CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois authorities refused Friday to release a parole-eligible convicted murderer who is suspected of being part of the notorious "Ripper Crew" that brutally killed as many as 20 women in the 1980s, determining that he lacks an approved place to live.
Thomas Kokoraleis was scheduled to be released on parole after serving 35 years in prison for the 1982 slaying of a suburban Chicago woman. The Illinois Department of Corrections' website still lists Friday as his release day.
Prisoners who are released on parole must have what is called an "approved host site," meaning an address where parole officers can regularly find him. The Chicago Tribune reported Kokoraleis' older brother said he will not be living with him or anyone else in the family.
Officials won't be able to hold Kokoraleis indefinitely, even if he is unable to find a place to live. Sept. 30, 2020, is his discharge date, meaning the day he is no longer the responsibility of the corrections department or under the control of a parole office. And, just as his 70-year sentence was cut in half due to good behavior, his time on parole also could be reduced.
"When they are discharged we don't oversee them," said Dede Short, a spokeswoman for the department. "We don't have any jurisdiction over where they go, where they live."
Some prisoners have chosen to remain in prison until their discharge date for the simple reason that when they do walk out, they don't want the state to have any control over where they go. Kokoraleis hasn't suggested that is his plan.
"People have made that choice because conditions of parole are so onerous and there is so much stress that no matter what you do you can be picked up (on a parole violation)," said Sheila Bedi, a clinical professor of law at Northwestern University, who is not involved with the case.
Kokoraleis' name may have faded from memory, but in the early 1980s he was part of a widely publicized sensational crime story. He was one of four Chicago-area men accused of being part of a satanic cult that abducted, tortured, mutilated and killed women. Two others were convicted in the killings, including Kokoraleis' brother, Andrew, who was executed in 1999 - the last execution in Illinois before the state put a moratorium on the death penalty. A fourth man was sentenced to 120 years for raping and mutilating a teenager and remains in prison.
Kokoraleis originally was sentenced to life but after an appellate court ordered a new trial, prosecutors instead allowed him to plead guilty in exchange for a 70-year prison sentence. Under sentencing guidelines in place at the time, that meant if he behaved in prison he would be released in 35 years.
News of Korkoraleis' pending release sparked a push by the relatives of the woman he was convicted of killing to try to keep him locked up. State officials are examining the case to see if they can file a petition to keep him incarcerated as a sexually violent predator.
To be committed, a person must be convicted of a sexually violent crime and prosecutors must prove that the person, if freed, is likely to commit future sexually violent crimes.
In a statement, Maura Possley, spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, would only say the office is "still looking at the case."