CHICAGO, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Henry Brisbon is known in criminal justice circles as the "I-57 Killer" for a series of slayings in 1973 along Interstate 57 south of Chicago, including ordering one engaged couple to "kiss their last kiss" while he shot them to death alongside the highway.
Jacqueline Williams is a woman so desperate to have people think she gave birth to a baby that she, her boyfriend and a friend killed a pregnant woman and cut her full-term fetus from her womb.
Both Brisbon and Williams are the most prominent of Illinois' death-row inmates who no longer have to worry about someday being strapped to a gurney and receiving a court-ordered lethal injection.
They, along with their 155 colleagues on Illinois' death rows, will be moved this weekend to the general prison population -- although officials admit Brisbon has been enough of a security risk in the past they will still keep an extra watch over him.
Gov. George Ryan's Saturday clemency order that cleared out death row in Illinois altered both of their sentences to life prison terms without parole.
What's odd is that Brisbon was not on death row for the I-57 slayings, which occurred during the period from 1972-76 when the United States had no death penalty.
He was serving a 1,000-3,000-year sentence at the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet when he got into a fight and killed fellow inmate Richard "Hippie" Morgan. For that, he was sentenced to death.
Brisbon's prison problems give him notoriety in the Illinois system. In one early-1980s fight at the Pontiac Correctional Center, Brisbon stabbed another prominent inmate -- John Gacy, the man convicted of more murders than anyone else in U.S. history. Gacy was executed in 1994.
Williams was one of four women on Illinois' death row. She was sentenced to death for the particularly brutal nature of her crime. One of her co-defendants, Fedell Caffey, also got death. Ryan's order changes his sentence as well to natural life.
Other noteworthy cases in Illinois involve Leonard Kidd, who caused a 1980 fire in Chicago that killed 10 children; Anthony Enis, who raped a nurse in 1987 and killed her four months later to keep her from testifying against him, and Jeffrey Rissley, who kidnapped and killed a 6-year-old girl in 1991, ultimately disposing of her body in Michigan.
But Ryan said the case that gave him the most pause involved Daniel Edwards, who is on death row for the abduction-murder of Steve Small. Small, the publisher of the Kankakee Journal, was lured to the garage of a home he was renovating, stuffed into the trunk of a car and then buried alive. He died before police could find him.
The crime took place in Ryan's hometown of Kankakee, Ill. Small was a neighbor who used to baby-sit Ryan's children and Ryan also knew the Edwards family.
"Dan Edwards is guilty. I know that," Ryan said, but added that he is so convinced the Illinois death penalty system is a mess, he felt he had no choice but to reduce the sentence.
The decision is not a popular one in the Ryan household, the governor admits.
"My wife, Lura Lynn, was angry and disappointed at my decision, like many of the families of other victims will be," he said.