John Wayne Gacy was viewed by many as a warm individual who enjoyed amusing little children. At parties he gave for his entire neighborhood, he frequently dressed as his alter ego, Pogo the Clown. By 1978, the general public’s opinion of Gacy had changed entirely, and he had acquired the sinister moniker “the Killer Clown.”
Warning: The following article contains descriptions of true crimes instigated by John Wayne Gacy. The details and the imagery (especially from the police crime scene in the victims’ section) can be disturbing, and viewer discretion is advised for all.
John Wayne Gacy was an American serial killer and sex offender. He raped, tortured, and killed at least 33 young men and boys in Norwood Park Township, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, between March 17, 1942, and May 10, 1994.
Due to his public appearances as “Pogo the Clown” or “Patches the Clown,” personas he had created before his murders were discovered, he became known as the Killer Clown.
Gacy’s murders occurred in his ranch-style home in Norwood Park Township. He would usually entice a victim to his house and deceive him into donning shackles to show a magic act. Then, after torturing and raping his victim, he would asphyxiate or strangle him with a garrote to death.
Thirteen more victims were interred on his property, while four bodies were dumped in the Des Plaines River. Twenty-six victims were buried in the crawl space of his house.
John Wayne Gacy had previously been found guilty of sodomizing a juvenile boy in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1968. He was given a ten-year jail sentence but only served eighteen months.
After divorcing his second wife in 1976, he murdered at least 30 additional victims after killing his first victim in 1972, twice more by the end of 1975. Gacy was detained on December 21, 1978, due to the inquiry into the disappearance of Robert Piest, a teenager from Des Plaines.
The number of homicides encompassed by his conviction—33, all committed by one person—was the highest in American legal history. On March 13, 1980, Gacy received a death penalty verdict.
He spent a lot of time painting while incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center on death row. On May 10, 1994, he was killed at Stateville Correctional Center by lethal injection.
John Wayne Gacy’s Childhood
John Wayne Gacy had a close relationship with his mother and two sisters, but he struggled with his alcoholic father, who physically abused his family. The older Gacy routinely disparaged his son, referring to him as “dumb and stupid,” and made comparisons between him and his sisters.
Gacy’s father striking him with a leather belt for inadvertently rearranging parts of an engine he had put together is one of his first memories.
When his mother sought to protect him from his abusive father, she was met with claims that he was a “mama’s boy” and a “sissy” who would “probably grow up queer.” Gacy still loved his father despite this treatment, but he believed he was “never good enough” in his father’s eyes.
In 1949, John Wayne Gacy’s father learned that his son and another boy had been discovered touching a young girl inappropriately. His father spanked him with a razor strop as a form of discipline. The same year, Gacy would occasionally be molested in his truck by a family friend and contractor.
Gacy was terrified that his father would accuse him. Therefore, he should have informed him about it.
John Wayne Gacy was an underweight, sedentary youngster. He was advised not to participate in school sports due to a cardiac problem. When Gacy was in the fourth grade, she started having blackouts.
He was occasionally admitted to the hospital due to these episodes and in 1957 due to a burst appendix. Gacy later calculated that he had spent nearly a year in the hospital between the ages of 14 and 18, and he blamed this for the fall in his grades.
As Gacy lay in a hospital bed, his father publicly accused his son of fabricating the incidents to attract sympathy and attention. Gacy’s physical issue was never definitively identified, even though his mother, sisters, and a select group of close friends never questioned his ailment.
One of Gacy’s high school acquaintances remembers numerous occasions when his father thrashed or made fun of his son without cause. He once saw Gacy’s father, who had been drinking, come out of the cellar and start insulting, then strike his son.
This happened in 1957. As her kid “put up his hands to defend himself,” Gacy’s mother tried to step in. The acquaintance claimed that Gacy never hit his father in return during these confrontations.
John Wayne Gacy’s Early Career
John Wayne Gacy left his house and traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, some hours after his father took his car keys. Before being hired as an attendant at Palm Mortuary, he found work with the ambulance service. Gacy slept on a cot behind the embalming room as a mortuary assistant.
He spent his three months there watching the embalming of corpses and occasionally acting as a pallbearer. Later, Gacy admitted that he had entered the coffin of a deceased teenage boy while alone, hugging and touching the body before becoming startled.
The following day, Gacy called his mother to inquire about his father’s willingness to let him go back home in light of this. When his father gave his OK, he returned to Chicago by car.
Despite not finishing high school, Gacy enrolled in Northwestern Business College after returning home. After receiving his diploma in 1963, he joined the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company as a management trainee.
His position as a salesperson was transferred by the shoe firm to Springfield, Illinois, in 1964, and he eventually rose through the ranks to become manager of his division. He got engaged to his coworker Marlynn Myers in March of that year.
Gacy joined the neighborhood Jaycees during their relationship and put forth much effort for them, earning the title of Key Man in April 1964. He had his second homosexuality in the same year.
John Wayne Gacy claims that he consented to spend the evening on his sofa after being offered drinks by one of his Springfield Jaycees colleagues; the colleague then engaged in oral sex when he was inebriated.
Gacy attained the rank of vice president of the Springfield Jaycees by 1965. He was recognized as Illinois’ third-most outstanding Jaycee the same year.
John Wayne Gacy, A KFC manager
In September 1964, Gacy and Myers were married after a six-month engagement. Marilynn’s father subsequently acquired three Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) businesses in Waterloo, Iowa.
In exchange for moving into Marlynn’s parents’ previous house, which had been freed up for the pair, the couple moved there so Gacy could oversee the restaurants. Gacy would receive $15,000 annually (about $144,000 in 2023), plus a portion of the restaurant’s earnings, in this enticing offer.
After completing the required management training, John Wayne Gacy and his wife moved to Waterloo. He established a “club” in his basement where his staff could partake in alcoholic beverages and pool.
Despite hiring youth of both sexes for his eateries, Gacy primarily interacted with the young guys. Before making sexual attempts, Gacy provided alcohol to several of them; if they refused, he would argue that his efforts were merely jests or morality tests.
A son was born to Gacy’s wife in February 1966, and a daughter was born in March 1967. Later, Gacy referred to this time in his life as “ideal” since he finally won his father’s favor.
When Gacy’s parents visited the family in July 1966, Gacy’s father quietly expressed regret for the physical and emotional torture he had inflicted on his son throughout his infancy and adolescence. He shook Gacy’s hand and jokingly said, “Son, I was wrong about you.”
Jaycees of Waterloo
In addition to working 12- and 14-hour days overseeing the three KFC outlets, Gacy joined the Waterloo Jaycees chapter and often gave the group extra hours. John Wayne Gacy frequently brought fried chicken to meetings and insisted on being addressed as “Colonel.”
Along with other Waterloo Jaycees, he was also heavily involved in drug use, prostitution, wife swapping, and pornography.
Despite being viewed as conceited and a bit of a braggart, Gacy was highly regarded by his fellow Jaycees for his fundraising efforts. In 1967 he was given the title of “excellent vice-president” of the Waterloo Jaycees. Gacy served on the board of directors in the same year.
The Attack involving Donald Voorhees
John Wayne Gacy soon violated 15-year-old Donald Voorhees Jr., the son of a local politician and fellow Jaycee Donald E. Voorhees. Gacy used the promise of showing Voorhees the heterosexual stag movies frequently shown at Jaycee’s events to entice him to his home.
After providing Voorhees with beer and letting him watch a stag movie, Gacy convinced him to have oral sex with another man before convincing him to have sex with women.
In the months that followed, Gacy also mistreated several other young people, including one whom he had sex with before blackmailing him into having oral sex with him.
Additionally, Gacy paid up to $50 to each of the several youths he duped into thinking he was hired to carry out homosexual experiments for the purpose of scientific research.
Voorhees informed his father that Gacy had sexually attacked him in March 1968. Voorhees Sr. called the police immediately, apprehending John Wayne Gacy and filing charges against him for attempting to assault 16-year-old Edward Lynch and engaging in oral sodomy on Voorhees.
