Aurora residents take to the streets in protest of ‘Ripper Crew’ member’s new home
The streets around Wayside Cross Ministries and City Hall in downtown Aurora were filled with protesters on April 5 to show that they don’t want convicted murderer Thomas Kokoraleis living in their community.
The demonstration was organized one week after Kokoraleis visited the Aurora Police Department to notify authorities of his plans to live at Wayside Cross Ministries, 215 E. New York St., Aurora.
Kokoraleis—who was convicted of the 1982 murder of Lorraine “Lorry” Ann Borowski, 21, of Elmhurst—was released on March 29 from prison after serving half of his 70-year sentence. Kokoraleis was also a member of the “Ripper Crew,” which was known for the abduction, rape, mutilation and murder of several women in cannibalistic rituals in the early 1980s in the Chicago area.
Matt Harrington, who organized the protest, said the reason for staging the demonstration is for concern for citizens and their safety.
Many demonstrators were upset about Kokoraleis’ plans to reside in town.
“Some of the people they’re feeling that we’ve been let down,” said Claudette Fleming, a resident of Aurora and a community advocate. “That needs healing. Some of us didn’t know he was here.”
However, Fleming acknowledged that it appears Wayside Cross Ministries has its heart in the right place.
“We got to focus and know that everything is going to be ok,” she said.
Aurora resident Diamond Fluellen said this matter hits too close to home, and that having Kokoraleis live at Wayside Cross Ministries is not ideal.
“I’m a former rape survivor,” she said. “I have one daughter who works in this area. I stay right down the street, and we all stay down the street. I’m very concerned, and I don’t want to have to worry about being re-victimized or one of my daughters being victimized.”
Wayside Cross Ministries is located near a park, some churches and a daycare facility.
Julie Steineke, director of Freedom Success Sobriety, said she felt compelled to take a stand.
Freedom Success Sobriety is a nonprofit organization that aims to help make the world a better place by way of organizing fundraisers, hosting community-building events and holding in-depth training sessions for volunteers.
“Being the director of a nonprofit—like I am—I’m more aware of this whole situation,” she said.
Steineke said the “Ripper Crew” murders often surfaced in conversation in her household when she was growing up. She explained that she went to school with the younger brother of Borowski.
“It was very tragic,” she said. “It was less than a mile from my house. Those kind of things didn’t happen in the suburbs back then. It was very scary. I was 12-years old when all of this happened,” she said. “It was the first time, in my life, that I ever felt fear.”
Steineke said she doesn’t think Wayside Cross Ministries made the right decision to allow Kokoraleis to stay at its downtown facility.
“It only took me 30 minutes to get here from where I am,” she said. “This is still too close.”
Harrington said he wants to see more proactive measures employed to promote safety.
“With the small police force that we have to protect a community of 290,000 people, I’ve been pushing—and I ran for office, here, three times—and each time, I put out that we need to have electronic monitoring of any violent sex offenders that come in here, so we can better protect our community,” Harrington said.
Some states are already employing lifetime electric monitoring of offenders with a history of sex offenses.
“Without that, we’re looking at more of the same, more rapes,” Harrington said.
The Illinois Sex Offender Registry lists Kokoraleis as a “murderer” and not as a sex offender, and Harrington said that when Kokoraleis’ case was re-tried, the court removed the sex offender classification.
“He has no restrictions about being at a park or a school because he’s not registered underneath that,” he said. “They have him listed as a violent offender, but not as a sex offender.”
Harrington said he was pleased by the turnout for the demonstration, which could be the first of several protests the city sees.
“I was really happy to see the amount of people that came out today, on a Friday, with a day-and-half’s notice,” he said.
Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain could not be immediately reached for comment on this matter.
Mayor Richard Irvin could not be immediately reached to comment on what transpired during an April 4 special meeting in which the Board of Directors for Wayside Cross Ministries was expected to reach a decision.