Many serial killers have a nickname to be recognized, and so have you heard about a serial killer named the lipstick killer? He is originally recognized as William Heirens who was a Chicago serial killer. But is he the actual lipstick killer? This name is well-known and this case has made the horrific history of 3 murders and a written message in lipstick. The killer was trying to communicate with the police telling them to catch him and stop his murders. And this case was so famous that only a few can forget it.
Who is really William Heirens, and is he the killer behind the name lipstick killer? Let us see the story of how William Heiren got caught.
A woman was found dead with a bread knife lodged in her neck and along with that, the police found a note across the living room wall which says “For heaven’s Sake, catch me Before I kill more I can not control myself” written with lipstick. This note was the first clue found by the police and he was dubbed the lipstick killer.
Who is this Chicago serial killer?
William George Heirens was born on November 15th, 1928, in Evanston, Illinois. He grew up in Lincolnwood which is a suburb of Chicago. He was born on the eve of the Great depression in 1928 in a home that was suffering from poverty and parents who argued more. To escape from his family life, William wandered on the streets looking for entertainment, which turned into petty theft. Since he was a child, he was involved in stealing things but had no record of violence.
He was a quiet child and spent much time alone. He began to go into homes and if there is no one inside, he will sneak in and steal anything left lying around of value.
When he was 11 years old, he witnessed a couple making love. When he told his mother, she told him that all sex is dirty, and would lead to disease. When he kissed his girlfriend he burst out into tears and vomited.
At the age of 12, he was working at a grocery store. There he accidentally short-changed himself with a customer. He stole a single dollar bill from an apartment and from there he started to steal large amounts and personal items. He had a small collection of expensive items like guns, cameras, and cocktail shakers.
The first time William got caught
At the age of 13, he broke into a local building’s basement, and there he was spotted by another resident and he called the police. William ran after seeing the police, and when he pulled out a gun, the police fired and it was hit over the head with a nearby flower pot and he became unconscious. So he got caught and arrested. He described his theft as a hobby as this kept him busy while his parents were arguing. Therefore he was sent to a boy’s semi-correctional school in Indiana. But it was ineffective and the court recommended to be sent to a private institute in central Illinois.
But he proved to be a flawless student and got good grades in all the subjects. Even before he turned 16, he got qualified for courses at the University of Chicago. In 1945, he had enrolled in courses and was trying to become an electrical engineer.
Although he became the best, with advanced courses, extracurricular activities, and girlfriends. Nothing could stop him from going back to his childhood hobby.
Murders of The lipstick killer
On June 5, 1945, 43-year-old Josephine Ross was found dead in her apartment. The police found that she had been repeatedly stabbed and her head was wrapped in a dress. In her hand, they found dark hairs, and this showed that she had struggled with the intruder before she was killed. But there were no things taken from the apartment. The police looked for a dark-complexioned man loitering at the apartment but there was no identity to find him.
On December 11th, 1945, Francis Brown was found dead in an apartment. Her body was found by a cleaning woman who heard a radio playing loud and the door opened partly. Again there were no valuables taken from the apartment but they found a written message in lipstick on the wall of the apartment. Police found a fingerprint smudge on the door jam. And there was an ear-witness who heard gunshots at about 4 am. There was an eyewitness who saw a nervous man between 35 to 40 years old, weighing approximately 140 pounds get off the elevator.
On January 7th, 1946, 6-year-old Suzanne Degnan was discovered missing from her bedroom. Her family calls the police after finding her nowhere. Her disappearance earned significant publicity and the police started to find out the person responsible for the kidnap. A ladder was found outside the girl’s window and there was a ransom note that read,
“Get $20,000 ready & waite [sic] for word. Do not notify the FBI or police. Bills in $5’s and $10’s.
Burn this for her safty [sic].”
The family said that a man repeatedly called them for ransom and hung up before any meaningful conversation took place. The family members and neighbors were questioned about it, but no one had seen anything.
The police received a call anonymously and were asked to look in the sewers near the Degnan home. The police then discovered the head of the young girl in a catch Basin. They also discovered the right leg in another catch basin. Her left leg was found in another alley, and after several months, her arms were found.
Hundreds of people were investigated. And in several cases, the police claim to have captured the Killer but they get disappointed when the case is proved baseless. A 65-year-old Hector Verburgh was arrested on suspicion of murder as he was working in the Apartment building and the Ransom note was found to be written by a dirty hand. But he refused to confess and was released, and it was found that he was not able to write English well.
