Gov. Quinn Commutes Death Sentence of Oak Forest Serial Killer Paul Runge
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the ban on the death penalty Wednesday, and in the process he commuted the death sentences of the 15 prisoners now on Death Row.
Updated March 9, 11:23 p.m.
Former Oak Forest resident Paul Runge and 14 other prisoners currently on Illinois' Death Row will spend the rest of their lives in prison but will not die for their crimes. As he signed the ban on the death penalty in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn also commuted their sentences to natural life in prison, without possibility of parole or release.
“There are no words in the English language, or any language, to ease your pain,” reads Quinn's quote in the Chicago Tribune. “I want to tell them, it’s impossible, I’m sure, to ever be healed. But we want to tell all of the family members, the family of Illinois … we want to be with you. You’re not alone in your grief.”
Now 40, Paul Runge was sentenced to death in 2006 for the 1997 rapes and murders of a North Side mother and her young daughter. Yolanda Gutierrez, 35, and Jessica Muniz, just 10 years old, were tortured and assaulted for hours in the same bed in their apartment before Runge cut their throats and set their home on fire. DNA evidence found on the little girl led authorities to Runge, who is suspected in as many as five other murders between 1995 and 1997.
At the news that the death penalty ban had been passed to Quinn in January, local police officers who dealt with Runge after he turned himself in for rape in 1987 recalled a calm, cool Runge.
"Life is a gift, you have responsibilities in life, and everyone has the responsibility to act a certain way," said Oak Forest Deputy Police Chief David DeMarco. "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?
"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."
Calling Runge's crimes "appalling" and example 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.