Wayside Cross Ministries in Aurora: We'll continue housing 'Ripper Crew' killer
The board of Wayside Cross Ministries decided at a special board meeting Monday night to continue housing convicted murderer Thomas Kokoraleis at one of its rehabilitation programs in Aurora.
"The decision is to stay put until we find a better place for him to choose," Wayside Cross' Executive Director James Lukose said after the meeting.
The board met to find a response to significant pushback from the city of Aurora and community members.
Kokoraleis, 58, a member of the infamous "Ripper Crew" that terrorized the Chicago area in the early 1980s, was released from prison in March after serving 35 years of a 70-year sentence for the murder of Lorraine "Lorry" Borowski of Elmhurst.
Kokoraleis enrolled in Wayside Cross' Master's Touch program, a six-month program for rehabilitation of troubled men.
Kokoraleis will be allowed to continue the program after the board decided it must accept those in need despite their histories, according to a statement from the board.
"We are certainly aware of, and sensitive to, the concerns raised in the wake of Thomas' enrollment in our Master's Touch ministry," the statement said. "However, if we were to reject people on the basis of their background, or because their histories are high-profile, we would be violating our mission as a Christ-centered recovery ministry of life-transformation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Lukose said the board decided it was best for Wayside Cross to hold its course.
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.
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.
After Wayside Cross decided to house Kokoraleis, at Kokoraleis' request, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said he was "blindsided." Irvin said on April 5 his office received an "unprecedented amount of correspondence" and he had 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 mayor's statement at the time. "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.
Irvin's statement came on the same day of a protest outside Wayside Cross' Aurora location calling for Kokoraleis to be removed.