Twenty-five years after the day he fingerprinted Paul Runge, Oak Forest Police Deputy Chief David DeMarco can still picture a 17-year-old Runge sitting across from him.
"He was very relaxed," DeMarco said.
Runge had turned himself in for the kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old Oak Forest girl. DeMarco was the one who rolled Runge's fingers across the black ink of a fingerprint pad for the first time. The teen-ager asked when DeMarco would be finished processing him because he had obligations the next day.
"He just wanted to get the process over with, so he could get on with his life," DeMarco said.
On Aug. 17, 1987, Runge lured the girl into his father's home, held her captive, handcuffed her to his bed and tortured her for half a day by biting into her body and raping her before bundling her into a sleeping bag and hiding her in a crawlspace in his father's home. The girl managed to escape and fled to a neighbor's house.
"I don't think, at the time, he realized the seriousness of his charges."
But the department knew. DeMarco is unsure of how much time passed between the girl's escape and Runge turning himself in.
"Everyone knew at the time, we were looking for him," he said.
Runge was convicted on aggravated kidnapping, and sentenced to spend the next 14 years of his life in prison for the attack on a girl he knew from their neighborhood. Paroled after seven years, Runge would go on to hunt and kill other women. While on parole, he raped and killed Yolanda Gutierrez, 35, and Jessica Muniz, just 10 years old. Investigators believe he's responsible for at least five other murders between 1995 and 1997 in which women were assaulted, dismembered or burned after their deaths.
In 2006, he was sentenced to death for their murders. Now his future is in the hands of Gov. Pat Quinn. Regardless of whether Quinn signs the death penalty ban the legislature put before him, he will have final say on whether Runge dies for his crimes. Runge's future could lean one of three ways: incarceration on Death Row with no possibility of execution as long as the moratorium on execution's remains in effect, his execution carried out, or his death sentence commuted to a life sentence.
Calling Runge's offenses "appalling" and examples of "heinous" crime, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez cited his case as reason to keep the death penalty in her Jan. 11 presentation to the Illinois General Assembly, said Andy Conklin, spokesman for the Cook County State's Attorney Office.
DeMarco is disturbed at the possibility that Runge's sentence could be commuted to life in prison, as one of 15 inmates currently on Illinois' Death Row.
"Is that all there are? Just 15?" DeMarco said.
On Jan. 11, 2003, just two days before leaving office, then-Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentences of 156 death row inmates. Three years earlier, he had imposed a moratorium on executions after reports of innocent people on Death Row.
'Life is a Gift'
DeMarco refrained from commenting on whether Runge, specifically, deserves the death penalty, as "I was not on the jury, I didn't hear the evidence."
But for those criminals, like Runge, who have committed crimes that juries have deemed worthy of the death penalty, DeMarco said they have not fulfilled their obligations to society. DeMarco followed developments on Runge as they became available, particularly his trial for the two murders in 1997.
"Life is a gift, you have responsibilities in life, and everyone has the responsibility to act a certain way," DeMarco said. "If you choose not to act that way, society has said we have to do something about it. Why should you burden taxpayers ... when you've been this evil human being?"
While Police Chief Greg Anderson also refrained from commenting specifically on whether Runge should be executed, he said he believes the death penalty can deter crime and is appropriate punishment for crimes that are "heinous."
"If everything that he's accused of is true, and it probably is, it just seemed that he got a lot worse," DeMarco said. "He's obviously turning for the worse, and apparently, there was no turning back for him."
As for the death penalty ban, DeMarco would prefer that the governor not sign the bill into law.
"I'm all for the death penalty in cases where it deserves it. When you have a cancer in your body, you want to get rid of it," he said. "People on death row are cancers of society, and I think society just needs to terminate them and move on."