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Gacy judge Louis Garippo dead at 84

Judge Louis Garippo in 2000. | AP file photo

Former Cook County Circuit Judge Louis B. Garippo had a hand in two of the most notorious murder cases in Chicago history.

He presided over the 1980 trial of John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing 33 men and boys and burying 26 of them in the crawlspace of his home on Summerdale Avenue.

And he was a supervisor in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office during the murder trial of Richard Speck, an itinerant seaman convicted in the 1966 stabbing and strangling of eight student nurses in a town home at 2319 E. 100th.

Judge Garippo, 84, a longtime Glenview resident, died Tuesday at the Vi at The Glen, an assisted-living facility in Glenview, said his daughter, Ellen.

“He could take the most egregious situation, the most complex situation, the most exasperating situation and just figure out what the right thing was,” Appellate Judge Daniel J. Pierce said. “He was fun, goodhearted, dedicated. He just had everything.”

Judge Garippo once said he and lawyers on both sides of the Gacy case marveled at how normal the serial killer had seemed in his public life.

“Everyone sort of agreed if Gacy came through the jury box, both sides probably would have picked him, and he probably would have been foreman,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1994, when he was in private practice.

Judge Louis B. Garippo shortly before he was chosen to preside over the John W. Gacy mass-murder case. Sun-Times files

Judge Louis B. Garippo shortly before he was chosen to preside over the John W. Gacy trial. | Sun-Times file photo

When the judge, known for his prudence and impartiality, was assigned to the Gacy case, “Everybody knew that he would do the best job,” said Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Kane, then a state’s attorney. In his courtroom, “Everyone was guaranteed a fair trial.”

Judge Garippo’s astute decisions stood up on appeal, said Gacy prosecutor William J. Kunkle.

“Even though there were 14 years of appeals before he was executed, there was was no retrial,” Kunkle said.

During the Speck case, Louis Garippo was a top supervisor in the state’s attorney’s office.

“He gave me incredible support,” said William J. Martin, Speck’s chief prosecutor. “He didn’t try to get in our way, didn’t try to get any personal publicity or anything out of the case.”

He “set the highest standards for morality and integrity,” Martin said. “He took a generation of young men and women out of law school and taught them how to be superb lawyers.

“He taught all of us that nothing was more valuable than that their word was their bond, and nothing was more important to a lawyer than an impeccable reputation.”

Kunkle said he was profoundly moved by the judge’s speech to the Gacy jurors as he thanked them for their service. Reading from old transcripts, Kunkle said Judge Garippo told jurors, “A couple of months ago, a group of prosecutors from another country came and couldn’t understand how, in the United States, you could try a person who was arrested in this type of situation. A lot has been said about how much this case has cost. . . . It’s a small price. My voice is cracking because I really, truly feel it’s a small price that we paid for our freedom. What we do for the John Wayne Gacys, we do for everyone.”

“Lou’s the one that came up with the idea of picking the [Gacy] jury in [Rockford in] Winnebago County but trying the case here in Chicago,” Kunkle said, “where we had much better ability to control the layout of the courtroom, all the handling of the media, all the exhibits, not to mention the hundreds of witnesses.”

To keep Gacy jurors from getting fatigued, “Judge Garippo arranged for them to have close family members bused in,” Kunkle said. “He always had a dinner and movie planned for [jurors] on Saturday night.”

Louis B. Garippo, seen in 1961, was one of the prosecutors who handled the successful burglary conspiracy convictions of the Summerdale cops. Sun-Times file photo

Louis B. Garippo, seen in 1961, was one of the prosecutors who handled the successful burglary conspiracy convictions of the Summerdale cops. Sun-Times file photo

As a prosecutor, he handled many high-profile cases in the early 1960s, including that of the Guido-Yonder gang of torture-burglars, a $250,000 burglary of the Zahn Drug company warehouse and the Summerdale cops-as-robbers scandal, which led Mayor Richard J. Daley to name an outsider police superintendent: University of California criminologist O.W. Wilson.

Judge Garippo’s father was a 36th Ward Democratic committeeman who held a court administrator’s post. Young Lou attended Fenwick High School, the University of Notre Dame and DePaul University law school.

After the Gacy trial, he went into private practice. He was also tapped to research public opinion on whether the University of Illinois should retain Chief Illiniwek as a mascot.

“He always put family first,” said his daughter, Ellen. “We were always top priority. He was very devoted to my mother.”

She also said, “He never felt he was going to work because he loved the law.”

Judge Garippo is also survived by his wife, Colette; another daughter, Mary; a son, Tom; and a sister, Anna Maria Sciaraffa. A wake is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday at Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home in Glenview. A funeral Mass is planned for 11:30 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Glenview.