The following content contains disturbing accounts of violence and sexual violence. Discretion is advised.
Lorraine Borowski was up bright and early for work May 15, 1982.
The effervescent 21-year-old loved her job as secretary at a real estate office in the Chicago suburbs, her childhood friend Liz Suriano tells A&E Real Crime.
Slipping on a pair of fashionable high heels, Borowski collected her keys, stepped outside and walked into evil.
Borowski’s workplace was a short distance from her apartment. As she approached the office, strong hands grabbed the 21-year-old, dragged her into a van and sped off. The shoes and keys were scattered on the sidewalk outside her office, evidence of a brief, desperate struggle.
The perpetrators drove to a nearby motel, where Borowski was raped and killed
The crime was the work of the “Ripper Crew,” a satanic cult and gang who, in the 1980s, abducted and murdered multiple women at random in the Chicago area until authorities apprehended them.
Thomas Kokoraleis, one of four men involved in the killing spree, was released from prison March 29, 2019, horrifying victims’ families. He served half of his 70-year sentence after pleading guilty to Borowski’s death.
“I hoped this day would never come,” Borowski’s brother Mark said at the time.
Kokoraleis, now 59, lives at a Christian shelter that offers training and guidance for ex-offenders in Aurora, Illinois.
But his release, which has provoked protests in the community, raises questions in criminologist circles about recidivism.
“It is very difficult for people in my field to predict future dangerousness. There’s not a reliable or valid test you can give someone,” psychologist Stanton Samenow tells A&E Real Crime.
A Sadistic Trail
Andrew Kokoraleis, Thomas’s brother, was convicted of Borowski’s murder and executed at age 35 in 1999. Robin Gecht, now 66, alleged ringleader of the gang, and accomplice Edward Spreitzer, now 59, remain in prison.
But between spring 1981 and fall 1982, the Ripper Crew prowled the streets of Chicago and suburban DuPage County unimpeded, snatching lone women, then sexually assaulting and killing them, police and prosecutors said. The group’s nickname, coined by police, recalls the notorious 1800s British serial killer Jack the Ripper.
Authorities estimate the men brutalized up to 20 women. In some cases, the victims’ breasts were cut off and used in satanic rituals, records show. This would take place in Gecht’s attic, which the group referred to as their “satanic chapel.”
Among the victims was single mother Linda Sutton, 26, thought to be the first murdered. Sutton was abducted on May 23, 1981, in Chicago. A week later, her handcuffed, slashed body was found in a suburban field.
Another victim, Shui Mak, 30, argued with her brother while driving home from work at their family restaurant on May 29, 1982. Mak rushed from the car in Hanover Park, Illinois, and vanished. Her beaten body turned up in a suburban construction site four months later.
Rose Beck Davis, 30, a marketing executive, was seized September 8, 1982 in Chicago. Her body, slashed by hatchet wounds, was discovered in the city’s posh Gold Coast neighborhood that day.
Borowski’s mutilated remains were found in a DuPage County cemetery October 10, 1982. She had been stabbed to death with an ice pick or knife, experts said.
A Big Break
On October 6, 1982, an 18-year-old Chicago woman was raped, knifed and abandoned along the railway tracks on the city’s West Side.
The survivor provided the first big break in the case. Her statements and accounts from other witnesses led investigators to Gecht and Spreitzer, plus Andrew and Thomas Kokoraleis in October and November of 1982.
Under questioning, Thomas Kokoraleis offered gruesome details—such as how body parts were amputated—that appalled veteran police investigators.
Thomas Kokoraleis’ defense attorney portrayed him as a follower who was mentally deficient. But a former law enforcement official familiar with the case tells A&E Real Crime that Kokoraleis appeared cognizant of his conduct, and acknowledged that some of his actions were wrong.
Spreitzer and the Kokoraleis brothers told police they had killed up to 20 women, often under the influence of alcohol and drugs. That tally has never been confirmed.
Gecht was convicted of sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping in the case of the 18-year-old and is eligible for parole in 2042, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Spreitzer was found guilty of Sutton’s murder and has a life sentence.
At Wayside Cross Ministries in Aurora, Thomas Kokoraleis works hard at his chores and his recovery, Executive Director James Lukose tells A&E Real Crime.
When he first met Kokoraleis, “we had an open conversation about his faith. I strongly believed he has received Christ as his lord. Since then, it’s been a long-life journey.”
Kokoraleis, who has been baptized and attends a local church, was honored as Resident of the Month by his fellows.
“He’s a free man, he can go any time he wants, there’s no limitations imposed on him,” Lukose says.
Is there a scientific consensus about recidivism among serial killers—or in this case, serial killers who worked in groups? “Not that I know of,” says Samenow, author of Inside the Criminal Mind.
In fact, studies of whether convicted murderers kill again after being released from prison are scarce, Iowa State University researchers found in a study published in Forensic Science International: Synergy in February 2019.
The difficulty assessing whether someone with a murderous past is safe to return to society is that “people like this are pros at lying to people like myself,” Samenow says.
He cited David Carpenter, the “Trailside Killer,” who murdered at least five people in 1980 in San Francisco area parks after serving two separate prison terms for violent crimes between 1960 and 1979.
Carpenter “was considered a model candidate to go out on probation. He ran counseling groups in prison,” Samenow says.
Prisons and group homes offer a controlled setting for serial criminals, but once an offender is on their own, they must cope with “the inevitable frustrations in life that occur to people,” Samenow notes.
For Kokoraleis, “the question is, who will he chose to associate with? How will he handle situations that don’t go his way? What if he feels bored or depressed?” Samenow asks.
Kokoraleis was originally sentenced to life in prison for Borowski’s murder, but his conviction was overturned because of legal errors. At the original trial, a psychiatrist described him as someone with low intelligence, who was easily swayed by authority figures.
But even if Kokoraleis was a patsy misled by other Ripper Crew members, and has since reformed, some officials feel he shouldn’t have been released from prison. His residency “is a risk the people of Aurora shouldn’t have to take,” the town’s mayor, Richard C. Irvin, said in a 2019 statement.
‘Hurt No Living Thing’
Among the items in Borowski’s purse the day she died was a copy of her favorite poem, “Hurt No Living Thing” by Christina Georgina Rossetti, remembers Suriano, who grew up with “Lorry” in Elmhurst, Illinois.
It begins with: “Hurt no living thing: Ladybird, nor butterfly.”
“Lorry loved butterflies… She had butterfly earrings and necklaces,” Suriano recalls. Family and friends are raising money to open a butterfly garden in Lorry’s name.
“She was the type of person who could make people laugh very easily. She sensed when someone was having an off day and would gravitate to them. She’d crack jokes and make them smile,” Suriano says.
When Borowski died, the college graduate was blossoming, with her own apartment, a boyfriend and dreams of a career as a real estate professional.
The loss is still raw, Suriano says. “It’s like it happened yesterday.”