william heirens "the lipstick killer"--frances brown's apartment
Frances Brown was discovered slumped over the bathtub in her sixth floor Apartment at this address on the morning of December 11, 1945. She had been shot in the head, and a butcher’s knife had been driven sideways so far through her neck that it entered one side and protruded from the other. Her body had been stripped naked and rinsed of blood, and her head was wrapped in either a housecoat, pajamas, or towels (depending on the source). On the living room wall, written in lipstick, read the message: “For heavens sake catch me before I kill more I cannot control myself.” With these words, the perpetrator became known as the Lipstick Killer. This was the second of three homicides linked together in Chicago history.
About seven months earlier, on June 5, 1945, Josephine Ross had been discovered murdered in the neighborhood at 4108 n. kenmore. She too had been stabbed in the throat then washed in a bathtub. Her body was left posed on a bed, and her many wounds were covered with adhesive tape. A skirt had been placed over her head. This was the first homicide in the series. About a month after Brown was murdered, on January 7, 1946, six-year-old Suzanne Degnan was abducted from her second-story bedroom at 5943 N. Kenmore and dismembered. A note demanding a $20,000 ransom had been left behind, but kidnapping was not the plan. Later that day, her head was found floating in a sewer catch basin, and her torso and legs were soon discovered in other sewers nearby. This was the third and final homicide in the series.
Prosecutors were under intense pressure to make an arrest, and they ultimately apprehended William George Heirens, a 17-year-old University of Chicago engineering student with a lengthy history of burglaries who had done two stints in reform school. he attempted to shoot a chicago police officer in the head at the time of his arrest, six months after the degnan murder, but his revolver misfired. Heirens confessed to all three murders in a deal to avoid the electric chair, but later claimed his confession was coerced during extremely harsh interrogations sessions. His case was the subject of years of controversy, as journalists and law professors have beat the drum to reopen the files or, at least, grant him parole.
On September 6, 1946, he was sent to Stateville Correctional Center and, after stints in various other penitentiaries over the years, he ended up at Dixon Correctional Center, suffering from diabetes and largely confined to a wheelchair. He spent 66 of his 83 years behind bars before being discovered dead in his cell on the morning of monday, march 5, 2012. at the time of his death he was the longest-serving inmate in the entire country. In February 1972, he became the first inmate in Illinois history to earn a college degree while in prison.