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Officials deny release for parole-eligible ‘Ripper Crew’ killer

This undated photo provided by the Illinois Department of Corrections shows Thomas Kokoraleis. | AP

Authorities refused Friday to release a parole-eligible convicted murderer who is suspected of being part of the notorious “Ripper Crew” that brutally killed as many as 20 women in the 1980s, determining that he lacks an approved place to live.

Thomas Kokoraleis was scheduled to be released on parole after serving 35 years in prison for the 1982 slaying of a suburban woman. The Illinois Department of Corrections’ website still lists Friday as his release day.

Prisoners who are released on parole must have what is called an “approved host site,” meaning an address where parole officers can regularly find him. Kokoraleis’ older brother said he will not be living with him or anyone else in the family, reports said.

Officials won’t be able to hold Kokoraleis indefinitely, even if he is unable to find a place to live. Sept. 30, 2020, is his discharge date, meaning the day he is no longer the responsibility of the corrections department or under the control of a parole office. And, just as his 70-year sentence was cut in half due to good behavior, his time on parole also could be reduced.

“When they are discharged we don’t oversee them,” said Dede Short, a spokeswoman for the department. “We don’t have any jurisdiction over where they go, where they live.”

Kokoraleis’ name may have faded from memory, but in the early 1980s he was part of a widely publicized sensational crime story. He was one of four Chicago-area men accused of being part of a satanic cult that abducted, tortured, mutilated and killed women. Two others were convicted in the killings, including Kokoraleis’ brother, Andrew, who was executed in 1999 — the last execution in Illinois before the state put a moratorium on the death penalty. A fourth man was sentenced to 120 years for raping and mutilating a teenager and remains in prison.

News of Korkoraleis’ pending release sparked a push by the relatives of the woman he was convicted of killing to try to keep him locked up. State officials are examining the case to see if they can file a petition to keep him incarcerated as a sexually violent predator.

A brother and childhood friend of one of the victims, Lorry Ann Borowski, held a news conference Friday with their attorney, Gloria Allred, to express their outrage at the possibility of parole.

“I’ve had constant headaches thinking about his release,” said the brother, Mark Borowski.

“I feel sick to my stomach and disturbed, because I feel that anyone who raped, tortured and murdered should not be free to walk among people who every day follow the law and help their neighbors and friends in times of need and distress,” added Borowski, who was joined at the news conference by his sister’s friend, Cindy Arndt.

“Anyone who violates both the moral and criminal law has no respect for human dignity and life, has no right to a place outside of prison or on this earth,” Borowski said.

Cindy Arndt, left, friend of Lorraine “”Lorry”” Ann Borowski, who was murdered by the Ripper Crew in 1982, attorney Gloria Allred and Lorry’s brother Mark Borowski hold photos of Lorry during a press conference Friday in Rosemont, Illinois. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

Some prisoners have chosen to remain in prison until their discharge date for the simple reason that when they do walk out, they don’t want the state to have any control over where they go. Kokoraleis hasn’t suggested that is his plan.

“People have made that choice because conditions of parole are so onerous and there is so much stress that no matter what you do you can be picked up (on a parole violation),” said Sheila Bedi, a clinical professor of law at Northwestern University, who is not involved with the case.

Kokoraleis originally was sentenced to life but after an appellate court ordered a new trial, prosecutors instead allowed him to plead guilty in exchange for a 70-year prison sentence. Under sentencing guidelines in place at the time, that meant if he behaved in prison he would be released in 35 years.

To be committed as a sexually violent predator, a person must be convicted of a sexually violent crime and prosecutors must prove that the person, if freed, is likely to commit future sexually violent crimes.

“We do not know if [the state] will conclude that there will be a basis to file, given the evidence that they have,” Allred said. “If he finds a home that meets the legal requirements for a sex offender, he could be released very soon.”

While some “may argue that this murderer deserves a second chance,” Allred said, “for Lorry Ann, his victim, there is no second chance. Lorry Ann was abducted, raped, tortured,” she added, going on to describe how the woman’s left breast was amputated and she was stabbed 60 times with an ice pick. “What Lorry Ann endured never will be forgotten.”

In a statement, Maura Possley, spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, would say only that the office is “still looking at the case.”

Contributing: Tim Boyle

Lorraine “”Lorry”” Ann Borowski was murdered by the Ripper Crew in 1982. Photos of her were displayed during a press conference Friday. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times