Gacy angrily refuted the accusations and insisted on taking a polygraph examination. When Gacy denied involvement in both young men, the findings of these tests were “indicative of dishonesty.”
Voorhees Sr. had opposed Gacy’s bid for appointment as president of the Iowa Jaycees. Therefore, Gacy publicly denied any misconduct and maintained that the accusations against him were politically driven. Many other Jaycees rallied to Gacy’s cause after finding his account to be convincing. However, Gacy was charged with sodomy on May 10, 1968.
On September 12, Gacy received a directive to visit the University of Iowa Psychiatric Hospital for a mental health assessment. Over the course of seventeen days, two doctors examined him.
They concluded that he had an antisocial personality disorder (the clinical term for sociopathy and psychopathy), that no amount of therapy or medication would likely help, and that his behavior pattern was likely to result in repeated conflicts with society. According to the physicians, he was mentally fit to stand trial.
On November 7, 1968, John Wayne Gacy entered a guilty plea to a sodomy charge against Voorhees but not guilty to the allegations against the other young people. Voorhees allegedly offered himself to Gacy, and Gacy responded out of curiosity.
His explanation was not accepted. On December 3, Gacy was found guilty of sodomy and given a ten-year prison term to be served at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. The same day, John Wayne Gacy’s wife filed a divorce suit and asked for exclusive custody of their two kids, the couple’s house and other assets, and alimony.
The divorce was formalized on September 18, 1969, when the Court decided in her favor. Gacy lost contact with his first wife and kids forever.
John Wayne Gacy gained a reputation as a model prisoner in the Anamosa State Penitentiary. After only a few months of being there, he was promoted to head cook.
Additionally, he joined the imprisoned Jaycee chapter, which he helped grow from 50 to 650 men in less than 18 months. Gacy oversaw many programs to enhance prisoners’ living conditions while securing an increase in the daily salary for convicts in the prison mess hall.
Gacy oversaw the construction of a miniature golf course in the prison recreation yard by the summer of 1969.
Gacy was denied parole in June 1969. He completed sixteen high school classes for which he received his diploma in November 1969 to prepare for a second parole hearing slated for May 1970.
Father Gacy passed away on Christmas Day, 1969, due to liver cirrhosis. Gacy slumped on the ground in tears after learning of his father’s passing. He had asked for supervised compassionate leave to go to the burial, but it was turned down.
John Wayne Gacy Lands a Parole
On June 18, 1970, Gacy was granted parole with a year’s probation after serving eighteen months of his ten-year sentence. Gacy’s probation included requirements that he move in with his mother in Chicago and abide by a curfew of 10:00 p.m.
When John Wayne Gacy was released, he pledged to “never go back to jail” and declared his intention to re-establish himself in Waterloo. Clarence Lane, a friend and fellow Jaycee had picked him up from the facility and had maintained his unwavering faith in Gacy’s innocence.
Gacy, though, had moved to Chicago less than 24 hours after being released. On June 19, after taking a bus there, he found employment as a short-order cook in a restaurant.
Gacy was accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy on February 12, 1971. The child stated that Gacy enticed him into his automobile at the Greyhound bus station in Chicago and drove him to his home, where he tried to force the boy into sex.
After the youngster failed to show up, the court dismissed the complaint. Gacy was detained on June 22 and accused of reckless behavior and aggravated sexual violence.
The arrest came from a complaint made by a young person who said that Gacy had lured him into his car with a sheriff’s badge, engaged in oral intercourse with him there, and forced him to do so. As a result of the complainant’s attempt to blackmail Gacy, these accusations were dismissed.
Because the Iowa Board of Parole was unaware of these instances, John Wayne Gacy’s parole expired eight months later, in October 1971. The following month, Gacy’s prior felony convictions in Iowa were concealed from public view.
Gacy acquired a ranch home in Norwood Park Township, an unincorporated region of Cook County, which is also a part of metropolitan Chicago, with help from his mother’s financial resources.
Norwood Park Township is near the municipality of Norridge. Until his capture in December 1978, he lived at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, where he allegedly committed all of his murders, according to Gacy.
Gacy was involved in his neighborhood and kind to his neighbors; he freely gave them his construction equipment and cleared snow from the sidewalks without charging them. He conducted yearly summer parties with a specific theme between 1974 and 1978. Four hundred people, including politicians, attended these activities.
Divorce And a Second Marriage
John Wayne Gacy and his mother had just moved into the home when, in August 1971, he proposed to Carole Hoff, whom he had briefly dated in high school. The couple wed on July 1st, 1972.
Soon after the couple announced their engagement, Carole and her two young girls from a previous marriage moved into John Wayne Gacy’s house. Just before the wedding, his mother left the house.
Gacy revealed his bisexuality to his wife in 1975. He told her this would be “the last time they’ll ever have sex” after they had it on Mother’s Day of that particular year. He started spending most of his evenings away from home, only to return in the wee hours of the morning with the justification that he had been at work late.
Carole found gay pornography, men’s wallets, and identification inside the house. She also saw Gacy bringing teenage males into his garage early in the morning. She questioned Gacy about the owner of these objects, and he retorted violently that it was none of her business.
In October 1975, Carole and Gacy fought about Carole’s inability to balance a checkbook accurately. Carole then requested a divorce. By mutual agreement, she stayed at the West Summerdale house until February 1976, when she moved out of her apartment.
The Gacys’ divorce, granted on the spurious grounds of John Wayne Gacy’s infidelity with women, was finally formalized on March 2 of the following year.
John Wayne Gacy Starts Working Again
Gacy founded PDM Contractors, a side-hustle construction company, in 1971. “Painting, Decorating, and Maintenance” was represented by the initials “PDM.” Gacy worked as a cook during the day and, with the permission of his probation officer, worked evenings on his construction contracts.
He started doing minor repairs like painting signs, laying concrete, and redecorating but subsequently added tasks like interior design, remodeling, installation, assembly, and landscaping. Gacy left his position as a cook in the middle of 1973, so he could focus entirely on his building company.
In 1975, PDM was rapidly growing, and Gacy was putting in up to sixteen hours a day of work. He started working as a supervisor for PE Systems, a company that specialized in refurbishing drugstores, in March 1977.
Gacy routinely visited other states while working on up to four projects between PE Systems and PDM. PDM’s annual income reached over $200,000 by 1978.
John Wayne Gacy becomes a Clown
A “Jolly Joker” clown organization, whose members routinely performed at fundraising events and parades in addition to freely amusing sick youngsters, came to Gacy’s attention through his membership in a nearby Moose Club.
Gacy joined the clown club in the latter part of 1975, creating his own clown characters, Pogo the Clown and Patches the Clown, with his own makeup and attire. Patches was a “more serious” figure, whereas Pogo was a “happy clown,” according to him.
John Wayne Gacy claimed that playing a clown helped him to “regress into boyhood,” even if he rarely received payment for his performances. He appeared as Pogo and Patches at various neighborhood gatherings, political events, fundraising activities, and children’s hospitals.
After a performance, Gacy occasionally stayed in his clowning attire and momentarily got drunk at a nearby bar before heading home. As a result of Gacy’s years of voluntary public service as a clown, he earned the moniker “Killer Clown.”
Employees High school students and young men made up most of PDM’s labor. Gacy frequently demanded sexual favors from his employees in exchange for actions like lending them his cars, giving them money, or giving them promotions.
Gacy visited a property he had bought in Florida in 1973 with a young employee. Gacy violated the employee in their hotel room on the first night they were in Florida. This employee beat Gacy in his front yard after leaving Chicago and returning to his home.
Gacy claimed to his wife that he had been assaulted for refusing to pay for the subpar painting job.
Gacy took on 15-year-old Anthony Antonucci in May 1975. He visited Antonucci’s house two months later, knowing the young man had suffered a foot injury in an accident the day before.
After sharing a bottle of wine and watching a heterosexual stag movie, John Wayne Gacy pulled Antonucci to the ground and handcuffed him.
