William Heirens, the so-called “Lipstick Killer” jailed for more than 65 years
after confessing to the murders of three women and a 6-year-old girl around the
end of World War II, has died in prison.
Heirens, 83, was found unresponsive in his cell at Dixon Correctional Center,
and was taken to the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, where he
was pronounced dead at 8:45 p.m. Monday, officials told the Sun-Times Media
He had been suffering from renal failure and hypertension, reports WBBM
Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya.
Heirens was the longest-serving inmate ever in Illinois. He was convicted first
of the 1945 slayings of Frances Brown, 32, and Josephine Ross, 43, in their
apartments in Uptown and East Lakeview, respectively. He was also convicted of
the dismemberment of 6-year-old Suzanne Degnan, of the Edgewater neighborhood,
the following year.
Heirens was known as the “Lipstick Killer” because of a message scrawled in
lipstick in Brown’s apartment, at 3941 N. Pine Grove Ave. in the East Lakeview
neighborhood: “For heavens sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control
At the time, Heirens was 17 and attending college at the University of Chicago.
He was sentenced to 3 life prison terms.
But there have been nagging doubts about Heirens’ convictions for decades.
In 1995, attorney Jed Stone told CBS 2 that a reexamination of the case showed
that fingerprint evidence used against Heirens was “fraudulent” and may have
been planted at one of the murder scenes by police. Experts also said
handwriting samples used against Heirens were not actually his.
Heirens himself maintained all along that he confessed only because authorities
said he would get the death penalty if he did not.
Heirens told CBS 2’s Walter Jacobson in 1988 that he decided to confess “when
they told me I wasn’t going to get a fair trial – they said, ‘There is no
possibility you are going to get a fair trial.’ Back in ’46 at 17, I wanted to
But WBBM Newsrasdio’s Regine Schlesinger reports Suzanne Degnan’s older sister,
Betty Finn, says she never had a moment’s doubt that he strangled Suzanne and
threw her sister’s dismembered body parts into sewers around her home on
“We outlived him,” said Finn, who was just 10 years when her sister was
kidnapped from her bend and brutally murdered.
Year after year, Finn has gone before the prisoner review board to oppose
parole for him.
“(It’s) very painful to have to do that. But we just felt that if we didn’t do
it – my brother and I – and he got out and some child was hurt, we just
couldn’t live with that,” she said.
Heirens was most recently up for parole in 2007, but it was denied.
Finn says she can breathe much easier now that she knows she’ll never have to
again publicly relive the horror of what Heirens did.
(source: CBS News)