On July 14, 1966, three Filipina nurses and six other American nurses were victimized by a serial killer. Eight women were gruesomely raped and murdered, and one woman survived.
The nine nurses were training in the South Chicago Community Hospital. They all lived in a nearby townhouse-dormitory where the gruesome crime took place.
Corazon Amurao, a 23-year-old student nurse from the Philippines, was the sole survivor of one of the most gruesome massacres in the United States.
Just before 6 a.m. on July 14, 1966, residents of the South Chicago neighborhood heard the sound of a young woman's screams.
Corazon was heard shouting, "They're all dead. Help! Help! My friends are all dead," she cried. "I'm the only one alive."
The brutal crime started at around 11 p.m. on July 13. As stated by Corazon, lone survivor, she was asleep in their locked bedroom that she shared with her two fellow Filipina nurses, 21-year-old Merlita Gargullo and 23-year-old Valentina Pasion.
Corazon heard a knock on their door. When she opened it, a tall man, dressed in black, his face pockmarked with acne scars, was pointing a gun at her.
He rounded up the two other Filipino nurses and three American-born students in different rooms — 20 year-olds Pamela Wilkening and Pat Matusek and 24-year-old Nina Jo Schmale.
Amid the on-going commotion, the three Filipinas somehow managed to break away and hide in a closet.
Moments later, the Filipino nurses heard one of their colleague's voices. They were being urged to come out as the suspect maintained that he would not harm any of them and only wanted to get cash for his upcoming New Orleans trip.
When the three nurses emerged from the closet, they found the man and the American nurses sitting in a circle on the floor. He was holding a gun on them.
Meanwhile, the other group of nurses — 22-year-old Gloria Davy, 20-year-old Mary Ann Jordan, and 21-year-old Suzanne Farris— walked in on the hostage scene later and immediately became part of it.
The women thought that the perpetrator would take their money and leave until he pulled out a knife and started ripping bed sheets into strips. He used those strips to bind hands and feet and gag his captives.
After being bound, Corazon rolled under a bed and listened as, one by one, seven of her companions were taken into another room, brutalized and killed. She remained silent as the killer raped and murdered his last victim, Davy, in the same room where she was hiding.
About four and a half hours after the ordeal started, he walked out the door and disappeared. Miraculously, he overlooked Corazon. A couple of hours later, she freed her hands and feet and ran from the house.
According to Corazon, she survived because of luck, and, at around 5-foot-2 and less than 100 pounds, she was able to hide under a bed as the killer tortured, raped, and stabbed or strangled her friends.
In a detailed report to the investigators, Corazon described the suspect in a precise manner. She also mentioned she saw the suspect's tattoo located in his left forearm, which depicted the words "born to raise hell."
Based on Corazon's statement, the authorities managed to connect the crime to a merchant seaman who had been hanging around the neighborhood where the vicious killings took place.
The Chicago cops also found fingerprints at the crime scene.
The suspect was Richard Speck, a 24-year-old hot-tempered troublemaker with a history of petty crimes, drinking, drugs, rape, and other violence stretching back to childhood.
Despite a massive search conducted by the Chicago authorities, Richard was at-large for a few days until he was found on July 17, 1966.
Police were called to a skid-row flophouse to bring a tall young man to the hospital. He had tried to kill himself, slashing his arms with a knife.
Trauma ward doctor, Leroy Smith, took one look at his new patient and thought this might be the fugitive. All doubt vanished when Dr. Smith washed the blood from the man's arm and saw the telltale tattoo. He asked the man, "Are you the man the police are looking for?", and the man responded, "Yes," I'm Richard Speck."
On July 18, Corazon Amurao was scheduled to identify the person that killed her fellow nurses. He was being held at the Bridewell’s Cermak Memorial Hospital. However, the suspect was not well enough.
It led to another scheduled visit the following day which Corazon had finally identified Richard Speck as the perpetrator.
On April 15, 1967, a jury took just 49 minutes to find Richard Speck guilty of the gruesome crime and recommend the electric chair. Corazon Amurao was the state's key witness. Her testimony led the jury to their decision.
However, Richard's death sentence became 400 to 1,200 years in prison in 1972 after the U.S. Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional.
He lasted less than 20 years in jail after dying of a heart attack a day before his birthday in 1991.
In a memorial mass celebrated by Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Cody for the nurses, the victims' relatives filled the Holy Name Cathedral.
However, no relatives for the two Filipino nurses were present. Their remains were soon flown to Manila, where hundreds of relatives and friends awaited.
In 2016, fifty years after the massacre happened, William J. Martin, the former assistant state's attorney who was the lead prosecutor in the case, said that he reaches out to Corazon from time to time.
He had nothing but great words for Corazon's bravery during the time of the crimes. He said, "What she did that night, very few human beings would have the courage to do. She had the guts to move under the bed, which saved her life."
Do you want to know what happened with the Filipina who feared for her life at the hands of her abusive husband? Check out The Disappearance of China Rose Sims episode of PH Murder Stories.
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