While Gacy was out of the room, Antonucci released his arm from a loose cuff. High school wrestler Antonucci attacked Gacy as he came back. He wrestled Gacy to the ground, got his hands on the handcuff key, and put Gacy’s hands in the handcuffs behind his back.
Gacy initially yelled threats at Antonucci before calming down and promising to leave if he took off the shackles. Gacy departed after Antonucci’s approval.
Gacy reportedly informed Antonucci: “Not only are you the only one who got out of the cuffs, but you also got them on me,” as Antonucci later recalled.
David Cram, age 18, was picked up by John Wayne Gacy on Elston Avenue on July 26, 1976. He accepted Gacy’s offer to work for PDM, and the following evening he started. Cram moved into his home on August 21.
The following day, when Gacy was costumed as Pogo, Cram, and Gacy celebrated his 19th birthday with several beers. Cram was tricked into putting on handcuffs, with the wrists fastened in front of him instead of behind.
He declared he would rape Cram as he swung Cram around while gripping the cuff’s chain. After kicking Gacy in the face, Cram was able to remove his restraints.
A month later, Gacy appeared at Cram’s bedroom door to rape him. He claimed, “You don’t truly know who I am, Dave. Perhaps it would be beneficial if you granted my request.”
You aren’t any fun, Cram said, straddling John Wayne Gacy as he fled the bedroom. On October 5, Cram left PDM and moved out, though he continued to work for Gacy occasionally during the next two years. After Cram left Gacy’s home, 18-year-old Michael Rossi, another employee, moved in shortly after.
Rossi had been a PDM employee since May 1976. Up until April 1977, he shared a home with Gacy. At business openings, Rossi and Gacy would occasionally perform as Pogo and Patches, respectively.
Murders of John Wayne Gacy
At least 33 young men and boys were killed by Gacy, who buried 26 of them in the attic of his home. He enticed victims from Chicago’s Greyhound Bus Station, Bughouse Square, or just off the streets with the promise of a job with PDM, booze, drugs, or money in exchange for sex.
His victims included people he knew as well as random strangers. Some victims were violently grabbed, while others were duped into thinking Gacy—who frequently drove about in a black Oldsmobile with spotlights—was a police officer.
Gacy often enticed a lone victim to his house, but he also killed two people at once occasionally, or what he called “doubles.”
Inside his house, Gacy’s standard operating procedure was to bribe a young person with alcohol or drugs or win his trust. Afterward, he would show a set of handcuffs to “perform a magic trick,” perhaps as part of a clown routine. He used to secretly unlock himself with the key he kept between his fingers after handcuffing his own hands behind his back.
Then he volunteered to demonstrate to his prospective victim how to unfasten his own handcuffs. The victim was then manacled and unable to release himself, and Gacy would say, “The thing is, you have to have the key.” Gacy called this restraint technique he used on his victim the “handcuff trick.”
After shackling his victim, Gacy started raping and torturing his hostage. Before making his victim fellate him, he typically started by sitting on or straddling himself over the victim’s chest. After sodomizing his victim, Gacy tortured him by burning them with cigars, making them impersonate horses.
At the same time, he sat on their backs, yanked homemade reins around their necks, and violated them with alien objects like dildos and prescription bottles. John Wayne Gacy frequently manacled his hostages’ ankles to a two-by-four with handcuffs attached at each end, an act inspired by the Houston Mass Murders, to immobilize their legs before indulging in acts of torture.
He was known to have dragged or forced several victims to crawl into his bathroom. He partially drowned them in the bathtub before repeatedly reviving them to allow him to continue his protracted assault.
He was also known to have verbally taunted many victims throughout their continued abuse. Gacy would say that he would kill his victim when he chose to in cases where the victim had requested to be killed rather than subjected to further torture.
John Wayne Gacy frequently used a rope tourniquet to strangle his victims’ necks before gradually tightening the rope with a hammer handle. He frequently told his hostage, “This is the last trick,” referring to this performance as the “rope trick.”
At least once, when he tightened the rope around his victim’s neck, he had read a portion of Psalm 23 (The Lord Is My Shepherd). A few times, the victim convulsed for “an hour or two” before passing away, but many of the victims actually died of asphyxiation from cloth gags that were pushed far down their throats.
Except for his two final victims, everyone was killed between three and six in the morning.
Gacy typically kept his victims’ remains under his bed for up to 24 hours after they passed away before burying them in the crawl space. Here, he would occasionally sprinkle quicklime to expedite the process of decomposition. Before being buried, several victims’ bodies were brought to his garage and embalmed.
The Killing of Timothy McCoy
The first murder committed by Gacy was on January 3, 1972. Gacy later claimed that after attending a family celebration on January 2, he decided to drive to the Civic Center in the Loop the following day to see a display of ice sculptures. After that, he enticed Timothy Jack McCoy, 16, from the Chicago Greyhound Bus Terminal into his automobile.
After spending Christmas in Michigan, McCoy returned to his father’s house in Omaha, Nebraska. After giving McCoy a tour of the city, Gacy promised to bring him to his house, where he could stay the night before returning to the station for his bus. McCoy was previously known only as the “Greyhound Bus Boy” before being identified.
The following morning, John Wayne Gacy claimed he awoke early to discover McCoy holding a kitchen knife in his bedroom doorway. Then, he leaped from his bed, and McCoy tilted the knife higher, cutting Gacy’s forearm unintentionally as he raised both arms in a surrender gesture.
Following a headbutt against the bedroom wall and a kick to the wardrobe, Gacy pulled the knife from McCoy’s wrist and started to approach him. Gacy was then knocked backward with a kick to the gut from McCoy.
John Wayne Gacy then seized McCoy while yelling, “Motherfucker! I’ll murder you!” He then straddled McCoy after wrestling him to the ground and repeatedly stabbing him in the chest.
Gacy asserted that he cleaned the knife in his bathroom before going to his kitchen, where he discovered an open box of eggs and a slab of unsliced bacon on the kitchen table.
In addition to setting the table for two, McCoy had also entered Gacy’s room to wake him up while carelessly holding the kitchen knife. Gacy interred McCoy in his crawl area before pouring concrete over the grave to conceal it.
In an interview conducted a few years after his arrest, Gacy said that while he felt “completely drained” after killing McCoy, he had a mind-numbing orgasm as he was stabbing him and listening to his “regulations” and gasping for oxygen.
That’s when I knew that the ultimate delight was death, he continued.
Gacy Strikes Again
John Wayne Gacy claimed he killed someone a second time in January 1974. This victim’s identity is still unknown. Gacy killed him by hanging him, then hid the body for burial in his closet. Later, he claimed that the victim’s lips and nose had released bodily fluids that had stained his carpet.
To avoid such leakage, Gacy frequently stuffed cloth rags, the victim’s own undergarments, or a sock into the lips of subsequent victims.
The Killing of John Butkovich
John Butkovich, an 18-year-old PDM worker from Lombard, vanished on July 31, 1975. The keys to Butkovich’s automobile were still in the ignition when it was discovered parked close to the intersection of Sheridan and Lawrence, along with his wallet and jacket.
Butkovich approached Gacy about unpaid overtime for two weeks the day before he vanished. Yugoslavian immigrant Gacy, Butkovich’s father, claimed he was delighted to assist in the search for his son but was disappointed that he had “gone away.”
When questioned by authorities, John Wayne Gacy claimed that Butkovich and two companions had been to his residence to demand the unpaid wages but that they had agreed and left together. Over the next three years, Butkovich’s parents made more than 100 calls to the police pleading with them to look into Gacy more thoroughly.
Later, Gacy acknowledged seeing Butkovich get out of his car at the intersection of West Lawrence Avenue and wave at him. Gacy claims that Butkovich said, “I want to talk to you,” as he walked up to his car. Gacy formally invited Butkovich to address the matter of his past-due wages before inviting him back to his house.
