John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy, Jr., an American serial killer, was born on March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994.
Between 1972 and 1978, Gacy raped and murdered at least 33 young men and boys. He buried 26 of them in the small crawl space underneath
the basement of his home and three more elsewhere on his property. He became known as "Killer Clown" because of the popular block parties
he would throw for his friends and neighbors, entertaining children in a clown suit and makeup under the alias "Pogo the Clown".
Gacy was of Polish and Danish heritage. Overweight and unathletic, he had a troubled relationship with his father, an alcoholic who was
physically abusive and repeatedly called his son a "sissy". He was close to his sisters and mother, who affectionately called him "Johnny".
When Gacy was 11, he was struck on the forehead by a swing. The resulting head trauma formed a blood clot in his brain that went unnoticed
until he was 16, when he began to suffer blackouts. He was prescribed medication to dissolve the clot.
After attending four different high schools, Gacy dropped out before completing his senior year and left his family, heading west. After running
he enrolled in and eventually graduated from Northwestern Business College. A management trainee position with a shoe company followed
shortly after graduation, and in 1964, Gacy was transferred to Springfield, Illinois. There he met coworker Marlynn Myers, and they married in
September 1964. He became active in local Springfield organizations, joining the Jaycees and rising to vice-president of the Springfield chapter
Marlynn's parents, who had purchased a group of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchises, offered Gacy a job as manager of a Waterloo,
Iowa KFC, and the Gacys moved there from Springfield.
Imprisonment, divorce, parole
The Gacy and his wife settled in Waterloo and had two children: a son and a daughter. Gacy worked at his KFC franchise and joined the
Jaycees. Rumors of Gacy's homosexuality began to spread but did not prevent him from being named "outstanding vice-president" of the
Waterloo Jaycees in 1967. However, there was a seamier side of Jaycee life in Waterloo, one that involved prostitution, pornography, and
drugs, in which Gacy was deeply involved. Gacy was cheating on his wife regularly. Gacy opened a "club" in his basement for the young boys of
Waterloo, where he allowed them to drink alcohol and made sexual advances towards them.
Gacy's middle class life in Waterloo came crashing down in March 1968 when two Waterloo boys, aged 15
and 16, accused him of sexually assaulting them. Gacy professed his innocence, but in August of that year
he hired another Waterloo youth to beat up one of his accusers. The youth was caught and confessed, and
Gacy's imprisonment was rapidly followed by his wife's petition for divorce, which was final in 1969. He never
saw his children again. During his incarceration, Gacy's father died from cirrhosis on Christmas Day 1969.
back to Illinois to live with his mother. He successfully hid this criminal record until police began investigating
him for his later murders.
house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, in an unincorporated area of Norwood Park Township, Cook County. The house had a four-foot deep
crawl space under the floor.
On February 12, 1971, Gacy was charged with disorderly conduct; a teenaged boy claimed that Gacy picked him up and tried to force him into
sex. The complaint was dropped when the boy did not appear in court. The Iowa Board of Parole did not learn of this, and Gacy was discharged
from parole in October 1971. On June 22, 1972, Gacy was arrested again and charged with battery after another young man said that Gacy
flashed a sheriff's badge, lured him into Gacy's car, and forced him into sex. Again charges were dropped.
In June 1972, Gacy married Carole Hoff, an acquaintance from his teenage years. Hoff and her two daughters moved into the Summerdale
Avenue house. In 1975, Gacy started his own business, PDM Contractors, a construction company. At the same time, his marriage began to
deteriorate. The Gacys' sex life came to a halt, and John Gacy would go out late and stay out all night. Carole Gacy found wallets with IDs from
young men lying around the house and then John Gacy began bringing home gay pornography. The Gacys divorced in March 1976.
Gacy became active in the local Democratic Party, first volunteering to clean the party offices. In 1975 and 1976, he served on the Norwood
Park Township street lighting committee. He eventually earned the title of precinct captain. In this capacity, he met and was photographed with
First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who was in town for the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade, held on May 6, 1978. Gacy was directing the
parade that year, for the third year in a row. Carter posed for pictures with Gacy and autographed the photo "To John Gacy. Best Wishes.
Rosalynn Carter". In the picture, Gacy is wearing an "S" pin, indicating a person who has received special clearance by the United States Secret
Service. During the search of Gacy's house after his arrest, this photo caused a major embarrassment to the Secret Service.
Gacy, this killing was unintentional, committed in the mistaken belief the youth intended to attack him with a knife from his kitchen.
