Thomas Kokoraleis, a member of the infamous 1980s “Ripper Crew,” a four-man satanic cannibalistic cult suspected of killing as many as 18 women in the Chicago area including Elmhurst, was released from prison on March 29.
Kokoraleis confessed that he along with his brother, Andrew and the two other Ripper killers—ringleader Robin Gecth and Edward Spreitzer, abducted 21-year-old Elmhurst resident Lorraine Borowski on May 15, 1982 as she was opening her workplace that morning. According to reports from the Chicago Tribune, Borowski was raped and tortured, her body discovered five months later in Clarendon Hills mutilated with an amputated breast.
Andrew, the younger sibling was the last person to be executed by death penalty before the controversial practice was abolished in Illinois. The older Kokoraleis was first sentenced to life in prison in 1984, but it was overturned due to an appeal on legal errors.He instead received a 70-year sentence which was cut in half for good behavior under Illinois sentencing guidelines, thus his release at age 58 from the Illinois River Correctional Center.
The Borowski family protested the decision. In a press conference the day of the release with renowned women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, the victim’s mother, also named Lorraine said, "I will never understand how the man who was convicted of ... murdering my daughter could be walking free in Illinois today."
The family is rallying lawmakers to pass “Lorry Ann’s Law”, an amended version of the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act, ordering offenders to not contact their victims and allowing victims’ families to have a no-contact order, as reported by The Daily Herald.
Currently, Kokoraleis is living in Aurora at Wayside Cross, a Christian recovery ministry that attempts to help former prisoners re-enter society.
Citing concerns for the safety of the community, Aurora Mayor Richard Irwin had urged the ministry to reconsider their decision to accept Kokoraleis
"While I appreciate the many good things that Wayside Cross Ministries does in our community, their decision suggests that they do not fully appreciate the impact Kokoraleis' mere presence will have on the community as a whole,” said Irwin in his statement issued April 1.
In a news release posted on the nonprofit's website, Wayside Executive Director James Lukose explained that Kokoraleis came to them, seeking a place to live.
"We are mandated by our Lord Jesus Christ to love our neighbors. According to Luke 16, anyone in a genuine need is a neighbor," he explained in the statement.
In a phone interview with The Leader, Lukose understood “the community is in shock,” but hopes to put this aside in efforts to “provide reform” and structure for Kokoraleis to help start his life over.
Like the Aurora community, Elmhurst residents have also expressed fears of safety and outrage.
“Everyone deserves forgiveness, but it is not fair to be so forgiving to him because it is unsafe for us, for others,” said junior Sam Derango, a student at Elmhurst College. “By accommodating to him we give room to think it’s okay. I’m at a loss for words.”
Other community members agree.
“Elmhurst should ban him from the area,” said Elmhurst resident Ronald Carter. “The 1980’s was a different time. I feel unsafe even hearing this.”
Elmhurst College junior Erika Jakes felt the news was disturbing to hear, but has faith in the power of reform.
“He most definitely needs to be watched. Elmhurst has not changed so much since the case happened, it’s nearly the same as it was in the 1980’s,” said Jakes. “However, I do believe in second chances and he did his time for his crimes according to our justice system.”
Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth expressed condolences March 5 for the Borowski family and assured residents they will keep watch for the community’s safety on the department’s Facebook page.
“All of the police officers and detectives who worked on this case have long since retired,” said Ruth. “However, the pain, anguish and loss have remained within our organization as we have continued to monitor the status of the Ripper Crew. We have not forgotten.”
According to NBC Chicago, after completing 30 days at Wayside, Kokoraleis, who is a registered sex offender, is free to leave elsewhere as long as he informs the police about his residence. If he chooses to continue his stay at the ministry, he can remain up to two years.