Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Chicago Rippers


Robin Gecht
Robin Gecht
Jennifer Furio devised a project of writing letters to serial killers to see how they would respond, and Robin Gecht and Eric Spreitzer both sent letters that she printed in her book, The Serial Killer Letters

Spreitzer came first.   Furio says that he had turned himself in when the case was initially investigated (although he did not).  He told her that he felt badly about his involvement in the crimes, and had even passed out at the sight of all the blood, but insisted that he'd done it because he'd been afraid of Gecht and his shotgun.  "I never did bad things alone," he claimed.  She excuses him as being weak, vulnerable, directionless, illiterate, and an easy target, thanks to a bad home life and substance abuse.  Gecht had offered him a job when he was down on his luck and made some empty promises.  According to Spreitzer, Gecht then blackmailed him with obscene photographs that he said he would send to the police.  Furio's assessment is that he was sweet and gentle, and failed to come across as a murderer.  What he hoped for, during the time he had left before execution (these letters were published prior to the commutation of his sentence), was the love of a good woman, preferably someone who would marry him.

He insisted that the murders were not planned; instead, they were random attacks.   He had driven the van and Robin would order him to stop whenever he saw a woman who appealed to him—and he was always on the lookout for one with sizable breasts.  Spreitzer believed that the Kokoraleis brothers were also forced to do these things, but he did not really know them well.  And like many offenders who have little thought for the victims and feel sorrier for themselves, he believed he was too young to die.

Furio was curious about Gecht's obsession with women's breasts.   He told her it was "a thing with my entire family."  He said that from his great-grandfather onward, each male member of his family had married a woman with large breasts.  He expressed great satisfaction with his former wife, whom he said was a size 39D. 

He insisted that he was not a serial killer and had had no part in the crimes.   He had never murdered anyone.  He also said that the things printed about him in newspapers and books were the result of Kokoraleis's stupid joke, which got repeated again and again until people believed it.  He claimed that the primary book on the subject had been based on police bias.  He also informed her that two of the charges had been dropped and that he would be released from prison sooner than expected.  However, his persistent bid for DNA testing was stymied over and over again.

The Mansonesque type of killer is rare—the person who can persuade others to kill or harm others for him.   According to three confessions, Gecht was exactly that type of person.  While Manson's brood was larger, the three men who followed Gecht were just as deadly, and it's quite unusual to have four people involved in such an extensive string of sexually sadistic murder.

Robin Gecht as teenager
Robin Gecht as teenager
Eric W. Hickey, a criminologist who published a study involving over three hundred serial killers, offered a line in Serial Murderers and Their Victims that seems appropriate for this crew: "For some multiple killers, murder must be simultaneously a participation and a spectator endeavor; power can be experienced by observing a fellow conspirator destroy human life, possibly as much as by performing the killing.  The pathology of the relationship operates symbiotically."  The killers each add something to the other's excitement.  Perhaps what they could not do alone, they could do within the chemistry of the dangerous association.

According to the study, 74% of team killers are white; female killers participate with males around one-third of the time; and the majority of cases involve only two offenders working together.   Of serial murder victims, some 15% were murdered by team killers and, in the majority of cases, the victims were strangers.  Sometimes the team leader or dominant partner sends the others out to do what he wants, and sometimes he participates.  One person always maintains psychological control.

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