Three years later, in July 1975, one of Gacy's employees, John Butkovich, disappeared. Butkovich had recently left Gacy's employment after an
argument over back pay. Gacy later admitted to luring Butkovitch to his home while his wife and stepchildren were visiting his sister in Arkansas.
Gacy conned the youth into cuffing his wrists behind his back, then strangled him to death and buried his body under the concrete floor of his
garage. Butkovich's parents urged police to check out Gacy, but nothing came of it and the young man's disappearance went unsolved.
Gacy's second wife divorced him eight months later, and Gacy began killing more often. Between April and October of 1976, Gacy killed at least
eight young men, all buried in his crawlspace. In December 1976, another Gacy employee, Gregory Godzik, disappeared. As with Butkovitch,
Godzik's parents asked police to investigate Gacy, one of the last people known to have spoken to the boy. In neither case did the police
pursue Gacy, nor did they discover his criminal record. In January 1977, John Szyc, an acquaintance of Butkovich, Godzik and Gacy,
disappeared. Gacy later sold Szyc's Plymouth Satellite to another of his employees. During 1977, Gacy killed another eight young men,
including the son of a Chicago Police Sergeant.
In August of 1977, a clue emerged to the disappearance of John Szyc when the same employee to whom Gacy
Not all of Gacy's victims died. In December 1977, a 19-year-old man complained that Gacy had kidnapped him at
gunpoint and forced him into sex. Yet again, Chicago police took no action. In March 1978, Gacy lured Jeffrey
Rignall into his car. Gacy used chloroform to subdue the young man, took him back to the house on Summerdale,
raped and tortured him, and dumped him alive in Lincoln Park. Police drew a blank, but Rignall remembered,
through the chloroform haze of that night, a black Oldsmobile, the Kennedy Expressway, and some side streets.
He staked out the exit on the Expressway until he saw the black Oldsmobile, which he followed to 8213 West
Summerdale. Police issued a warrant, and arrested Gacy on July 15. He was facing trial on a battery charge for
the Rignall incident when he was arrested in December for the murders.
By early 1978, following the February murder of nineteen-year-old William Kindred, Gacy began disposing of his
victims in the Des Plaines River, since his crawlspace with filled with corpses.
evening, Gacy had visited the store to discuss a potential remodelling deal with the owner that evening. Gacy was heard mentioning that his firm
"some contractor wants to talk to me about a job". He left the store, promising to return shortly. When Piest failed to return, his family filed a
missing persons report on their son. The owner of the pharmacy named Gacy as the contractor Piest had most likely left the store to talk with.
statement confirming this, indicating he was unable to do so as his uncle had just died. At 3:30 a.m., Gacy, covered in mud, arrived at the police
station, claiming he had been involved in a car accident. Upon returning to the station later that day, Gacy flatly denied any involvement in
Robert Piest's disappearance, and denied offering the youth a job.
Police were convinced Gacy was behind Piest's disappearance and checked Gacy's record, discovering that he had an outstanding battery
charge against him in Chicago and had served a prison sentence in Iowa for sodomy. A search of Gacy's house on December 13 turned up
several suspicious items: a 1975 high school class ring, drivers' licenses for other people, handcuffs, a two-by-four with holes drilled in the ends,
books on homosexuality and pederasty, a syringe, clothing too small for Gacy, and a photo receipt from the pharmacy where Robert Piest
worked. Police decided to assign two, two-man surveillance teams to follow Gacy, while they continued their investigation of Gacy into Piest's
disappearance. Gacy issued a $750,000 civil suit against the Des Plaines police, demanding the police surveillance cease. The hearing of his
suit was scheduled for December 22.
Further investigation into Gacy's background linked him to the disappearance of three further youths. One of Gacy's employees informed
detectives of Gregory Godzik's disappearance, through interviewing Gacy's second wife, they learned of the disappearance of John Butkovich
and the high school ring found in Gacy's house was traced to John Szyc. On December 18, the Nisson Pharmacy photo receipt found in Gacy's
kitchen was traced to a colleague of Piest's who admitted she had placed it in his parka jacket just before he left the store, proving conclusively
Piest had been in Gacy's house. Another employee revealed Gacy had made him dig trenches in the crawlspace of his house.
