Group marches at Aurora ministry to protest housing 'unforgivable' 'Ripper Crew' member
Shouting "lock him up" and carrying signs saying "You Are Not Wanted," a group of roughly 40 people on Friday called on Aurora's Wayside Cross Ministry to oust convicted murderer Tom Kokoraleis from one of its rehabilitation programs.
Kokoraleis, 58, a member of the infamous "Ripper Crew" that terrorized the region in the early 1980s, was released from prison last week after serving 35 years of a 70-year sentence for the murder of Lorraine "Lorry" Borowski of Elmhurst.
"I do believe in forgiveness, but I think his crimes are unforgivable," said Lorry's niece, Annette Borowski.
Amy Ervin of Montgomery held her yearbook from when she attended Elmhurst's York High School with Lorry.
"It's not right that he's out of prison," Ervin said. "It's beyond tragic."
The protest was organized by Matt Harrington, who unsuccessfully ran this week for 6th Ward alderman in Aurora.
Harrington wants the city to enact a law or policy to require convicted sexual predators and murderers to wear GPS tracking devices, arguing repeat DUI offenders wear alcohol monitoring devices.
Harrington said he believes Kokoraleis is still dangerous. The so-called Ripper Crew was responsible for the gruesome slayings of at least 17 women in the early 1980s.
"We've got to use technology to help us be a safe, smart community," Harrington said. "It's tough to get people to come out on a Friday morning, but that speaks to the seriousness of this."
Kokoraleis was convicted in 1982 of the rape and murder of Lorry Borowski, but the conviction was overturned. Kokoraleis then pleaded guilty to the murder charge and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.
He received day-for-day credit for good behavior, which is why he was released last week. Since then, sentencing laws have changed in Illinois and defendants must now serve 100 percent of a first-degree murder sentence.
Kokoraleis is not on parole and the only restriction on him is that he must register his address with police because he's on the state's sex offender registry. He registered Saturday.
The Ripper Crew included Kokoraleis' brother, Andrew, who was executed in 1999, and two other men. One was sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to a life sentence by Gov. George Ryan. The fourth man, who was not charged with murder, has a projected prison release date of 2042.
On Friday, numerous drivers honked in support of the protest at Wayside on the 200 block of East New York Street.
Kristin Ludwig of Aurora said she lives within a mile of Wayside and has had trouble sleeping since Kokoraleis began living there. She said Wayside's ministry is for nonviolent offenders and addicts trying get back on their feet and is an "inappropriate location" for Kokoraleis.
Ludwig said his release has caused trauma and fear for women. "I don't forgive him. He doesn't deserve it."
The group marched from the shelter to city hall, where Harrington demanded a meeting with Mayor Richard Irvin within a week.
Earlier this week, Irvin said he was "blindsided" by Wayside's decision to accept Kokoraleis. Irvin issued a new statement Friday saying his office received an "unprecedented amount of correspondence" this week and he has met twice with Wayside's board of directors.
"Wayside has informed us that while they are still deliberating a solution to address the safety concerns of the Aurora community, they have implemented heightened security measures, including placing a full-time monitor with Kokoraleis and adding safety personnel on the property," read part of the statement. "While we appreciate these temporary actions, our request remains the same -- to expeditiously reverse their initial decision and to relocate Kokoraleis outside of Aurora."
"I will say it again, this is a risk the people of Aurora shouldn't have to take," Irvin wrote.
Employees at the Wayside front desk Friday deferred inquiries to a statement on its website from Executive Director James Lukose.
"In light of the concerns raised about Thomas Kokoraleis entering Wayside Cross Ministries' (WCM) Master's Touch program, WCM leadership has met with Mayor Irvin and his staff to address the myriad issues surrounding this matter," it read.
"At a meeting of the WCM board of directors held last evening (Thursday), we concluded, after several hours of deliberation and prayer, that we need more time to arrive at a solution that will be both true to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ in accomplishing our mission and core values, while also easing the safety concerns of our neighbors in the Aurora community.
"We ask for your prayers and continued support as we seek a mutually beneficial solution. Our hope is that we will accomplish this task in collaboration with the city of Aurora."