|The Naked City||Jul 1 2009|
Forty-three years ago this month Richard Speck shocked America.
This July 1, 1967 cover of The Saturday Evening Post shows mass murderer Richard Speck, who, a little less than a year earlier on July 13, 1966, broke into a Chicago townhouse where he raped and killed eight student nurses in a single horrific night. The crime stunned America, and questions about how any man could be so monstrous soon focused on Speck’s brain. At the time of this cover, some genetic researchers thought he was an abnormal 47,XYY karyotype, which was thought to cause hyper-aggression. But Speck was ruled competent to stand trial, was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death, then to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court cited irregularities in jury selection during his trial.
Thirty years later, in 1996, Richard Speck burst into public consciousness again when an investigation into Illinois prison conditions uncovered a 1988 video of Stateville Prison inmates—most notably Speck—consuming drugs and alcohol with no fear of being caught. Speck also was shown in a pair of silk panties, performed oral sex on another prisoner, and had grown what appeared to be breasts, reportedly from consuming contraband hormones. Stateville had become a giant, orgiastic party. At one point Speck said, “If they only knew how much fun I was having, they’d turn me loose.”
By now doctors had proven Speck didn't possess an extra Y chromosome, so most experts focused on his childhood as a cause of his murderous rampage. His youth had been marked by abandonment, abuse, and at least three serious blows to the head. When he finally died of a heart attack—in 1991, five years before the infamous Stateville videotape surfaced—an autopsy revealed that his brain was abnormal after all. His hippocampus and amygdala—the latter of which helps regulate rage and emotional reactions—had fused. Speck was cremated and his ashes were scattered by two county employees, a fieldhand, and a newspaper columnist. The quartet agreed to keep the location secret forever, so that Speck and his crimes might one day be forgotten. Only time will determine whether that's possible.