Gacy offered Butkovich a drink at his house before tricking him into letting his wrists be handcuffed behind his back. Gacy later admitted that, before strangling the child, he had “sat on the kid’s chest for a time.” To bury Butkovich’s body later in the crawl area, he stored it in his garage.
Gacy had initially planned to dig a drain tile. Still, when his wife and stepdaughters arrived home earlier than expected, he buried Butkovich’s body beneath the concrete floor of the toolroom addition of his garage.
The Cruising Years of John Wayne Gacy
Gacy openly acknowledged that 1975 was the year his business grew, and he started to increase the frequency of his outings for sex with young men. He called these excursions “cruising” quite frequently.
Following his divorce, Gacy primarily lived alone between 1976 and 1978, during which time he committed most of his killings. These were his “cruising years,” as he later described them.
After his divorce in 1976, Gacy’s behavior underwent chaotic shifts, yet he remained social and civic-minded. This included observing him hanging out with young men, hearing his car pull up or drive away early in the morning, or observing the lights in his house turn on and off.
The sounds of muffled high-pitched screaming, shouting, and wailing repeatedly woken her and her son in the early morning hours for several years, according to one neighbor who later recalled the incident. She determined that the sounds came from a home on West Summerdale Avenue close to theirs.
John Wayne Gacy Starts a Murder Spree
After his divorce, Gacy kidnapped and killed 18-year-old Darrell Samson. On April 6, 1976, he was last observed alive in Chicago. Gacy placed a cloth in his throat and buried him beneath the dining area.
Randall Reffett, 15, vanished on the afternoon of May 14, five weeks later, just after arriving home from a dentist appointment. Later that day, his grandmother last saw him.
The 14-year-old Samuel Stapleton disappeared on his way home from his sister’s apartment hours after Reffett was last seen by his family. He and Reffett were good friends; they were both interred in the crawl space, and the police think they were both killed on the same night.
Michael Bonnin, a 17-year-old Lakeview kid, was killed by Gacy on June 3rd. He vanished on the way from Chicago to Waukegan. Gacy buried Bonnin under the extra bedroom after strangling him with a rope.
Ten days later, Gacy killed 16-year-old William Carroll of Uptown and interred him in the crawl space’s joint tomb. Carroll appears to have been the first of four victims who were slain between June 13 and August 6, 1976, who have been identified.
One unnamed murder victim appears to have been an adult, while three victims were between the ages of 16 and 17.
James Haakenson, a 16-year-old Minnesotan, last called his family on August 5; it’s possible that he did so from Gacy’s house.
Haakenson suffocated to death. His body was interred beneath the body of Rick Johnston, a 17-year-old Bensenville teenager who had been last seen alive on August 6.
Between August and October 1976, John Wayne Gacy is believed to have killed two additional unnamed men. Kenneth Parker and Michael Marino, two adolescent companions last seen in front of a restaurant on Clark Street in Chicago, were kidnapped and slain by John Wayne Gacy on October 24.
Two days later, William Bundy, a 19-year-old construction worker, vanished after telling his family he was going to a party. Bundy suffocated to death. Under his master bedroom, John Wayne Gacy hid the body. He reportedly held a job with Gacy.
Francis Alexander, 21, was murdered by Gacy between November and December 1976. His mother received a phone call from him sometime in November, the last time he spoke to them.
In the crawl space right underneath the chamber, Gacy used as his office, Alexander was buried.
Gregory Godzik, a 17-year-old PDM employee, went missing in December 1976. After driving home from a date, his girlfriend last saw him outside her home.
Godzik had been employed by PDM for less than three weeks when he vanished. In his crawl area, he had told his family that Gacy had ordered him to “dig trenches for some kind of (drain) tiles.” In Niles, Godzik’s abandoned vehicle was eventually discovered.
About Godzik’s absence, his parents and older sister Eugenia got in touch with Gacy. Gacy claimed to have fled his house after previously expressing a desire to do so. Gacy also asserted that immediately after Godzik vanished, he left a message on his answering machine.
Gacy replied that he had deleted the communication when questioned about playing it back for Godzik’s parents.
John Szyc, then 19 years old, was enticed to Gacy’s home on January 20, 1977, on the pretense of purchasing his Plymouth Satellite. Rossi was allegedly asleep in the residence the following morning when he admitted strangling Szyc. Rossi later purchased the automobile from Gacy for $300.
A 20-year-old Michigan native named Jon Prestidge vanished on March 15, two months later. Prestige was last spotted exiting a restaurant in the Near North Side. He was interred in the crawl space over Francis Alexander’s corpse.
Prestidge had said that he had found work with a nearby contractor just before going missing. In the spring or early summer of 1977, John Wayne Gacy killed one more unnamed youth and buried him in the crawl space; the exact date of this murder is unknown.
Gacy killed Crystal Lake resident Matthew Bowman, 19, on July 5. Bowman had been planning to go to Harwood Heights for a scheduled court appearance involving an unpaid parking ticket when his mother last saw him at a suburban train station.
The following month, Rossi was detained for fuel theft while operating Szyc’s vehicle. The cops followed the automobile to John Wayne Gacy’s house after the gas station worker noted the license plate. Gacy admitted to police that Szyc had sold the car to him in February, claiming he needed the money to leave the area when questioned.
The VIN check revealed that the car belonged to Szyc. Despite informing Szyc’s mother that her son had sold his car, the police decided not to look into the situation further.
It is known that by the end of 1977, Gacy had killed six additional young men between the ages of 16 and 21. Robert Gilroy, age 18, a Chicago police sergeant’s son, was the first of these victims. He was last seen alive on September 15.
Gilroy was killed and interred in the crawl area of John Wayne Gacy’s home, which was only four blocks away. Gacy left for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 12 to oversee a remodeling job, and he didn’t get back to Chicago until the 16th.
The fact that Gacy is known to have been out of state when Gilroy was last seen is used to corroborate his assertion that one or more accomplices helped him commit many crimes. John Mowery, a 19-year-old ex-Marine who had left his mother’s home to go to his apartment, vanished ten days after Gilroy was last seen.
Mowery was murdered by Gacy, who then buried him beneath the master bedroom.
Russell Nelson, a 21-year-old native of Minnesota, vanished on October 17; he was last seen in front of a Chicago bar. Nelson was seeking a contract position. He was slain by Gacy, who then buried him under the guest bedroom.
Robert Winch, a 16-year-old from Kalamazoo, was killed by Gacy less than four weeks later, and he buried him in the crawl space. Tommy Boling, a 20-year-old father of one, vanished on November 18 after leaving a Chicago bar.
On December 9, three weeks after Tommy Boling’s death, David Talsma, a 19-year-old U.S. Marine, vanished after telling his mother he was going to a rock concert in Hammond, Indiana. Talsma was buried next to John Mowery’s body in the crawl area after Gacy strangled him with a rope.
Robert Donnelly, a 19-year-old student, was kidnapped by John Wayne Gacy on December 30 while waiting for a bus in Chicago. Gacy took Donnelly to his house, where he tormented and raped him before repeatedly submerging his head in a bathtub until he fainted.
Gacy teased him, saying, “Aren’t we playing some wonderful games tonight?”
Later, during Gacy’s trial, Donnelly stated that he had begged Gacy to kill him because of his excruciating pain. “I’m getting around to that,” Gacy said calmly.
After some time, Gacy drove Donnelly to his place of employment and released him, admonishing him that the police would not believe him if he reported the incident.
On January 6, 1978, Donnelly reported the attack, and the police questioned Gacy. Although John Wayne Gacy acknowledged engaging in “slave sex” with Donnelly, he asserted that it was all consensual and added that he “didn’t pay the kid” the money he had promised.
Police took him seriously and didn’t press charges. The following month, Gacy murdered William Kindred, a 19-year-old who vanished on February 16 after telling his fiancée—who knew Gacy—that he planned to spend the evening in a pub.
The last person Gacy buried in his crawl space was Kindred.
