The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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On the surface, William Heirens seemed to have every advantage. Born in 1929, he was the only child of affluent parents in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood. His family weathered the Great Depression without serious difficulty, and if Heirens had any problems, they sprang from within. At age eleven, he observed a couple in the act of making love and told his mother, receiving the sage advice that "All sex is dirty. If you touch anyone, you get a disease." In later years, while necking with a girlfriend, Heirens spontaneously burst into tears, vomiting in the girl's presence and fleeing the scene in abject humiliation. His adolescent frustration began to find other outlets, with Heirens dressing in women's garments, achieving climax as he leafed through a scrapbook filled with photos of Hitler and other ranking Nazis.
In 1942, at age 13, Heirens was arrested for bringing a loaded pistol to school. His parents were stunned when police came calling, turning up a rifle and three more pistols behind the refrigerator, four more weapons hidden on the roof. A judge agreed to grant probation, on condition that William be sent to a youth facility at Peru, Indiana. Returning home after three years "in school," he was bright enough to enroll at the University of Chicago as a sophomore, skipping over the usual freshman classes. At the same time, he was honing his skills as a housebreaker, finding sexual release through burglary and the risk of invading strange dwellings.
On June 3, 1945, Heirens was looting the Chicago apartment of Josephine Ross when his victim woke and caught him in the act. Attacking ruthlessly, he cut her throat and stabbed her several times, relenting at the sight of blood and trying hopelessly to bind her neck with bandages. That done, he spent two hours at the scene, wandering aimlessly from room to room as he enjoyed multiple orgasms.
Four months later, on October 5, he was surprised while prowling the apartment of an army nurse, Lieutenant Evelyn Peterson. Heirens decked her and fled, leaving fingerprints behind, but police failed to match them with the records from his earlier arrest.
On December 10, 1945, 33-year-old Frances Brown emerged from her bathroom to find Heirens rifling her purse. As she began to scream, he shot her twice, then fetched a kitchen knife to finish off the job.
Dragging his victim into the bathroom, Heirens tried in vain to wash her blood away, then left her draped across the tub, half-covered with a housecoat. On the mirror, in his victim's lipstick, Heirens wrote: "For Heaven's sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself."
A month later, on January 7, 1946, he invaded the bedroom of six-year-old Suzanne Degnan, abducting the child and leaving a written demand for $20,000 ransom as a ruse, to baffle the police. Retreating to a nearby basement, Heirens murdered the child and dismembered her remains with a hunting knife, wrapping the pieces in paper and dropping them into storm drains as he roamed the streets in early morning darkness.
The case was still unsolved on June 26, when police answered a prowler call on Chicago's north side. Confronted with uniforms, Heirens drew a pistol and squeezed the trigger twice, his weapon misfiring each time. Undaunted, he began to grapple with the officers, struggling fiercely until he was cracked on the head with a flower pot.
In jail, the teenage killer blamed his crimes on an alter-ego, "George Murman" -- short for Murder Man. Despite a plea of innocent by reason of insanity , Heirens was convicted of triple murder in September 1946 and sentenced to three consecutive life terms. A federal judge ordered Heirens' release in April 1983, citing his alleged "rehabilitation," but the ruling was overturned on appeal by the prosecution, in February 1984. At this writing, he remains in prison, still convinced of George Murman's existence. "To me, he is very real," Heirens says. "He exists. A couple of times I had talks with him. I wrote lots of notes to him, which I kept."
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