The Nurse Who Escaped a Killer
Eight other nurses were raped and murdered that night
On July 13, 1966, around 11 o’clock in the evening, Corazon Amurao opened the door for Richard Speck, a man who would force his way inside the townhouse turned dormitory housing nine nurses from the South Chicago Community Hospital and for the next six hours, rape, torture, and murder, one-by-one, eight of them.
Corazon ran for cover underneath a bed after opening the door for Speck. She played dead, lying motionless in the same spot until 6 o’clock the following morning. She is the only survivor from the evening.
Speck, under the influence of alcohol and possibly drugs, lost count of the number of women he had assaulted due to his inebriation, giving Corazon the opportunity to escape the incident unscathed.
Amurao provided a sketch of the suspect, which included details about a tattoo on his arm that read, “Born to Raise Hell.” Police released the sketch and two days later, Claude Lunsford, an associate of Speck, recognized him and as the man sat in his hotel room, called the police.
Lunsford told police that he and Speck sat on the balcony at the Starr Hotel drinking beers on the night of the murders and that Speck was indeed the man in the sketch.
Police never responded to the call.
Later in the evening, Speck attempted suicide. This prompted hotel staff to call the police. This time police responded to the call and took him to a local hospital emergency room. A doctor LeRoy Smith who worked at the hospital recognized Speck and after he confessed to the crime, called police who took him into custody.
Richard Speck Charged
Speck was charged with the rape, kidnapping, torture and murders of all eight women. He denied involvement with the murders. Due to fear after recent inmate releases due to Miranda rights violations, police did not talk to him for more than three weeks after his arrest.
Speck pleaded not guilty at his trial.
Because Speck made the confession while sedated, Dr. Smith did not testify at his trial. Corazon again helped police by testifying against Speck at his trial, nearly poking him as she stood from the witness box and pointed in his direction as she announced, “This is the man” to the court.
Death Sentence & Aftermath of the Case
Speck was sentenced to death by electric chair in 1967, a conviction upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court on Nov. 22, 1968. In 1972, Speck was sentenced to 50 to 100 years in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment.
In 1978, Speck publicly confessed to the crimes for the first time in an interview with Chicago Tribune Journalist Bob Greene. He then recounted the murders in detail in a film made by inmates at the Stateville Correctional Center in 1988, laying blame for the gruesome crimes on drugs.
Speck began to complain of chest pains on the evening of Dec. 4, 1991. Prison officials transported him to the hospital. He died of a heart attack on Dec. 5, 1991, while in prison.
Corazon After the Incident
Corazon moved back home to the Philippines after the incident but returned to the U.S. in 1973.
She married the love of her life, Alberto Atienza, and had two children. She also has six grandchildren. She loves to babysit the grandkids and being a grandmother. She worked as a nurse at Georgetown University Hospital and at the Veterans Administration Medical Center for many years. Her daughter, Abigail, became a nurse practitioner. Though, she never could rid her mind of nightmares fearing Speck would come back to kill her. She also says she often wonders why her life was spared.