Gacy enticed Jeffrey Rignall, 26, into his car on March 21. Rignall was chloroformed as soon as he got inside the vehicle, and Gacy took him to his home, where his head, arms, and feet were all confined in pillory devices attached to the ceiling.
Gacy informed Rignall that he had entire control over him and intended to treat him however he pleased, whenever he pleased, and in whatever manner he pleased. He repeatedly chloroformed Rignall into unconsciousness while raping and torturing him with tools like burning torches and whips.
Gacy then drove Rignall to Lincoln Park in Chicago, where he was abandoned while still conscious.
Rignall made it to his girlfriend’s flat by stumbling. Despite being alerted about the assault, the police chose not to look into Gacy. Rignall could recall the Oldsmobile, the Kennedy Expressway, and specific side streets through that night’s fog.
In April, Rignall and two buddies watched the Cumberland exit of the motorway when they spotted the Oldsmobile, which they then followed to 8213 West Summerdale. Gacy was detained on July 15 after police secured an arrest warrant. He was put on trial for assaulting Rignall.
The crawl area needed to be bigger to accommodate any more people by 1978. Later, Gacy admitted to authorities that he had initially thought of hiding remains in his attic but had refrained due to concerns over “leakage.”
He consequently threw his victims into the Des Plaines River from the I-55 bridge. Only four of the five bodies Gacy claimed to have tossed into this river in 1978—one of which he thought had hit a passing barge—were ever discovered.
Timothy O’Rourke, age 20, was the first documented victim thrown over the I-55 bridge into the Des Plaines River. After leaving his Dover Street apartment to buy smokes, he was killed in the middle of June.
O’Rourke had informed his roommate just before going missing that a contractor on the Northwest Side had offered him a job.
Frank Landingin, 19, was killed by John Wayne Gacy on November 4. Two duck hunters discovered his naked body near Channahon, Illinois, on November 12, close to an inlet in the Des Plaines River. His father had last seen him walking down Foster Avenue.
James Mazzara, a 20-year-old resident of Elmwood Park, vanished on November 24 after eating Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
The day before he vanished, Mazzara had told his sister that he was employed in the construction sector and “doing all right.” He was last observed moving towards Bughouse Square while carrying luggage.
The Slaying of Robert Piest
On the afternoon of December 11, 1978, Gacy went to the Nisson Pharmacy in Des Plaines to meet with the owner, Phil Torf, to explore a prospective remodeling agreement.
Robert Piest, a 15-year-old part-time worker, was there when Gacy indicated that his company frequently hired teenage males for a beginning wage of $5 per hour, which is about twice what Piest was paid at the pharmacy.
Piest’s mother came to the pharmacy shortly after Gacy left to pick up her son and take him home so the entire family could celebrate Piest’s birthday together. Adding that “some contractor wants to talk to me about a work,” Piest requested his mother to wait. At nine o’clock that night, he left the shop, saying he would be back soon.
Shortly after 10:00 p.m., Piest was killed at John Wayne Gacy’s house. Later, according to Gacy, Piest was given a soft drink at his home before being asked whether there was anything he “wouldn’t do for the right pay.”
Piest said that he did not mind working hard. John Wayne Gacy said that hustlers might make “excellent money,” but Piest was unconcerned. Gacy then tricked Piest into putting on handcuffs, and as Piest started crying, he said, “I’m going to rape you, and you can’t do anything about it.”
In one of his earliest claims, Gacy said Piest did not resist as he took off the boy’s pants. However, Gacy’s later explanations about the events that would take place changed.
He added that Piest was “sobbing, afraid” when the rope was being tightened around his neck. Gacy acknowledged getting a call from a professional contact as Piest suffocated to death on his bedroom floor.
Investigation into John Wayne Gacy
Priest’s family reported him missing to the Des Plaines police after he failed to show up. Torf identified Gacy as the potential contractor Piest had left the store to speak with regarding a job. Lieutenant Joseph Kozenczak decided to look into Gacy more after learning that Piest’s son also went to Maine West High School.
The morning of December 12, after speaking with Piest’s mother, Kozenczak was certain that Piest had not escaped from his house. A routine check of John Wayne Gacy’s criminal history revealed that he was still facing a violence charge in Chicago and had already served time in jail for sodomizing a 15-year-old kid in Iowa.
The following evening, Kozenczak and two Des Plaines police officers visited Gacy at his residence. Gacy claimed to have observed two young people working at the drugstore and asked one of them—whom he thought to be Piest—if there were any building supplies behind the business.
He was adamant, however, that he had not extended an employment offer to Piest and that he had been back to the drugstore so soon after 8:00 p.m. because he had left his appointment book there. Gacy stated he would appear at the station later that day to provide a statement confirming this but could not do so because his uncle had just passed away.
When asked when he could arrive at the police station, he replied, “You are quite disrespectful. Have you no regard for the deceased?”
John Wayne Gacy showed up at the police station at 3:20 a.m. coated in mud, claiming to have been in a car accident. Later that day, when returning to the police station, Gacy vehemently denied participation in Piest’s disappearance and reiterated his claim that he had not extended an employment offer.
Gacy said he had returned to the drugstore because Torf had called him and told him he had left his appointment book at the business. Torf, who denied calling Gacy, had already been interviewed by detectives. Gacy wrote a statement outlining his actions on December 11 at the detectives’ request.
The Initial Search Warrant
Des Plaines police sought a warrant to examine Gacy’s residence on December 13 because they believed Gacy might be holding Piest there without his will. A 6mm Brevettata starter pistol and many police badges were found inside an office drawer while searching Gacy’s home.
A syringe and hypodermic needle were also found inside a cabinet in Gacy’s bathroom. The Great White Swallow and Pretty Boys Must Die, among other books on homosexuality and pederasty, handcuffs, seven pornographic movies, amyl nitrite capsules, and investigators also discovered an 18 in (46 cm) dildo in Gacy’s bedroom.
The northwest bedroom had many driver’s licenses, bottles of Valium and atropine, and a 39 in (99 cm) two-by-four with two holes punched into each end. In the laundry area, a blue hooded parka was discovered on top of a toolbox, and John Wayne Gacy’s unsuitable underwear was discovered in a bathroom cupboard.
Investigators discovered a Maine West High School class ring from 1975 with the letters J.A.S. inscribed on it in the northwest bedroom. The investigators also found a 36 (91 cm) stretch of nylon rope and a photo receipt for a Nisson Pharmacy in a garbage bin.
The Des Plaines police seized the Oldsmobile owned by John Wayne Gacy and other PDM work vehicles. Police resumed their inquiry into Gacy’s background and probable connection to Piest’s disappearance, and they sent two two-man surveillance teams to keep an eye on him around the clock.
Officers Mike Albrecht, David Hachmeister, Ronald Robinson, and Robert Schultz made up the surveillance teams. The next day, investigators got a call from Michael Rossi informing them of Gregory Godzik’s disappearance and the discovery of Charles Hattula, another PDM employee, dead in an Illinois river earlier in the year.
Investigators in Des Plaines learned more information about John Wayne Gacy’s battery charge on December 15 when they learned that the complainant, Jeffrey Rignall, had claimed that Gacy had lured him into his car, chloroformed him, raped and tortured him, and then dumped him the following day in Lincoln Park with severe chest and facial burns and rectal bleeding.
By December 16, Gacy and the surveillance detectives had developed a friendly relationship. He often invited them to join him for meals in restaurants and sporadically for drinks at his house or in clubs. He continually denied involvement in Piest’s disappearance and claimed the police were persecuting him because of his contacts in politics or his usage of recreational drugs.
He teased the officers by breaking traffic laws and could escape their pursuit more than time since he knew they were unlikely to arrest him for anything minor.
Cram agreed to a police interview that afternoon and spoke about Gacy’s hardworking ways and “open-minded” perspective on intergender intercourse. Cram also disclosed that Gacy once gave him a watch as punishment for his lousy timekeeping, saying he acquired it “from a dead person.”
On December 17, Rossi underwent a formal interview with the investigators. He explained that he had purchased the car from Szyc because he needed the money to relocate to California and that Gacy had sold the car to him.
