William Workman
William Workman
Background information
Occupation Carpenter (unemployed)
Born (1930-03-07)March 7, 1930

July 6, 1981(1981-07-06) (aged 51)
Joliet, Illinois, United States

Penalty Sentenced to 100 to 300 years in prison
Imprisoned at Joliet Correctional Center
Parents Raymond Workman
Dina Workman
Attack information
Date June 26, 1973
Location(s) Palos Hills, Illinois, United States
Killed 7
Weapon(s) .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle

William Workman was an American unemployed carpenter who killed seven people in Palos Hills, Illinois, United States on June 26, 1973, before being arrested. He was initially found mentally unfit to stand trial, but was eventually sentenced to 100 to 300 years in prison, where he died of natural causes on July 6, 1981.[1][2]


Workman was born on March 7, 1930 to Raymond and Dena Workman. He had at least one brother named Richard. As a youth he occasionally fired with a small-caliber rifle out of his bedroom window, but the gun was eventually taken from him when he shot a neighbour's cat.[3]

Workman, an alcoholic, who suffered from delirium tremens, was mentally ill and prone to violence. Between 1967 and 1972 he was a patient at the Tinley Park Mental Health Center five times, but was allowed to leave to continue his job as a contruction labourer.[4] During his treatment at the institution he also became close friend with another patient, Paul Clesson.[5]

Workman was married and had four children, who were aged 11 to 16 years at the time of the murders, though his marriage eventually failed, due to his mental problems. On March 17, 1967 he was committed to the Tinley Park Mental Health Center for the first time, because he had threatened his wife with a butcher knife three days prior. His psychiatrist at the time recommended his immediate commitment to a state mental institution, because he posed a threat to himself and others. Workman was discharged on January 22, 1968, just to be institutionalised again two months later after another attempted attack on his wife with a knife. According to his wife's statement during his second committment, he compared himself with god, saying: "If God can do it, so can I." After his release on June 25 the same year, he did not return to his family's home in Bridgeview, but instead went to live with his parents at their home at 10530 S. 82d Ct. in Palos Hills.[4]

The following December Workman's wife filed for divorce, stating that he had tried to choke and stab her. While the divorce was pending Workman asked to be admitted again to Tinley Park Mental Health Center, on grounds that his parents were contantly fighting and picking on him and that something would break loose, if he dind't get in the hospital. The divorce was finally granted on September 25, 1969, and Workman was ordered to pay $45 a week to support his children. The following February his wife obtained an injunction, after he drove around her home in Bridgeview, threatened and beat her, and harassed their children.[4] As a consequence of the divorce Workman became despondent and cut his wrists in a suicide attempt.[6] He also became a loner, started to work odd jobs, and spent most of his time fishing and hunting.[3]

Workman was admitted his fifth and final time to Tinley Park Mental Health Center on December 17, 1971, after threatening to kill his parents, family, and himself. He was discharged on February 8, 1972, after returning from an unexplained two-week absence from the hospital, as his psychiatrist came to the conclusion that, even though he sometimes hallucinated, he was reasonable and able to take care of himself.[4]

In 1973 Workman went on a fishing trip to northern Minnesota for almost a month, during which he probably purchased the rifle later used in the shootings,[3] and when he returned the weekend prior to the murders he was acting strangely, appeared withdrawn, failed to acknowledge greetings, and dressed like a "hobo", according to neighbours.[7]

For some time Workman worked as a carpenter, he was married, and had three sons,[8][9]

Was treated as an outptient, failed to keep medical appointments, hadn't been at Tinley Park for a year and a half. Was treated periodically over the last 10 years as a volunteer patient.[3]


William Workman home

Police in front of Workman's home.

Either during the night of June 25, or on the morning of June 26, 1973, Workman took a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle and went to the home of his friend Paul Clesson, who lived with his parents at 8110 W. 107th Street, about two blocks away from him. He entered through the unlocked front door and killed Clesson in the living room with a shot in the face, before turning against Clesson's handicapped father, whom he killed in his chair by shooting him above the left eye. Finally he killed Clesson's mother with a shot in the chest, when she came out of the kitchen, where she was preparing a meal. In total Workman had fired four rounds.[6][10][11][12]

The exact time these murders occurred was unclear immediately after the crime, since police reported that it appeared that the Clesson's were preparing for supper when they were killed, while neighbour Rheva Timmons had heard gunshots during the morning. Their bodies were discovered later that afternoon by Clesson's brother Dean, when he was called by Mrs. Timmons after the other murders in the area.[6][10][11]

Shortly before noon Workman began shooting from the yard of his parents' house, killing 12-year-old Kimberly Cliff, who was playing in the frontyard of her home on the other side of the street. He also killed the girl's five-months pregnant mother when she rushed out of the house, and fired at Anna Johnson, another neighbour, who had witnessed the shooting and ran across the street to get her daughter from the Cliffs' home, where she was playing.[6][7][8][13][14]

