Investigation Discovery’s “A Crime to Remember the Bad Old Days’ follows the trials and crimes of serial killer William George Heirens, who was linked to the murders of at most three women from Chicago between 1945 and 1946. The Police relied on evidence from the surrounding area and an alleged confession to force the killer to confess to the three murders. The story takes viewers through the entire investigation, lengthy trials, and William’s long time in prison. Are you interested in knowing more about the victims he fought? Let’s learn more, will we?
Who Were William George Heirens’ Victims?
Josephine Alice “Josie” Lunde Ross was found dead at her Chicago home with multiple stabbing injuries to her neck. She died on June 5 5, 1945. The neck and head of the 43-year-old woman were covered with a skirt the wounds on her neck were closed with tape. The Police found no indication of any important object taken, and the sole item of evidence found was a small tuft of dark hair that was in the grasp of the murder victim. Witnesses claimed to have seen the dark-complexed man lingering around and then fleeing from the scene of the murder.
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The Police initially suspected her husband and several ex-boyfriends. They all were cleared once their respective alibis were analyzed. They believed Josephine was murdered by a person who attempted to enter her home, hoping to commit burglary. But they were stopped by the victim, who resorted to murdering her and fleeing the scene. Without any leads, suspects, or noise disturbances reported, the case was closed quickly. The incident was largely not reported and did not come to the public’s attention until the second murder was committed after six months.
Frances Brown, in her Chicago apartment, murdered a 32-year-old woman occurred on December 10 1945. Frances was found suffering a bullet wound on her head and an uncut knife lodged within her neck. The Police were able to identify the most crucial evidence: the doorjamb on the apartment’s entrance had bloody fingerprints and smudges on the door. It was remarkably like Josephine’s murder, but the victim’s head was covered in towels this time. There was also no evidence of any valuables missing.
The case was a sensationalized story by the media after the discovery of the text written in red lipstick, which was placed on the wall that was intended to be read by law enforcement officers. The message was written: “For heaven’s Sake, take me down before I kill another. I will not keep myself in check.” Investigators discovered two witnesses: the night clerk at the victim’s residence, who said he witnessed an elderly man who was nervous leave the elevator and another person who claimed to have heard gunshots around 4 am.
In the wake of the media calling the culprit “The Lipstick Killer,” the entire city of Chicago was in an eerie frenzy while the Police searched for the culprit. In one instance, the Police claimed that the perpetrator could be female. But the Lipstick Killer struck again at the beginning of 1946 and committed his most brutal and final murder. On January 7 1946, James Degnan reported his 6-year-old daughter, Suzanne, was missing. The girl was removed from the bedroom of her family’s home in the upscale Chicago neighbourhood.
Investigators discovered an uncut ransom note inside the bedroom of the victim, which demanded the sum of $20,000 in $10 and $5 notes, with specific instructions on how to not tell the Police. The ransom note proved to be a fraud since the body of the child was found late at night, about 12 hours following her disappearance. The six-year-old was found murdered, with various parts of her body scattered throughout the drains. The Police also discovered blood in the drainage of the basement laundry room that was located in the nearby apartment. The Police speculated that the murderer was probably killed and then took the child to a place where her head and limbs were severed.
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James was a top executive of the Office of Price Administration (OPA) who was in the process of putting an extension of the rationing of dairy products during the period. The perpetrator was said to have had a conversation with the Degnan residence numerous times, requesting the ransom. Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly received a note within a few days of the crime: “This is to let you know how sorry I am to have olethe Degnan rather than his girlfriend. Roosevelt, along with the OPA, had the laws they had. Why shouldn’t I, and many others?”
Even though investigators have yet to link the crime to the previous two murders, the media trial and public perceptions suggested it was the Lipstick Killer. The detectives interrogated hundreds of people. Up to 170 individuals were subjected to polygraph tests. Many were detained on suspicion of involvement and released after their alibis were examined or there was no evidence linking them to the murder.
Does the Lipstick Killer Alive or Dead?
A 17-year-old William George Heirens was arrested by Police on June 26, 1946, under the charge of attempted burglary. His criminal history and previous convictions for burglary-related charges. The detectives believed he was the suspected killer of the three murders. In the midst of alleged torture and brutal interrogation, William admitted to the murders through indirect confessions and claimed that the name of one George was the murderer, as well as George the middle name.
The Police also discovered evidence that linked William to the crime. Their handwriting samples of William were not the same as those written on Frances’s apartment wall. The report also stated that his fingerprints were found on Suzanne’s ransom notice, as well as the bloody smudge that was found on Frances’s doorjamb. The Police also discovered several stolen items from a series of burglaries found in possession of William, as well as a person who claimed to have witnessed him walking towards the Degnan residence the night of the murder.
On September 26, 1946, William admitted to 3 murders during open court. He was convicted and signed the plea deal, which gave him three life sentences, which would run in succession. But, William recanted his confession and claimed that his lawyer and the prosecutor’s attorney forced him to sign the plea bargain. Initially, he was imprisoned at Stateville Prison in Joliet, Illinois. William became the first convict to receive four years of college. He graduated in 1966 and was sentenced to the second sentence of his life after being released from Suzanne’s murder. He was a leader in various reforms to education within the Vienna Correctional Center, where he was moved in 1975.
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In 1998, he asked for his transfer into the Dixon Correctional Center minimum security prison in Dixon, Illinois, where he was a patient on the ward for hospital patients. When he arrived, he suffered from eye problems due to diabetes and swollen legs that forced him to utilize a wheelchair. The numerous times he tried to obtain clemency were rejected. His last parole hearing was in June 2007, when the vote was unanimously approved to keep him in jail.
On February 26, 2012, William was diagnosed with severe complications due to his diabetes levels. He was immediately taken to the University of Illinois Medical Center, and the complications turned out as fatal. When he was 83, his death occurred on March 5 2012, which made him the first convict to serve the longest time in Chicago.