On this date, Gacy’s Oldsmobile was subjected to yet another inspection. Investigators found what they believed to be a small cluster of human hair during their inspection of the car’s trunk. Officers tested Piest’s presence in each of Gacy’s automobiles that evening using three German shepherd search dogs trained for the task.
One dog approached Gacy’s Oldsmobile and curled up on the passenger seat, displaying what the dog’s owner described to police as a “death reaction,” which suggested Piest’s body had been inside the car.
That evening, Gacy made dinner reservations at a restaurant for the detectives Albrecht and Hachmeister. On December 18, he invited them to a different restaurant early in the morning where, over breakfast, he discussed his business, his marriages, and his activities as a licensed clown.
“You know, clowns can get away with murder,” John Wayne Gacy said at one point in the conversation.
By December 18, Gacy was starting to show signs of stress from the constant observation, including being unshaven, appearing fatigued and worried, and drinking a lot. That afternoon, he drove to his attorney’s office to draught a $750,000 legal lawsuit against the Des Plaines police to demand they stop their surveillance.
The same day, Kimberly Byers, a 17-year-old coworker of Piest at Nisson Pharmacy, was identified by the serial number on the Nisson Pharmacy photo receipt discovered in Gacy’s kitchen.
When questioned the next day personally, Byers acknowledged that she had worn the jacket on December 11 to protect herself from the cold. Just before giving Piest the parka as he left the store, she tucked the receipt into the pocket and said that a contractor needed to talk with him.
Gacy’s earlier claims that he hadn’t spoken to Robert Piest on the evening of December 11 conflicted with this assertion.
John Wayne Gacy’s Crimes Come to the Light
Rossi underwent a second interview that same evening. He was more helpful this time. He admitted to the police that he had placed ten bags of lime in John Wayne Gacy’s home’s crawl area in the summer of 1977 at the latter’s request.
On December 19, detectives started gathering information for a second search warrant for Gacy’s residence. The civil lawsuit against the Des Plaines police was filed the same day by Gacy’s attorneys. The lawsuit’s hearing was slated to take place on December 22.
Gacy once more opened his home to the surveillance investigators that afternoon. Officer Schultz entered Gacy’s bedroom while officer Robinson talked to Gacy in an attempt to record the serial number of the Motorola TV set they believed belonged to John Szyc.
The cop flushed John Wayne Gacy’s toilet when he smelled what he thought might be the stench of decaying bodies coming from a heating duct. Gacy’s home had been cold when the officers had previously searched it, so they had missed this.
On December 20, investigators questioned Rossi and Cram. Rossi had consented to an interview to learn more about his potential connections to John Szyc and the disappearance of Robert Piest.
Rossi said that Gacy might have hidden Piest’s body in the crawl space when asked by Kozenczak where he suspected Gacy had done so. He also added that he felt Szyc’s automobile had been taken. Rossi consented to take the polygraph examination.
In addition to denying involvement in Piest’s disappearance, he also said he had no idea where he was. He immediately declined to answer more questions. Kozenczak could not form a firm judgment on Rossi’s sincerity due to his “erratic and inconsistent” responses to inquiries while connected to the polygraph equipment.
Rossi went into more detail about the trench he dug in the crawl space and commented about Gacy’s desire not to stray from the area where he was supposed to dig.
Cram told investigators about Gacy’s efforts to rape him in 1976. He claimed that during the search of his property on December 13, Gacy turned pale upon witnessing a clod of mud on his carpet, which he believed to have come from his crawl space.
Cram claimed that Gacy quickly entered the crawl space after grabbing a flashlight to search for signs of digging. Cram said that he had once been instructed by Gacy to distribute lime there and had also excavated trenches, which Gacy had explained were for drainage pipes when he was questioned if he had been to the crawl space.
John Wayne Confesses to his Crimes
On December 20, John Wayne Gacy traveled to his attorneys’ Park Ridge office for a prearranged meeting. The meeting was reportedly to go over the status of his legal lawsuit. Sam Amirante retrieved a bottle of whisky from his car when Gacy, unprepared upon his arrival, requested a drink.
Amirante questioned Gacy when he came back about what they needed to talk about. Amirante’s desk was where Gacy picked up a copy of the Daily Herald. He then pointed to an article on the top page about Robert Piest’s disappearance and remarked, “This kid is gone. He’s gone. In a river, he is.”
Gacy continued by making a long, winding confession that continued the following day. He told Stevens and Amirante that he had “been the judge… jury and executioner of many, many individuals” and that he now desired to be the same for himself.
He claimed to have killed “at least thirty” people, most of whom he buried in his crawl space. He also claimed to have dumped five additional corpses into the Des Plaines River.
Announcing that he used “the rope trick” on his victims, John Wayne Gacy derided them as “male prostitutes,” “hustlers,” and “liars,” adding that he occasionally awoke to find “dead, strangled youths” on his floor with their wrists bound behind their backs.
He believed they belonged to him, so he buried their bodies in his crawl space.
Gacy was halfway through his confession when he passed out from the alcohol he had consumed. Amirante set up Gacy’s psychiatrist appointment for that morning at 9:00 a.m. right away.
Later, when Amirante informed Gacy that he had admitted to killing about 30 people, Gacy shook his head and said, “I’m afraid I can’t think about this at the moment. I have tasks to complete.” Gacy left his lawyers’ office to attend to the demands of his business, disregarding their counsel over his scheduled visit.
Later, Gacy described his memories of his last day of freedom as “hazy,” but he said that he thought it was inevitable that he would be arrested and that he had planned to visit his friends and bid them farewell.
After leaving his attorneys’ offices, Gacy drove to a gas station where, while filling up his rental car, he gave the attendant a small bag of cannabis. The attendant immediately gave the bag to the surveillance officers, adding that Gacy had told him, “I told you I was going to get some marijuana. The end is near (for me). They’re going to kill me, these people.”
Then Gacy took a car to Ronald Rhode’s house, a friend and fellow contractor. Gacy hugged Rhode before crying and stating, “I’ve done bad guy stuff. I killed approximately thirty individuals.”
To meet with Cram and Rossi, Gacy left Rhode and drove to Cram’s house. The surveillance officers observed him putting a rosary to his chin and praying while driving along the motorway.
Gacy had Cram take him to a scheduled meeting with lawyer Leroy Stevens on the Northwest Side after speaking with Cram and Rossi.
Cram told the surveillance agents that John Wayne Gacy had told him and Rossi that he had confessed to more than 30 killings with his lawyers the day before as he spoke with Stevens. Then, Gacy had Cram take him to Maryhill Cemetery to see his father’s grave.
Police explained the formal draught of their second search warrant, which was specially written to look for Robert Piest’s body in the crawl space, as Gacy traveled to several sites that morning.
As the formal request for a second search warrant was being made, police decided to arrest Gacy on a charge of possession and distribution of cannabis to keep him in custody after learning from the surveillance detectives that he might be about to commit suicide given his erratic conduct.
On December 21, the day before John Wayne Gacy’s civil lawsuit hearing, at 4:30 p.m., Judge Marvin J. Peters approved the request for a second search warrant.
Gacy disputed that Piest’s body was buried there when police told him they planned to investigate his crawl space for it. Still, he later admitted to having killed a youngster in self-defense whose body was discovered under his garage.
Police officers and technicians who worked with evidence traveled to Gacy’s house with the signed search warrant. When the police arrived, they discovered Gacy had turned off his sump pump, filling the crawl area. They put the plug back in to fix the situation and waited for the water to drain.
When it had finished, evidence technician Daniel Genty climbed to the southwest corner of the 28-by-38-foot (8.5 m 11.6 m) crawl space and started excavating. He discovered putrid flesh and a human arm bone in minutes.
Genty yelled at the detectives, “I think this home is full of kids,” and told them they might accuse Gacy of murder. Then, a patella was discovered by a police photographer who dug in the northeastern corner of the crawl area. Two lower leg bones were found after the two started digging in the southeast corner.
