An Illinois man who admitted to murdering a young woman more than 35 years ago as a member of the "Ripper Crew" is set to be paroled

By KC Baker
September 07, 2017 07:05 PM
Courtesy Borowski family

An Illinois man who admitted to murdering a young woman more than 35 years ago as a member of a sadistic group known as the “Ripper Crew” is set to be paroled later this month after serving half his prison sentence, PEOPLE confirms.

However, the family of that slain young woman, Lorraine “Lorry” Ann Borowski, is vowing to fight the release of her killer, 57-year-old Thomas Kokoraleis, as authorities investigate ways to keep him in custody beyond his parole date.

“The family is on edge and every day they are reliving this nightmare,” attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing the Borowskis, tells PEOPLE. “They are hoping there is sufficient evidence for a court to find that Mr. Kokoraleis should be civilly committed and not released.”

Speaking Wednesday at his sister’s grave in Elmhurst, Illinois, Mark Borowski said he was “very upset” about Kokoraleis’ scheduled release. He was 14 years old when his sister’s body was found.

“I was devastated,” Mark said at a news conference, alongside his mother and Allred. “Although I was still young, I decided in her [Lorry’s] honor I would do everything in my power to protect women and make sure that they are safe and secure.”

Local and state prosecutors are reviewing whether Kokoraleis can be held beyond his parole date as part of a civil commitment process for inmates with mental disorders who are found to be too sexually violent to be free, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Such a move would require the agreement of a judge, proof that the offender would likely commit future sexual violence and the offender would still be regularly re-evaluated, according to the paper.

Citing unnamed sources, the Tribune reports that Kokoraleis’s mental health history is still unclear as it pertains to a possible move to have him civilly committed.

Paul Darrah, spokesman for DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin in Illinois, tells PEOPLE: “We have been working in conjunction with the Attorney General’s office to see what our office can do regarding Mr. Kokoraleis’s pending release.”

Representatives with the Illinois Department of Corrections did not immediately return messages seeking comment. It is unclear whether Kokoraleis has an attorney.

Meanwhile Mark, Lorry’s brother, stressed on Wednesday that he hopes Kokoraleis does not regain his freedom.

“I am concerned about the safety of all other women who may be at risk if Lorry’s murderer is released,” he said.

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Lorraine “Lorry” Ann Borowski’s grave in Illinois
Courtesy Borowski family

‘Grabbed Her Right Out of Her Shoes’

Lorry was 21 years old when, authorities have said, she was abducted on a sleepy Saturday morning in 1982 in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, outside her real estate office. Her shoes, keys and purse were found at the scene, apparently left behind in the struggle, according to the Tribune.

Prosecutors at the time said they’d “grabbed her right out of her shoes.”

When Lorry’s badly decomposed body was found in a cemetery five months after she disappeared, her family was devastated to learn that her final moments were worse than imagined: As Mark told local TV station WLS earlier this year, one of her breasts had been sliced off with piano wire and she’d been stabbed dozens of times with an ice pick.

Authorities later learned that Lorry was a victim of a group of four men known as the “Ripper Crew,” named in reference to the notorious London serial killer Jack the Ripper. The group is believed to be linked to the deaths of as many as 20 women and one man, according to the Tribune.

While a total death toll has never been confirmed, prosecutors reportedly won convictions on six of the murder and a seventh conviction, including of the group’s lead, for attempted murder.

For more than a year starting in the spring of 1981, authorities say the men terrorized residents of Chicago and the surrounding area when they drove around in a red van hunting for vulnerable women to kidnap and then torture, according to the Tribune.

Members of the group would often cut off their victims’ breasts with knives and wire garrotes, usually when the women were still alive, the Tribune reports.

Deadly Crime Spree Ends

After their arrests in 1982, after a surviving victim implicated them to police, all four men were sent to prison as the result of various convictions or pleas.

Kokoraleis’s older brother, Andrew, was put to death in March 1999 for his role in the group, according to the Tribune.

While the other two men in the group — Robert Gecht, the leader, and Edward Spreitzer — remain behind bars, Kokoraleis is scheduled to be released on parole in three weeks because of a plea deal he secured when his original conviction was reversed on appeal in 1987, according to the Tribune.

Though he confessed to taking part in two killings, Kokoraleis later claimed he was coerced and was only a witness to the group’s crimes. Unlike the others, Gecht never confessed, the Tribune reports.

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Facing a second trial, Kokoraleis agreed to plead guilty to Lorry’s murder in exchange for having other charges, including taking part in the murder of 26-year-old Linda Sutton, dropped, according to the Tribune.

Kokoraleis was sentenced to 70 years and is scheduled to be released on parole on Sept. 29 because Illinois law at the time allowed for good-behavior credit that could cut a sentence in half.

As Lorry’s family waits to hear whether her killer will be set free, Mark said he will continue to speak out for his sister.

“As men, as brothers, sons, and fathers, we should all be concerned about what some other men may do to the women we love,” he said at the news conference. “I hope that Thomas Kokoraleis will not be released.”