Did Richard Speck have one more victim? - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Did Richard Speck have one more victim?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Three months before Richard Speck brutally killed eight student nurses on Chicago's South Side in 1966, a woman was found beaten to death in Monmouth, Illinois.

That case was never solved, but many in Monmouth believe Speck killed Mary K. Pierce, 32. Speck was living in Monmouth at the time, and he was questioned by police.

But when detectives went back to talk to him a second time, he was gone, on his way to infamy in Chicago.

"It was quite a shock, of course, in a small town like this," Lynne Devlin, a librarian at the Warren County Library, said.

The Western Illinois town is best known for being the birthplace of Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp. So when Pierce was found in a hog house beaten to death in April 1966, Monmouth took notice.

"People were just a little more on edge. That just didn't happen," Devlin said.

Pierce was a bartender at a tavern called Frank's Place, which used to stand near an abandoned red brick building on South Third Street. Speck was a regular at the bar. He was living in a seedy hotel in Monmouth - where he had family - and police wanted to know what he knew about Pierce's murder.

"A few days after they questioned him, they went back to talk to him again. He had left the hotel, and no one knew at that time where he had gone," Warren Co. State's Attorney Chip Algren said.

Of course, Speck had gone to Chicago, where just three months later he committed one of the most shocking crimes in U.S. history, brutally killing eight student nurses in a South Side dormitory.

The murders had special significance in Monmouth, where police were still searching for Pierce's killer.

"It didn't take very long before they started guessing and saying, well, what if? He was in the area at the time. This might have been a possibility," Devlin said.

Algren isn't so sure, however.

"I think from the evidence it's unlikely that Speck was the murderer," he said.

Algren says after he took over in 1995, someone found a file on Pierce's murder at the town's old police station. It shows police were looking at Speck, but also another man.

They were looking into a drifter from Yakima, Washington who confessed to his roommate in 1980 that he killed a woman in Western Illinois in the mid-1960s. That man dropped dead of natural causes before Monmouth police were able to talk to him.

There's one more reason Algren thinks it wasn't Speck.

"Speck's weapon of choice was a knife," he said. "Mary K. Pierce died from blunt force trauma, which is a fancy way of saying she was beaten to death with some object. That wasn't Speck's M.O."

Still, many in the town, including Devlin, think Speck may be the killer.

"I think it's highly suspicious. I really do," Devlin said.

Chip Algren actually knew Richard Speck. His parents owned a roller skating rink in Monmouth and Speck used to skate there. Algren says the two weren't friends and he remembers Speck as being aloof.

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