A crime scene specialist later uncovered the skull of a second victim next to the body discovered in the northeast corner. A third skull was discovered under the body of this second victim during later excavations of their feet.
As a result, the number of victims was confirmed when technicians returned to the trench where the first body was found and found the rib cage of a fourth victim in the crawl space.
The Arrest of John Wayne Gacy
Gacy told officers he wanted to “clear the air” and added that he had known his arrest was imminent since the previous evening, which he had spent on the couch in his attorneys’ office. This was after being told that the police had discovered human remains in his crawl space and that he would now be charged with murder.
Gacy gave a formal statement on December 22 in the wee hours of the morning, in the presence of his attorneys, in which he admitted to killing over 30 young men, all of whom he claimed had entered his home voluntarily.
Although Gacy claimed not to know or recall most names, some victims were mentioned by name. The majority of them, he claimed, were male prostitutes or runaway teenage boys whom he had buried in his crawl space.
Gregory Godzik was one of the workers who allegedly helped Gacy dig only five of the victims’ graves here so that he would “have graves accessible.” One victim was from Round Lake, and another was from Michigan.
When shown a Robert Hasten driver’s license that had been discovered on his property, Gacy claimed not to know him but acknowledged that the license had once belonged to one of his victims. He had intended to fill the entire crawl space with concrete in January 1979 to conceal the bodies further.
Gacy admitted to enticing Piest to his home on the evening of December 11 and strangling him there when he was explicitly questioned about Piest. Before dumping Piest’s body in the Des Plaines River early on December 13, he also acknowledged sleeping next to the body that evening. After getting rid of Piest, he had a minor car accident on the way to the police station. After slipping off an icy road, his car had to be hauled from where it was.
Gacy was driven to the I-55 bridge on December 23 to identify the approximate location where he confessed to throwing the body of Robert Piest and four other victims into the Des Plaines River. He was accompanied by police, his attorneys, and his older sister.
After that, Gacy was brought to his home and told to use orange spray paint to designate the area of his garage floor where he had purportedly buried John Butkovich, the man he claimed to have slain in self-defense.
The Bodies of John Wayne Gacy’s Victims
During his confession, Gacy sketched a rough diagram of his basement on a phone message sheet to show where the victims’ bodies were buried to aid police in their search for them. Over the following week, 26 dead were discovered in Gacy’s crawl space, and three more were discovered on other parts of his property.
Robert Stein, the Cook County medical examiner, oversaw the exhumations. Every victim discovered in the crawl area was put in a corpse bag, then left by the front door while waiting to be sent to the mortuary.
Each body was assigned a number, and the crawl space was divided into sections. A marker designating Body 1 was placed on the body that was the first to be removed from the crawl area.
This victim was buried by Gacy in the northeast corner of the crawl area, underneath the space he used as his office. It was impossible to identify a cause of death.
John Butkovich’s body was designated as Body 2. The three bodies buried in the same ditch as Body 1 were discovered by detectives on December 23. In the crawl space directly above Body 4, Body 3 was interred. Body 5 was buried next to them, just below Body 1.
This victim was the first person to be interred in this common burial since he was buried 36 inches beneath the soil’s surface.
Over Christmas, the victim-finding effort was momentarily put on hold. On December 26, four more bodies were discovered. The graves of bodies 6 and 7 were interred together. Body No. 7 was discovered in the fetal position. Investigators concluded that the victim most likely died of asphyxiation after discovering a cloth gag in the mouth.
The tourniquet used to strangle Body 8 was still wrapped around his neck when it was discovered. The fact that Body 9 had many knife wounds to his sternum and ribs when it was discovered beneath a layer of concrete suggests that he was Gacy’s first victim.
Eight more bodies were found on December 27. Body No. 10 was buried face up, parallel to the wall of the crawl area, just inside Gacy’s front door. Body 11 and Body 12 were buried next to one another in the middle of the crawl space, immediately below the hallway; both were found face down with ligatures around their necks.
Bodies 14 and 15 were unearthed from a shared grave diagonal to Body 10; Body 13 was discovered beneath the extra bedroom. The heads and upper torsos of both 14 and 15 were discovered in different plastic bags.
Body 16 was discovered nearby Body 13 but in a different trench located farther north of the south wall. This victim was discovered with a piece of fabric buried deep in his throat, suffocating him to death. The seventeenth victim had a ligature around his neck when he was discovered.
Four more bodies were exhumed the next day. In contrast to Body 18, discovered with a ligature around its neck and buried beneath the spare bedroom, Body 19 was buried precisely beneath Gacy’s master bedroom.
Body 20 was interred parallel to Body 19 in the northwest corner of the crawl space.
Six additional corpses had been discovered by December 29. Body 25 was buried beneath Gacy’s bathroom, while bodies 22, 23, 24, and 26 were interred in a communal grave beneath Gacy’s kitchen and laundry area.
Body 22 was discovered with a piece of cloth-like material stuck in his throat immediately beneath Gacy’s kitchen. There were two socks found near the pelvis. This deceased person was interred right below Body 21 (recovered the previous day).
A piece of cloth was discovered inside the mouths of Bodies 24 and 26, and the bones of Victims 23 and 24 were mixed in with one another. A piece of cloth was found in the throat of Body 25 that was discovered in Gacy’s bathroom.
The last victim in the crawl area was similarly discovered beneath the bathroom, 10 inches below the soil’s surface. A piece of cloth was discovered deeply embedded in the victim’s throat.
The Chicago Blizzard of 1979 forced a suspension of operations, but they were eventually restarted in March despite Gacy’s assurance that all the buried victims had been discovered.
Body 28 was discovered on March 9 in Gacy’s backyard, buried beneath the patio, wrapped in many plastic bags, and about 15 feet (4.6 meters) from the grill. Body No. 29 was discovered under the dining room floor on March 16.
All of the bodies found at 8213 West Summerdale were already decomposing. Stein was able to identify the remains with the use of dental and X-ray records.
Dental data were used to identify 23 individuals, while bone trauma was used to identify two more victims. Additionally supporting these identifications were personal items discovered in Gacy’s house.
Several bodies were buried beneath Gacy’s property, and the heads and upper torsos had been bagged in plastic. Many of them were discovered still with a rope around their necks.
Some bodies have been discovered with foreign objects, like prescription bottles, wedged in their pelvic region, which suggests the objects were forced into the victims’ anus.
Stein concluded that 12 of the victims found on Gacy’s farm asphyxiated rather than died through strangling. The empty home owned by Gacy was destroyed in April 1979.
Initial evidence did not link the victim discovered on June 30 six miles (9.7 km) downstream from the I-55 bridge to Gacy. Tim O’Rourke was identified as the victim in January 1979 based on fingerprint data and a distinctive tattoo that read “Tim Lee” (a tribute to Bruce Lee) on his left bicep.
The cause of death, strangling, was not excluded by an autopsy. The number of these victims was 31.
The cause of death for Frank Landingin was determined by autopsy to be suffocation due to his underpants becoming caught down his throat, blocking his airway, and causing him to drown in his own vomit.
It was also possible to identify his body using fingerprint data. Landingin was given victim number 32 on a bond slip provided to him just before he passed; it was discovered in Gacy’s house.
On December 28, a second body connected to Gacy was discovered 1.6 kilometers from the I-55 bridge. James Mazzara was revealed to be the victim, and Gacy admitted to killing him just after Thanksgiving. Mazzara had been ligatured to death.
A decomposing body was found entangled in exposed roots on the side of the Des Plaines River on April 9, 1979, by a guy strolling along a Grundy County towpath. The same evening, Robert Piest’s body was recognized as his using dental records.
A subsequent autopsy found that he had been suffocated by three wads of “paper-like stuff” that had been forced down his throat while he was still alive.
The Trial of John Wayne Gacy
On February 6, 1980, Trial Gacy was imprisoned for 33 homicides. Due to heavy news attention in Cook County, Illinois, where Judge Louis Garippo was trying him, the jury was chosen from Rockford.
