed for divorce in January 1966, after about three years of marriage. Speck moved back to his childhood state of Illinois.
Law enforcement sources believed Speck broke into the home of 65-year-old Virgil Harris in Monmouth, Illinois on April 2, 1966, and raped, robbed and bound her. Speck is also the sole suspect in the April 13, 1966 beating death of local barmaid Mary Kay Pierce.
To evade further police questioning, Speck skipped town and found work on a ship.
Everywhere the ship docked, women seemed to come up missing or brutally killed. Authorities in the state of Indiana wanted Speck for questioning in the disappearances of three young women on July 2, 1966. Authorities in the state of Michigan wanted to ask Speck about the murders of four girls and women between the ages of 7 and 60.
Mass Murder of Eight Young Female Nursing Students
On July 13, 1966, Speck followed a middle-aged woman as she bar-hopped, unaware of the stalker. At 6 PM, Speck finally approached the woman on the street, and forced her up to his inn room at knife-point. There, he raped her, and stole a gun from her purse.
At 10 PM that same night, Speck took the stolen gun and went to a townhouse by Luella Park. Speck knew that several young nursing students who were doing their residency at South Chicago Community Hospital were living in the townhouse.
Speck entered the townhouse and knocked on the door at the top of the stairwell. Corazon Amurao, one of the nursing students, answered, and Speck forced his way in.
The seven nursing students inside used their psychology training to try to connect with and calm Speck. However, after he had sufficiently amused himself with the banter, Speck bound the seven women, who ranged in age from 19 to 24.
He dragged Pamela Wilkening into another room to rape her. Wilkening spit in Speck’s face and told him she’d remember his face for a lineup.
Mary Ann Jordan and Suzanne Farris entered the apartment at that moment, unaware of what was happening inside. Speck, infuriated at Wilkening’s disgust and defiance, took his fury out on the two women entering, and stabbed them 20 times as they tried to flee the apartment.
He decided to eradicate all witnesses. He systematically brutalized and fatally stabbed the nurses one by one over a four-hour period. He saved Gloria Davy for last, raping and sodomizing her before strangling her. He then left the apartment with stolen goods.
Corazon Amurao was the sole survivor, having escaped Speck’s notice by hiding under a bed. Amurao remained hidden for hours after Speck’s departure, trembling in terror. She eventually crawled out onto a window ledge and screamed for help.
Amurao provided authorities with the information they needed to track down Speck, including a description of his “Born to Raise Hell” tattoo. Speck changed his name and maintained a low profile, but could feel law enforcement closing in.
Panicked and desperate, Speck attempted suicide, slicing his own wrists and arm. A hotel handyman found Speck bleeding to death, and solicited emergency assistance. One of the medical staff noticed the patient’s distinctive tattoo, and realized he was the man for whom authorities were searching.
Between the hundreds of fingerprints Speck left at the crime scene and Amurao’s positive identification in court, the trial was open and shut, lasting only 12 days.
Speck was convicted in Peoria, Illinois on April 15, 1967. He was sentenced to die by electric chair.
Speck had reason to fear he would not survive long enough to be executed by the state. Men who rape and murder women were despised and targeted by other prisoners.
Sure enough, the four other death row inmates terrorized Speck, threatening to kill him. Speck had to be placed in solitary confinement for his own safety.
Speck delayed his execution by filing numerous appeals.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment, and Speck’s death sentence was commuted to 50 to 100 years in prison.
In order to ensure his continued survival in the dangerous prison, Speck wore silky women’s underwear, consumed hormones to make his body more feminine, and adapted effeminate mannerisms.
As Speck had planned, the breasts he developed were enticing to other inmates at Statesville Correctional Institute in Joliet, Illinois.
The inmates did not kill Speck, because they preferred to use him sexually. Speck had to service the inmates’ sexual demands, including submitting to group penetration. Officials believe that the prisoners prostituted him out.
Although Speck appears to be enjoying himself in prison videos, it is most likely that he was pretending. Speck’s one true confidante was his psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is convinced that Speck sought to punish himself by emulating a woman’s physique and spending the rest of his life being sexually used by men. To save his own life, Speck had to permit to happen to him some of the same sexual abuses he had inflicted on women.
After 25 years behind bars, Speck died from a heart attack on December 5, 1991, a day before his 50th birthday.
Speck never expressed remorse for his victims.
*Author’s Note: Some readers have expressed concern about the use of the word “petty crime” in relation to Speck’s criminal act of indecent exposure. “Petty crime” is legal terminology, meaning crimes that are charged as misdemeanors rather than felonies. The use of the word “petty” is not intended to represent the author’s personal opinion about the gravity of Speck’s actions.
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In 1966, Richard Speck committed one of the most horrifying mass murders in American history when he brutalized and killed eight student nurses living on Chicago’s South Side.