Monday, February 11, 2013

Life of Crime: “Catch me before I kill more.”

William Heirens, who died in March, 2012 at age 83, was the longest-serving prisoner in the U.S. He had been in prison since he was a teen in 1946 for the killings of two women and a child.

Whether or not he was actually guilty, or convicted by tainted evidence and a dubious confession, or even trial by newspaper, is the subject of a long article at Wikipedia, William Heirens. It’s one of those fascinating cases that has been much discussed and debated over six decades. It has also been the stuff of morbid fascination based on a message written in lipstick at one of the crime scenes:

The cover of this 1956 Shock Illustrated fictionalizes the note, but shows how powerful an effect it had on the public, even ten years after Heirens was arrested.

While the City Sleeps was a 1956 movie, directed by Fritz Lang, inspired by the Heirens case.

Life, in its July 29, 1946 issue, gave the Heirens case two pages, with a tousled-hair photo of Heirens that made him appear wild, and has been criticized as helping to form the public perception of him.

Copyright © 1944, 2013 Time-Life

Even considering Chicago’s reputation as a city with a high murder rate, the brutality of the crimes attributed to Heirens was unusual, and got national attention.

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