Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Chicago Rippers


Howard and Smith state that despite her condition, Beverly Washington managed to provide the officers with several significant characteristics about the man who had attacked her.  Fletcher provides more detail.  The driver had been a slender white man who looked to be around 25, wearing a flannel shirt and square-toed boots.  He had greasy brown hair and a mustache.  Washington said he had offered more money than she'd asked for and had seemed unaccountably nervous.  When he asked her to get into the back of the van with him, he had a gun.  He ordered her to remove her clothes and she quickly obeyed.  Then he placed handcuffs on her, forced her to perform oral sex, and threatened her with violence if she did not swallow the handful of pills he held out to her.  As she passed out, she saw him holding a cord over her, and she feared that she was going to die.

The man dumped her into the trash, one breast severed and the other nearly so, but someone discovered her and called the police.   Rushed to the hospital, she was saved.  Police officers who questioned her asked her about the van he was driving, and she said that it had been red with tinted windows and a wooden divider inside.  She also told them that there were feathers and a roach clip hanging from the rearview mirror.

Edward Spreitzer, arrest photo
Edward Spreitzer, arrest photo.
Those details proved to be helpful in making an arrest.   Within three weeks, on October 20, 1982 (according to Howard and Smith, while Kelly says November 7 and Fletcher says October 5), the police pulled over a red van and questioned the driver.  He had red hair and did not resemble the victim's description, but the van fit it perfectly.  The driver told them his name was Eddie Spreitzer, and that the van belonged to his boss, Robin Gecht.  The officers directed Spreitzer to Gecht's house and had him beckon Gecht outside.  They hoped that he would be their guy, and when he came out, he did indeed fit the description, down to his shirt and boots.  Yet he acted as if he had no worries at all and was quite willing to help.  Either he was innocent of these crimes or utterly arrogant, confident that he was untouchable.

Robin Gecht, arrest photo
Robin Gecht, arrest photo.
Later, the victim picked Gecht out of a set of photos as the man who had assaulted her, but when detectives went back to see him, Gecht had a lawyer.  It was clear that he was going to be quite careful in his dealings with the police, and in fact they found him difficult to shake up.  According to some sources, he had an interesting association with a notorious criminal from the area, arrested three years earlier in 1979.  Chicago, it seemed, had attracted its share of unusual offenders.

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