Letter to the editor: Kokoraleis release does not harm society

Posted4/13/2019 1:00 AM

It's easy to be swept up in the emotion opposing the release of Thomas Kokoraleis, 58, for his part in murders committed by the infamous "Ripper Crew" four decades ago.

The pain of the victims' loved ones is real and heart-wrenching. But this is not a case of discretionary release. Kokoraleis has completed his sentence under guidelines in effect at his sentencing and must be released.

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Two aspects of his case deserve consideration.

With virtual certainty, Kokoraleis is no longer a threat to society. Mental health and legal experts have long concluded he was a dimwitted follower of his brother Andrew, executed in 1999, and Ripper Crew leader Robin Gecht, who wielded Svengali-like influence over the hapless Thomas.

His 37 years of incarceration have been trouble free and include participation in prison ministry.

More importantly, Kokoraleis deserves parole if discretionary. He and other aging inmates marginally involved in heinous crimes as youths, who are deemed fit to re-enter society, should have that opportunity. He's similar to the vulnerable, young women who blindly followed murder cultist Charlie Manson's order to kill, like Leslie Van Houton, who unnecessarily languishes in prison after 50 years despite two grants of parole overturned by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

That Kokoraleis is likely moving to nearby Wheaton is not a concern. It's the active evildoers who scare me. We should use his release to revaluate the outmoded and wasteful concept of "lock 'em up till they rot." That applies to many but not to Van Houton and Kokoraleis.

Walt Zlotow

Glen Ellyn

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