Richard Speck: The Queen Bee of Prison

Richard Speck: The Queen Bee of Prison

  • A violent binge drinker went on a killing spree in a dormitory for student nurses.
  • Came into the spotlight with his activities in the prison when the video tapes featuring Speck performing oral sex, doing cocaine, parading in silk panties and sporting female-like breasts surfaced.

Richard Speck was a bizarre character. He went on a killing spree in 1966, when at the of 24, he massacred eight student nurses in South Chicago Community Hospital's dormitory. All the victims had to endure torture and rape before they were strangled to death.

Richard Benjamin Speck

Speck is a classic case of a child born to a dysfunctional family. He was the seventh of eight children. His father was a hardworking decent man, but her religious teetotaler mother fell in love and married with a sleazy travel insurance salesman who was the opposite of his father.

After a divorce, Speck stayed with his mother who started living together with his step-father who had a solid 25-year criminal history. He was an alcoholic and abusive towards Speck who by the time developed a fear of people staring at him. He struggled at school and had to wear thick glasses. Stepfather as a role model, he started drinking alcohol at the age of 12, and by the age of 15, he was drunk every day.


He was involved in petty crime. In one occasion he attacked a woman in a parking lot of near an apartment building. He had to serve his first prison sentence when the judge sentenced him 16 months for aggravated assault. This was the beginning of his criminal career and long miserable life behind bars.

•   •   •

The Murders

Around the midnight of July 13, 1966, Speck broke into a townhouse which was a time functioning as a dormitory for student nurses. Drunk, high on drugs and armed with a knife, he entered a room where he held the women on captive for hours. He led the out to another room by one where the tortured, raped and then stabbed his victims to death.

Richard Speck arrested.

One woman named Cora Amurao was able to escape by hiding under a bed while Speck was out of the room with his victim. In court, she played the role of a key witness. She rose from her seat to Speck and pointed her finger at him and said, "This is the man."

Cora (on the pictures above) has rarely spoken to the media but during the court hearing she described her fear of the night, of being alone, of a knock on a door.

There was enough evidence for the jury that after only 49 minutes of deliberation they found Speck guilty and recommended the death penalty. The judge agreed and sent Speck to die on the electric chair. Later the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional and Speck was re-sentenced from 400 to 1,200 years in prison.

The nurse victims of Richard Speck
The beautiful eight nurses who lost their lives: From top left: Gloria Davy, Suzanne Farris, Merlita Gargullo, Mary Ann Jordan, Patricia Matusek, Valentina Pasion, Nina Jo Schmale, and Pamela Wilkening.

A few undated photos of the nurse victims. Beautiful people who had their whole lives ahead of them, and are much loved. May they rest in peace.

The Tape

In May 1996, a Chicago TV news anchor Bill Kurtis received the videotapes from an anonymous attorney. Parts of it were made public but not the part of Speck performing oral sex on another black inmate.

On the tape you can hear a prisoner asking if he had killed the nurses to which Speck responds, "Sure I did." When asked why "It just wasn't their night." When asked about how he felt about the murders, he calmly responded, "Like I always felt ... had no feeling. If you're asking me if I felt sorry, no ... It's not like TV ... it takes over three minutes and you have to have a lot of strength."

Allegedly, Speck developed female-like breasts using smuggled hormone treatments and was the jail house Queen Bee -- serving sexual favors for the inmate population in return for drugs and protection. On the tape, you can hear Speck boasting, "If they only knew how much fun I was having, they'd turn me loose."


Speck died of a heart attack in 1991 while serving his sentence. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in a secret location by his family members out of fear that his grave would be desecrated.

Richard Speck enjoying a cigarette just about a month before his death.

•   •   •
Richard Speck on his trial.
Speck with his attorney.
Richard Speck on his trial.
Lighting a cigarette just before turning the Queen Bee of prison.

A Boston neurologist who examined Speck's brain tissue samples with EEG from the 1960's, stated, "I have never heard of that [type of abnormality] in the history of neurology. So any abnormality that exceptional has got to have an exceptional consequence."

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