The region was horrified by the Chicago serial killer and the public waited to see who would be the lipstick killer.
How did William Heirens get caught?
Chicago Police further investigated the kidnapping of Degnan to find out the Chicago serial killer dubbed as the lipstick killer. At this time William Heirens was enjoying his life as a young playboy at the university. He was at the top of his game and recently celebrated his uncle’s safe return from the war. He was interested in playing chess and was taking a ballroom dancing class. He was planning to take his classmate on a date night and needed some extra cash.
He originally planned to cash a savings bond for $1000 at the post office which he got through theft. But unfortunately, the post office was closed. So he reached to open the apartment door in the same neighborhood where Suzanne Degnan once lived. But he was spotted and was followed by two policemen.
He pulled a gun from the back of his jeans and turned it on the two officers. The officers claimed that Heiren fired at them while Heiren claimed that the police shot first.
But then Heirens fled and the police officer stopped him and smashed him where he became unconscious. His arrest looked unpleasant, and the days after his arrest proved to be the worst in his life.
His head was stitched up and he was transported to the hospital wing of the Cook County jail. There he suffered torturous interrogation where he was made to be in and out of consciousness due to drugs, and pain. He was named as the suspected Lipstick killer and the police searched his room at the university, his home, and the locker he kept at the local train station.
They found a little evidence in the locker which was his lifetime hobby and they took his fingerprints. This fingerprint was found to be a 9-point match to those found on the Degnan ransom note. But William Heirens did not confess to any of the three murders.
The police in an effort to get him admitted to at least one of the murders got the help of several nurses and a doctor and reverted to sinister methods. They poured ether on his genitals and he was strapped to the bed. He was repeatedly punched in the stomach.
Several days after the investigation, they administered a spinal tap in an effort to force him to confess to being the lipstick killer. A polygraph was ordered but Heirens was in too much pain and one doctor injected him with sodium pentothal. But it did nothing but put him in a state of semi-conscious delirium.
He went on continuous four-day torture by the police and began to mutter the beginning of the confessions. He spoke of a man named George who could have committed the murders, while he was under the influence of the solution and unconsciousness. The police searched for George and Heiren’s friends and family were questioned but received no evidence.
But the true fact was George was the middle name of Heiren and ultimately the police thought that it was the confession of Heiren to be the true Lipstick killer.
The life sentence
William Heirens handwriting did not match the note that was left on Frances Brown’s wall. And the police had only the evidence of the nine of the FBI required 12 points of identification that was necessary to deem fingerprints a 100 percent match. Heiren’s confession was disputed by many nurses. The police charged William as the lipstick killer.
17 days after the arrest, on July 12th, 1946, he was indicted for assault with intent to kill, robbery, 23 counts of burglary, and three counts of murder. The fact was that all places of residence and the locker that belonged to William were searched without a warrant. He agreed to a full trial even though he knew the risk of being sent to the electric chair.
After the State’s Attorney offered him a deal of three consecutive life sentences, he plead guilty to all three murder charges. Later he recalls he only did so because he was feared for his life and was afraid of what would happen if he turned down the deal.
The decision he made to confess saved him from the electric chair but it ended up costing him the rest of his life. For the next 65 years, he lived in the prison and attempted suicide three times. He maintained his innocence up until the day he died at age 83. And he was known as the Chicago serial killer and the longest-serving criminal.
The final thoughts about William Heirens
Is William Heirens the real killer?
The most disturbing part of the case is when a retired reporter from Chicago revealed that the killer did not leave any message on the wall of Frances Brown. He claimed that it was a reporter who wrote the message at the crime scene and thought the case would be more interesting. The claim can be supported because the handwriting on the wall did not match William Heirens. And if this was true, it would have turned the case entirely from a different viewpoint. But it was too late for Willaim Heirens when these findings came out, as he was an old man.
With today’s developed methodology, the fingerprint claimed was highly unusual and a full and obvious print. It was concluded that the print that was left on purpose at the scene was transferred from the fingerprints police had on file for William to create evidence he was at the scene of the crime.
Over 30 times, William Heirens applied for release but didn’t receive it. He became the longest-serving prisoner in the United States prison and the horrifying realization is the evidence now suggests that he was an innocent man.
Follow us on FACEBOOK.