When an ambulance and firemen arrived at the scene Workman opened fire from the driveway of his home, forcing them to take cover, though as soon as the first police officer appeared he went inside, where he killed his invalid father in his bed, as well as his mother with multiple shots, and then drank several beer. Reinforcements soon arrived and surrounded the building. Workman was ordered to come out, and when he didn't respond tear gas was fired through an upstairs window. Shortly thereafter, at 12:40 p.m., he exited through a side door, a can of beer in his hand, and was eventually subdued after answering repeated orders to put his hands over his head by taking sips from his beer. When asked about his parents he replied: "I killed them. They are in the house."[6][7][8][15][16]

After his arrest Workman was taken to the Cook County jail, pending psychiatric examination and court appearence. At his arraignment the same night Workman told the city judge that he was in no shape to stand trial, that his "mind was completely out of it", and that he had a history of mental illness. He also stated that he was "God's son" and had to take matters into his own hands. His first court hearing was set for July 2.[6][7][10][11]


  • Paul Clesson, 72
  • Neta Clesson, 78, wife of Paul Clesson
  • Paul R. Clesson, Jr., 47, son of Paul and Neta Clesson
  • Henrietta Cliff, 35
  • Kimberly Cliff, 12, daughter of Henrietta Cliff
  • Raymond Workman, 69, his father
  • Dina Workman, 58, his mother


William Workman escorted by police

Workman as he is escorted by police to prison after the shooting.

Was initially charged with four counts of murder, on June 29 was charged with seven counts of murder, after ballistic tests proved that the Cliffords were shot with the same weapon as the other four. Was brought to Cook county jail, was transfered and put under guard at the Cermak Memorial Hospital after he threatened to kill himself and other prisoners several times.[17] Judge ordered psychiatric testing, he claimed he was refused admittance to mental hospitals several times.[5]

Was arraigned in Circuit Court on July 2, found incompetent to stand trial, and ordered to be confined at the maximum security mental facility in Chester.[18][19][20]

On July 20, 1978 psychiatrists declared he was sane enough to stand trial, and a judge ordered a court psychiatrist to further examine him and report on August 2.[13][21] [22] He found him unfit to stand trial.[23]

On June 17, 1981 Workman was sentenced to 100 to 300 years in prison,[24] and sent to the Joliet Correctional Center on June 26. He was found dead in his prison cell on July 6 the same year. An autopsy showed that he died of natural causes, probably of cardiac arrest.[25]



  1. Seven Slain in Chicago Suburb, The New York Times (June 27, 1973)
  2. Slaying suspect placed under hospital care, St. Petersburg Times (June 28, 1973)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Doctor, neighbors recall Workman as troubled, loner, Chicago Tribune (June 27, 1973)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Palos Hills suspect, Chicago Tribune (June 28, 1973)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Indict for three more murders, The Southeast Missourian (June 30, 1973)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 7 Slain in Palos Hills, Chicago Tribune (June 27, 1973)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Berserk man kills seven in Chicago, Sarasota Journal (June 27, 1973)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Seven persons slain, Star-News (June 27, 1973)
  9. 7 killed in Illinois; man held, Observer-Reporter (June 27, 1973)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Man charged in slaying of 4 in Chicago suburb, Toledo Blade (June 27, 1973)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Kin charged in separate family slayings, The Evening Independent (June 27, 1973)
  12. 'This isn't God's way', Chicago Tribune (June 27, 1973)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Patient who killed 7 found sane for trial, The Telegraph (July 21, 1978)
  14. 7 killed in Chicago suburb, Eugene Register-Guard (June 27, 1973)
  15. Man with rifle kills 7, including parents, Lodi News-Sentinel (June 27, 1973)
  16. Gunshots shatter Palos Hills calm, Chicago Tribune (June 27, 1973)
  17. 'God's Son' Hospitalized, Madison Wisconsin State Journal (June 28, 1973)
  18. Sent to mental hospital, Chicago Tribune (July 3, 1973)
  19. A failure for therapy, Chicago Tribune (July 5, 1973)
  20. Killer of 7 is declared mentally ill, The Cumberland News (July 6, 1973)
  21. Mass murder suspect judged sane enough to stand trial, Chicago Tribune (July 21, 1978)
  22. Patient called able to face murder trial, The Milwaukee Sentinel (July 22, 1978)
  23. Mass-murder suspect unfit for trial: expert, Chicago Tribune (August 3, 1978)
  24. Workman gets 100-300 years, Chicago Tribune (June 18, 1981)
  25. Metropolitan briefs: Murderer's death natural: autopsy, The Daily Herald (July 9, 1981)
  26. Examine Workman records, The Southeast Missourian (June 28, 1973)
  27. Nash, Jay Robert: Encyclopedia of World Crime: S-Z; Supplements; CrimeBooks, 1990. (p. 3187) ISBN 9780923582043

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