William Heirens – The Lipstick Killer

 for heavens sake catch me before I kill more I cannot control myselfThese were the most infamous words to make headlines in Chicago in 1946, not only for their depraved message but for the fact that they were written with the victim, Frances Brown’s, lipstick. Frances had been raped and brutally murdered by 17-year-old William Heirens before he ransacked her apartment. Unlike his first murder of victim Josephine A. Ross however, Heirens left one bloody fingerprint smudged on a door jamb. This fingerprint would prove to be an important factor in the months to come. Frances was Heirens’ second victim. There were three in total and the dismemberment of a 6-year-old child. Suzanne Degnan went to sleep on Sunday evening January 6, 1946 and by morning her parents found her missing out of her bedroom, window still open and curtains flapping in the ice-cold breeze. As of that moment Chicago’s greatest manhunt, and perhaps one of the most intensive ever conducted in the nation, was on. watch william george heirens

Bill Heirens was born November 15, 1928, to parents Margaret and George, a couple who were quite unhappily married. Always teetering on the edges of poverty, the coming Depression made matters worse. Mr. Heirens’ meagre pay checks often went to treat himself and his pals at the local bowling alleys. Money, or the lack thereof, continued to be the source of all family problems to come. Heirens’ childhood was normal enough but spats between mother and father turned into violent arguments. Heirens couldn’t stand it. He would leave his home and take to the streets, go on walks to avoid listening to his parent’s squabbles. That is when he took to burgling.

When Heirens was arrested his life changed forever.  He attempted a theft at an apartment complex, was sighted by a tenant who called police. Heirens engaged in a physical fight with police that ended with him unconscious. When he awoke hours later police were nearby insisting he murdered a child.  They assaulted him and interrogated him for hours until they elicited a confession. Two psychiatrists, Doctors Haines and Roy Grinker, gave Heirens sodium pentothal without a warrant and without Heirens’ or his parents’ consent, and interrogated him for three hours. Authorities claimed, Heirens spoke of an alternate personality named “George“, who had actually committed the murders. Heirens claimed that when police asked for “George’s” last name he said it was “a murmuring name.” Police translated this to “Murman” and the media would later dramatize it to “Murder Man“.  Heirens was given a lumbar puncture without anesthesia. Heirens was driven to police headquarters for a polygraph test. In 1952, Dr Grinker finally revealed that Heirens never implicated himself in any of the killings. watch William George Heirens 2/2

The prosecution team worked to find victims’ hairs or bloodstains on Heirens’ clothing, but could detect nothing. The Chicago Herald-American decided Heirens was guilty and hired popular female mystery writer Craig Rice to produce a series of articles about the murders. She poured over records and responded that she believed him innocent.
Before I walked into the courtroom my counsel told me to just enter a plea of guilty and keep my mouth shut afterward. I didn’t even have a trial…”
Dr. Kearns, the coroners expert, stated that the killer was “either a man who worked in a profession that required the study of anatomy or one with a background in dissection…not even the average doctor could be as skillful, it had to be a meat cutter….a very clean job with absolutely no signs of hacking.” watch the boston strangler, ed gein and the lipstick killer  

After Suzanne Degnan was killed and before Heirens entered the scene, the Chicago Police began to concentrate and hone in on a janitor named Hector Verburgh, who lived in Dregnan’s building. He was arrested and “interrogated” by Chicago Police, subjected to 48 hours of questionings and beatings that severely injured him, including a separated shoulder. Somehow, Verburgh denied involvement in the murder and stated had the torture gone on any longer he would have “confessed to anything.”

Police claimed that Hierens’ fingerprints matched a print discovered at the scene of the Frances Brown murder. It was reported as a “bloody smudge” on the door jamb. On June 30, Captain Emmett Evans told newspapers that Heirens was cleared of suspicion as the fingerprint was not his. Twelve days later, Chief of Detectives Walter Storms confirmed the “bloody smudge” left on the door jamb was Heirens’.  Heirens took responsibility for the three murders on August 7, 1946. That night, Heirens tried to hang himself in his cell. He was discovered before he died. watch sociopaths of the 21st

Within days of his confession in open court, Heirens denied any responsibility for the murders. Heirens said later: “I confessed to save my life.” Twenty-nine inconsistencies have been found between his confession and the facts of the crime. After Heirens was arrested, his parents and younger brother changed their surname to “Hill”. His parents divorced after his conviction. Heirens’ most recent parole hearing was held on July 26, 2007. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board decision in a 14-0 vote against parole, was reflected by Board member Thomas Johnson, who stated that “God will forgive you, but the state won’t”.

There remain many who question whether Heirens is guilty. Watch Robert Ressler – The Man Who Lives with Monsters

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