November 11, 2011

Serial Killer Roams Uptown

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

It was a hot summer evening, 1945. We were sitting on the back porches in order to seek a little relief from the heat. My mom was the first to notice a ruckus coming from the next building to the North, that would be 4741 Kenmore.

Now, as kids we were all schooled in the scam of the "boiler inspector." There was always a child molester in the area, and as kids we were taught how to avoid them and never allow ourselves to be in close proximity to them. One of the ruses was the "boiler inspector," in order to get some unsuspecting kid to show them where the boiler was.

Mr. Nelson, the building owner, had caught a young guy trying to entice his 10-year-old daughter to go into the basement with him.

This "boiler inspector" was in good shape and very athletic, looking to be about 20 years old . Mr Nelson had him on the ground by the throat and hollered up to us to call the police.

Now in these days very few people had phones, and there certainly was no 911, so if a call was made to the police it would be at least 30 minutes before they arrived. Dad was already on his way down from the second floor when the "boiler inspector" jumped up and pushed or hit Mr. Nelson at the same time, screaming that he didn't want his daughter anyway, he wanted the little blond girl next door (that would be my seven-year-old sister), at which time Mom was hollering from the porch, "Kill the SOB!" Dad was moving faster than I ever seen him move. Thats when the BI jumped over the fence into our backyard and was gone before Dad could get to him.

I don't remember if the police were ever called or not. This became the topic of conversation in the neighborhood for a few days and was forgotten about, until sometime during the winter, a 6-year-old girl, Susan Degnan, was missing from her home in the 5900 block of Kenmore. Her dismembered body was found sometime later, and the following June, William Heirens was arrested for her murder. As soon as we saw his picture in the paper, both Mom and Mr. Nelson said he was the "Boiler Inspector." According to the newspapers, Heirens' first murder took place at 4108 Kenmore in June 1945, the second one was at 3941 Pine Grove in the winter of 1945.

Was William Heirens really our "boiler inspector"?


bill Matteson said...

I received a few emails from readers that would like a clarification on a Boiler Inspector.
There was always a child molester in the area and as a kid we were taught how to avoid them and never allow ourselves to be in close proximity to them. One of the ruses was the Boiler Inspector, in order to get some unsuspecting kid to show them where the boiler was.

Anonymous said...

William Heirens was tortured by the police and convicted by the press and pleaded guilty only to save his life. His defense attorneys cooperated with the prosecutors. He has protested his innocence ever since. I believe him. In any event, his guilt was never proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If he were tried today, it is very doubtful he would be comvicted

bill Matteson said...

I whole heartily agree, he was beaten,tortured and given sodium pentathol. of course he would confess. The janitor of the victims building was also beaten and tortured he was able to sue and win.
I believe that under today's laws he would have never been arrested let alone convicted.
Mom and Mr.
Nelson said it looked like him. Dad and I said maybe!
let me tell you the cops could get mean in those days

Anonymous said...

My father was a janitor and I remember as a young child being told how the janitor was mistreated. He was of Belgian ancestry as was my father, so there was a double affinity. Thank God there was a strong union representing flat janitors; otherwise who knows what more abuse he would have suffered.


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