Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Richard Speck, Born to Raise Hell

Born To Raise Hell

Richard Benjamin Speck was born December 6, 1941, in Kirkwood, Illinois. Seventh of eight children, Speck adored his father. When Richard was six years old, his father died. Raised in a religious family, Speck's mother forbade alcohol in her home. But when she married Carl Lindberg, a Texan with an arrest record, she relaxed her distaste for alcohol. They moved to Dallas, Texas. Lindberg's drunken violent rages were taken out on Speck. A failure at school, Speck hooked up with older boys in their teens, boozing, fighting and whoring his way through life.

Speck married and, allegedly, fathered a child. Abusive to his wife and mother-in-law, the marriage was short-lived. He spent a good portion of his marriage in prison. His wife Shirley said Speck had raped her by knifepoint, claiming he needed sex four to five times a day. In January 1966, Shirley Speck filed for divorce, just six months before the murders of the nurses. In that same year in Dallas, he had been involved in a stabbing and a burglary. Speck, given a lesser sentence for the stabbing, was fined 10 dollars. The burglary would have put Speck back in prison. So, with the help of his sister Carolyn, he took the first bus out of Dallas to his sister Martha in Chicago.

Speck stayed a few days, then went to Monmouth, Illinois, a small town he had lived in as a child. He moved in with family friends. He worked for one month as a carpenter, then quit to spend time drinking in the local tavern. His favorite hangout was Palace Tap. Bragging as usual, he told barmaid Jane Boon that he had killed his ex-wife's husband in Dallas. Many people noticed his accent, his Texas drawl.

On April 2, 1966, Mrs. Virgil Harris, 65, was attacked in her home. Grabbed from behind, with a knife at her throat, the man spoke in a southern accent. He told her not to make a noise and proceeded to cut her housecoat into strips, tie her up and rape her.

On April 13, Mary Kay Pierce, a barmaid at Frank's Place, was found dead in a hog house behind the tavern. Her liver was ruptured from a blow to her abdomen. Police Chief Tinder and two deputies questioned Speck but, with his usual charm and cunning, the interview was cut short because Speck got sick. He promised to return on April 19 for more questioning but never showed up. They traced him down to the Christy Hotel where they found jewelry and a radio from Mrs. Virgil Harris's house. Searching further, they found other items from burglaries. The hotel manager/owner saw Speck leave the hotel hours before, carrying his suitcases. He said Speck told him he was "going to the laundromat." Instead, he was on a bus. Three months before the murders, angry, rejected, and on the run, Speck was a walking time bomb.


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