Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Chicago Rippers

Satanic Rituals

Tommy Kokoraleis, arrest photo
Tommy Kokoraleis, arrest photo.
Ostensibly, these young men had joined in a fad that was sweeping the country during the 1980s, especially among teenagers, of satanic worship.   Yet the Rippers had taken their rituals much farther than most who believed they could somehow contact the Dark One.  Gecht's associates took the flesh they had removed from their victims, according to Tommy's confession, cut it up, and consumed it as a form of ancient devilish communion.  Gecht allegedly had an altar in the attic of his Northwest Side home, where they gathered during the evening hours after his wife was gone to work.  Supposedly, he had painted six red-and-black crosses on the walls and covered the altar with a red cloth. 

Tommy told the police that they would all kneel together around the altar and Gecht would produce the freshly-removed breasts.   He would read passages from the Bible as each man masturbated into the fleshy portion of the body part.  When everyone was finished, Gecht would cut it up and hand around the pieces for them to eat.  Tommy said that he had witnessed two murders himself and had participated in nearly a dozen such rituals.  When the detectives asked him why he had done such macabre and illegal activities, he told them in all seriousness that Gecht had the power to make them do whatever he wanted.  "You just have to do it," he said with conviction.  Apparently he was convinced that Gecht had some supernatural connection, and he was afraid of what Gecht might do to him if he did not do as he was told.

After the interrogations, the team killers were held in Pontiac Correctional Center on $1 million bond on a variety of charges.   Gecht adamantly refused to admit to the charges, although he had worked as a construction subcontractor for John Wayne Gacy during the 1970s, and it had supposedly been said that Gacy's single mistake was not the killing of 33 young men but keeping most of the bodies under his house.  In other words, Gecht showed no awareness of the wrongness of Gacy's brutality.  He just thought the man had gone about it the wrong way.

As the police interviewed more people, they learned that Spreitzer and the Kokoraleis brothers were not alone in their fear of Gecht or their belief in his powers.   Others also claimed that he had a real ability to draw people to him and get them to do his bidding.  One person warned detectives to never look into Gecht's eyes.  No matter how sick or disgusting an act might be, he could inspire others to get involved.  He got his start by molesting his sister, according to some accounts, and was then sent to live with his grandparents (though he denies this in letters to Jennifer Furio).  During adolescence, he developed his keen interest in Satanism and its secret rituals.

The newspapers grabbed the story, using headlines that linked the "Ripper Crew" or the "Chicago Rippers" with the notorious Jack the Ripper.  Each member of this deadly crew faced his own separate trial.

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