Richard Speck, who stunned the nation by murdering eight student nurses in Chicago in 1966, died early Thursday of an apparent heart attack, officials said. He was 49.

Speck, who would have turned 50 Friday, died at Silver Cross Hospital, where he had been taken Wednesday complaining of chest pains, Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Nic Howell said."I'm so glad to hear he died," said Jack Wallenda, the first police officer to arrive at the scene of a dormitory near South Community Hospital where the nurses were killed. "I hope he suffered a lot."

Speck was originally sentenced to death for the slayings but in 1971 was resentenced to 400 to 1,200 years in prison when the death penalty was held unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971.

Under Illinois law he routinely came up for parole but was denied his freedom seven times.

"The murders of these eight student nurses shocked and dismayed the world in 1966 and they are no less heinous now," then-State's Attorney Cecil Partee said in 1990, the last time parole was denied for Speck.

In a 1978 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Speck said he felt nothing during the slayings but that he came to be filled with remorse.

"I had no feelings at all that night," he said. "They said there was blood all over the place. I can't remember. It felt like nothing.

"I'm sorry as hell - for those girls, and for their families, and for me. If I had to do it over again, it would be a simple house burglary.

"Parents ought to be careful about their kids," he said, "because any kid can end up like me."