On December 20, 1978, Gacy invited two of the surveillance detectives inside his house. The police noticed the smell of corpses emanating
from a heating duct. The officers who previously searched Gacy's house failed to notice this as on that occasion the house had been cold. On
December 22, the same day as the hearing of Gacy's civil suit, police obtained a second search warrant of Gacy's house. To hold Gacy in
custody while the search commenced, officers arrested Gacy on a charge of marijuana possession. Upon digging in the crawlspace of Gacy's
Norwood Park residence, police quickly found several human bones and informed investigators they could charge Gacy with murder.
Arrest and confession
After being informed that he would now face murder charges, Gacy confessed that since 1972, he had committed approximately 25-30 murders,
telling investigators that most victims were buried in the basement or elsewhere on his property. Once the crawlspace was full, he threw the last
five bodies off the I-55 bridge and into the Des Plaines River. Gacy drew police a diagram of his basement to show where the bodies were
Gacy told the police that he would pick up male teenage runaways or male prostitutes from either the Chicago Greyhound Bus station or off the
streets, and take them back to his house by promising them money for sex, offering them a job with his construction company, or simply clothing
in their mouths to muffle their screams. After this, he would choke them with a rope or a board as he sexually assaulted them, then bury the
bodies in his crawlspace. Periodically, Gacy would pour lime in the crawlspace to quicken the decomposition of the bodies.
Police had already gone back to the house to search for more remains, mostly in the basement. For the next four months, more and more
human remains emerged from the house, as reporters, TV news crews, and astonished onlookers watched. Between December 1978 and
March 1979, twenty-nine bodies were found at Gacy's property, twenty-six of them in his crawlspace. Several of the bodies were found with the
ligature used to strangle them still knotted around their neck. In other instances, cloth gags were found lodged deep down the victims' throat,
leading the investigators to conclude that thirteen of Gacy's victims died not of strangulation, but of asphyxiation caused by gags shoved down
their throats. The youngest identified victims were Samuel Stapleton and Michael Marino, both 14 years old; the oldest were Russell Nelson and
James Mazzara, both 21 years old. Eight of the victims were so badly decomposed that they were never identified. Robert Piest's body was
discovered on the banks of the Des Plaines River on April 9.
Trial and execution
On February 6, 1980, Gacy's trial began in Chicago. During the trial, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. However, this plea was
rejected outright; Gacy's lawyer, Sam Amirante, said that Gacy had moments of temporary insanity at the time of each individual murder, but
regained his sanity before and after to lure and dispose of victims.
While on trial, Gacy joked that the only thing he was guilty of was "running a cemetery without a license." At one point in the trial, Gacy's
assertion with evidence that Gacy's claim was impossible. Gacy had made an earlier confession to police, and was unable to have this evidence
suppressed. He was found guilty on March 13 and sentenced to death.
Gacy spent the next 14 years studying books on law and filing numerous and exhaustive appeals and motions, all unsuccessful. While awaiting
execution, Gacy was interviewed by Robert Ressler as the centerpiece of a documentary about his crimes. The transcripts were published in
On May 10, 1994, Gacy was executed at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, by lethal injection. His execution was covered by the
media, and crowds of people gathered for "execution parties" outside the penitentiary, with numerous arrests for public intoxication, open
container violations, and disorderly conduct. Vendors sold Gacy-related T-shirts and other merchandise, and the crowd cheered at the moment
when Gacy was pronounced dead.
According to reports, Gacy did not express any remorse for his crimes. His last words to his lawyer in his cell were to the effect that killing him
would not bring anyone back, and it is reported his last words were "kiss my ass," which he said to a correctional officer while he was being sent
to the execution chamber.
Before the execution began, the lethal chemicals unexpectedly solidified, clogging the IV tube that led into Gacy's arm, and prevented any
further passage. Blinds covering the window through which witnesses observed the execution were drawn, and the execution team replaced the
clogged tube with a new one. Ten minutes later, the blinds were reopened and the execution resumed. It took 18 minutes to complete.
Anesthesiologists blamed the problem on the inexperience of prison officials who were conducting the execution, saying that proper procedures
taught in "IV 101" would have prevented the error. This apparently led to Illinois' adoption of a different method of lethal injection. On this
subject, one of the prosecutors at Gacy's trial, William Kunkle, said "He still got a much easier death than any of his victims."
After his execution, Gacy's brain was removed. It is in the possession of Dr. Helen Morrison, a witness for the defense at Gacy's trial, who
interviewed Gacy and other serial killers in an attempt to isolate common personality traits of violent sociopaths. Examination of Gacy's brain
after his execution by the forensic psychiatrist hired by his lawyers revealed no abnormalities.
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