Wayside Cross says it's 'mandated' to house 'Ripper Crew' killer; Aurora mayor says don't do it
Wayside Cross Ministries of Aurora officials said Monday that by accepting "Ripper Crew" murderer Thomas Kokoraleis as a resident, the organization is doing what God commands everyone to do: Show kindness and mercy to all, even enemies, the ungrateful and the wicked.
"We are mandated by our Lord Jesus Christ to love our neighbors. According to Luke 16, anyone in a genuine need is a neighbor," Executive Director James Lukose said in a news release that Wayside Cross also posted on its website, waysidecross.org.
Lukose said almost one-third of the participants in the "Master's Touch" program at the site, 215 E. New York St., enter immediately upon release from an Illinois prison.
He also said the ministry did not seek out Kokoraleis; the man sought Wayside's help.
"Recognizing that God is the source of our competence, (2 Corinthians 3:5), we are called to help people like Thomas. God's grace transcends any human depravity and wickedness.," Lukose wrote. "Therefore, we hope and pray that Thomas would one day return to society as a God-honoring productive member, displaying the amazing transforming power of Christ."
Kokoraleis, 58, was released from prison Friday after serving half his 70-year sentence. He is not on parole and is free to live where he wants, as long as he informs police.
He was convicted of the rape and murder of Lorraine "Lorry" Borowski of Elmhurst in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. He pleaded guilty then to murder and was sentenced to 70 years. He was given day-for-day, sometimes called "good behavior," credit in prison.
Illinois changed its sentencing laws in the 1990s, prohibiting those convicted of murder from eligibility for the day-for-day credit.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin issued his own statement Monday evening urging Wayside to reconsider its decision to house Kokoraleis.
"The safety of the Aurora community is my primary concern. Following shortly behind that concern is my desire to see Aurora continuing to thrive as a place where people and families will want to spend time and enjoy all this great City has to offer," Irvin said. "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."
According to the Illinois Sex Offender Registry, 26 men call the Wayside Cross Ministries building in Aurora home. Another man who is on the state's Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth registry also is at the facility.
Wayside Cross Ministries started in June 1928 and has six ministries in Aurora and Elgin. "Master's Touch" is a six-month residential program for men that includes work training, education, a "self-confrontation" program and mentors from churches.
Kokoraleis was one of four men suspected of killing as many as 17 women in Chicago and the suburbs in the early 1980s. His younger brother, Andrew, was one of them and was executed in 1999.
Edward Spreitzer, convicted of five murders, was sentenced to death, but Gov. George Ryan commuted it to life without possibility of parole.
Robin Gecht is serving 60 years in prison after being convicted of attempted murder and has a projected parole date in 2042.
The men were called the "Ripper Crew" because of how they mutilated and killed the women.