“Successful crimes alone are justified.” JOHN DRYDEN
By Alex P. Vidal
Crime stories in Chicago have always fascinated us. The recent cases of three Filipino nurses (one of them an Ilonggo from Oton, Iloilo) — two murder victims and one the alleged perpetrator of a sexual crime–in Chicago, Illinois, brought us back to the “crime of the century” that happened 47 years ago where two Filipina nurses were butchered beyond recognition by a drunken rapist.
A year after she was brutally murdered, police have not yet solved the murder of Virginia “Virgie” Perillo, 72, who worked as nurse for 40 years at the Rush University Medical Center. She was robbed before being killed in her garage in Brideport, Chicago.
Another Chicago resident, Juanario “John” Rosas, 51, was murdered in Pearland, Texas in September allegedly by his lover Courtney Grace King, 22; and Damien Lucas Salinas, 23, both of Houston.
Most recently, Dioscoro Flores, 39, a male nurse from Oton, Iloilo, was nabbed for sexual abuse of a paralyzed soldier at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Flores’ alleged victim is a US war veteran who became quadriplegic and cannot speak following a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was being held on a $50,000 bail.
Their cases actually paled in comparison to what happened to three Filipina exchange student nurses evening on July 13, 1966 inside a dormitory on 2319 East 100th Street (I regularly passed by this street on my way to the Union Station).
Corazon Pieza Amurao, 23, of San Luis, Batangas; Valentina P. Pasion, 24, of Jones, Isabela; and Merlita Ornedo Gargullo, 22, of Naujan, Mindoro were among the nine student nurses attacked by a lone assailant, Richard Franklin Speck, a drifter from Texas, inside the dormitory. Only Amurao survived.
Pamela Lee Wilkening, 22, of Lansing; and Nina Jo Schmale, 24, of Wheaton, both in Illinois were raped and killed. The others who suffered multiple stab wounds and strangulation were Patricia A. Matusek, 21, Mary Ann Jordan, 20, and Suzanne Bridget Farris, 21, all of Chicago; and Gloria J. Davy, 22, of Dyer, Indiana.
According to US-based Fil-Am journalist Joseph Lariosa, who interviewed Jack G. Wallenda, the first Chicago police homicide detective to arrive at the crime scene, the incident chipped away at the conventional wisdom of accommodating an armed intruder instead of putting up a resistance to survive. Amurao and Gargullo tried to loosen their hands and Amurao whispered to others that when she freed herself, she could pick up a steel bunk ladder and hit the man with it. They could have leaped on him and overpowered him.
Lariosa said they could have done this when Speck was stripping the bed sheets to use them to tie their hands and ankles as he laid his gun aside. But the rest told them to keep still as they accommodated Speck’s demand to give him $38 as he was heading to New Orleans.
Although a sneeze away from getting detected, Lariosa said two things that saved Amurao’s life were her foresight and her pure luck when Speck lost count. As Speck took Gargullo out of the bunk bed from the room and stabbed and killed her in another room as he had done with the rest, leaving Davy on top of the bunk bed and Amurao under the bunk bed, Amurao summoned all her strength to wiggle herself towards the bunk bed earlier occupied by Gargullo. So that when Speck returned to look at Amurao’s previous location and saw it empty, Speck thought that Davy was the last in the room. She then climbed out of the bedroom window onto a ledge and screamed that her friends were all dead.
The next day, Amurao fled a scene of such great carnage that it made veteran cops and police reporters vomit.
Detectives would find Davy dead on the sofa, naked and sexually assaulted. Upstairs, Wilkening had been gagged and stabbed through the heart. Farris was in a pool of blood, having been strangled with her own stockings and stabbed 18 times. Jordan was stabbed three times. Schmale was stabbed in a pattern around her broken neck. Paison’s throat had been cut. Gargullo had been stabbed and strangled. Matusek was also strangled. The women had been so disfigured that the director of nurses was able to recognize only 3 of them.
According to Amurao, Speck, armed, had forced entry into the dormitory and tied up the women. She hid under a bed, forced to listen as he raped, beat, and killed each of her friends. His was an easy conviction, and Speck died in prison when suffered a heart attack in 1991.
The case also demonstrated that individual rights take precedence over diplomatic niceties, added Lariosa. As the Philippine Consul General Generoso Provido in Chicago at the time wanted to provide legal assistance to Amurao, the young nurse diplomatically declined the offer after getting wind of the scheme that the Filipino American lawyer being recommended by Provido was more interested in getting a slice from money generated from rights to her story than protecting her legal rights.
In a curt statement, Amurao issued the following statement: “It is my desire to make it clear that the memory of dear colleagues is of such character that I do not want to have it tainted by the acceptance by me of money or other personal benefit.”
Aside from getting $5,000 out of the $10,000 reward money offered by the South Chicago Community Hospital leading to the solution of the case, Amurao has stuck by her word, resisting bids for her to sell her rights to her horrifying experience.