In the year leading up to his trial, Gacy saw doctors at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester for more than 300 hours at the request of his defense attorney. Before a group of psychiatrists assessed whether he was mentally fit to stand trial, he underwent several psychological examinations.
Gacy tried to persuade the medical professionals that he had multiple personality disorders. The diligent, community-minded contractor, the clown, the engaged politician, and a police officer named Jack Hanley, whom he called “Bad Jack,” were the four personas he claimed to have.
Gacy claimed to be speaking for Jack when he confessed to the police; Jack hated homosexuality and thought of male prostitutes as “weak, ignorant, and degraded trash.” Gacy’s attorneys decided to have him enter a not-guilty plea to the accusations against him on the grounds of insanity.
The defense introduced several psychiatric professionals who had evaluated Gacy and presented him as a Jekyll-and-Hyde persona. At Gacy’s trial, three psychiatric witnesses testified that they had diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic with many personalities.
The prosecution argued that Gacy was rational and completely controlled his behavior. They presented several witnesses to attest to the premeditation of Gacy’s acts and the measures he took to avoid capture to bolster this claim. They disproved the defense doctors’ assertions that the defendant had numerous personalities and was insane
. In their testimony, Cram and Rossi said that Gacy had forced them to disperse lime bags around his crawl area and dig drainage ditches. Both claimed that Gacy often checked the crawl area to ensure they and the other employees were in charge of staying within the locations he had indicated.
On February 18, Robert Stein testified that all of the bodies found on Gacy’s property were “markedly decomposed [and] putrefied, skeletonized remains” and that, of all the autopsies he conducted, thirteen victims had perished from asphyxiation, six from ligature strangulation, one from multiple chest stab wounds, and ten from unknown causes.
Stein referred to the defense team for Gacy’s contention that all 33 deaths resulted from unintentional sexual asphyxia as implausible.
On February 21, Jeffrey Rignall gave a witness statement for the defense. Rignall recounted his ordeal while frequently sobbing as he detailed Gacy’s abuse of him in March 1978.
When asked if Gacy understood the criminality of his deeds, Rignall responded that he thought Gacy could not reconcile his deeds to what the law expected because of the “beastly and animalistic ways he attacked me.” Rignall vomited during cross-examination about the abuse and had to leave the room.
Donald Voorhees, whom Gacy sexually raped in 1967, testified on February 29 about his ordeal and Gacy’s subsequent attempts to discourage him from testifying by bribing another young person to beat and spray Mace in his face.
Voorhees made a brief attempt to testify despite feeling unable to do so before being ordered to leave.
The week following Voorhees, Robert Donnelly gave a testimony in which he described how Gacy had mistreated him in December 1977. As he recalled the assault he had experienced, Donnelly was extremely upset and nearly broke down numerous times.
Gacy frequently made fun of Donnelly while he testified, but Donnelly finished. Robert Motta, one of Gacy’s defense attorneys, tried to refute Donnelly’s testimony throughout his cross-examination, but he remained steadfast in his account of what had happened.
Gacy requested a mistrial during the fifth week of the trial because, among other things, he disagreed with his attorneys’ insanity defense, they had denied him the opportunity to testify (as he had requested), their defense had not called enough medical witnesses, the police were lying about verbal statements he was alleged to have made to detectives after his arrest, and, in any case, the case was flawed.
In response to Gacy’s letter, Judge Garippo stated that neither of the attorneys had been denied the chance or resources to call expert witnesses to testify, that he had the legal right to decide whether or not to testify, and that he was free to do so by advising the judge of his decision.
John Wayne Gacy on Death Row
After his conviction, Gacy spent 14 years on death row in prison after being moved to the Menard Correctional Center.
Gacy contacted Russ Ewing of WLS-TV before his trial, and between 1979 and 1981, the two had numerous interviews. Tim Cahill and Ewing later worked together to publish the book Buried Dreams.
The details Gacy revealed to Ewing about the events surrounding his first murder would be crucial in identifying his first victim.
Gacy participated in a volunteer labor program on February 15, 1983, when Henry Brisbon, a fellow death row prisoner known as the I-57 killer, stabbed him in the upper arm with a sharpened wire. William Jones, a second death row prisoner hurt in the assault, suffered a superficial head wound from a stab. Both people received wound care at the jail hospital.
Appeals of John Wayne Gacy
Gacy read a lot of legal texts after being imprisoned and filed many motions and appeals, but he lost all of them. He objected to his attorneys’ insanity plea argument during his trial and raised questions about the legality of the initial search warrant issued to the Des Plaines police on December 13, 1978.
In addition, Gacy claimed that while he had “some knowledge” of five of the murders (McCoy, Butkovich, Godzik, Szyc, and Piest), the other 28 had been carried out by staff members who had access to his home when he was away on business.
The Supreme Court of Illinois upheld Gacy’s conviction in the middle of 1984 and mandated that he be put to death by lethal injection on November 14th. The United States Supreme Court rejected Gacy’s appeal against this judgment on March 4, 1985.
Gacy requested a new trial in a subsequent post-conviction petition the following year. Richard Kling, who represented Gacy then, claimed that at his 1980 trial, Gacy received insufficient legal representation. On September 11, 1986, the post-conviction petition was dismissed.
Gacy contested the conviction that he should die in 1985. On September 29, 1988, the Illinois Supreme Court maintained his conviction, reserving January 11, 1989, for his execution.
The Illinois Supreme Court formally scheduled Gacy’s execution for May 10, 1994, following the United States Supreme Court’s denial of his last appeal in October 1993.
Execution of John Wayne Gacy
Gacy was moved from the Menard Correctional Center to the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill early on May 9, 1994, where he would later be executed. That afternoon, he and his family were permitted to picnic privately on the jail grounds.
Gacy ordered a bucket of KFC, 12 fried shrimp, french fries, fresh strawberries, and a Diet Coke for his final dinner. Before being led to the Stateville execution room to receive a lethal injection that evening, he participated in prayer with a Catholic priest from whom he got the last rites.
The chemicals needed to carry out the execution unexpectedly solidified before it started, complicating the process by blocking the IV tubing used to inject the chemicals into Gacy’s arm. The window’s blinds were drawn.
The execution crew changed the blocked tube. The execution resumed after the blinds were reopened after ten minutes. The process took 18 minutes to complete. Anesthesiologists attributed the issue to the jail officials’ lack of execution experience, claiming that had the proper execution protocols been followed, the issues would not have arisen.
This oversight reportedly prompted Illinois to switch to a different lethal injection technique. William Kunkle, a prosecutor at Gacy’s trial, observed, “He received a far easier death than any of his victims” about this.
Published reports claim that Gacy was a psychopath with a diagnosis who showed no remorse for his atrocities. His last words to his attorney before being put to death were that the state was murdering him and that his death would not compensate for the loss of others.
According to reports, Gacy’s last words were, “Kiss my ass.” However, according to prosecutor William Kunkle, these statements were directed at a jail official and not as part of any official statement before Gacy was put to death.
An estimated 1,000 people gathered outside the prison in the hours before Gacy’s execution; the bulk of them was vociferously in support of the execution; however, there were also a small number of opponents of the death sentence there.
Some people who supported the execution donned T-shirts with ironic sayings such as “No tears for the clown” and references to Gacy’s earlier volunteer work in the community as a clown. The in-attendance opponents of the death penalty attended a solemn candlelight vigil.
Gacy’s brain was taken after his passing was officially declared at 12:58 in the morning on May 10, 1994. Helen Morrison, a witness for the defense at Gacy’s trial, has it. She has spoken with Gacy and other serial killers to identify characteristics typical of violent sociopaths.
His remains were cremated.
RIP Victims. Burn in Hell, Gacy.
Next, read about the Mythical Story of the Michigan Dogman, and then, if you’re interested in Dark History, read the Disturbing Story of Brazil’s Nuclear Incident. Stick with Morbid Curiosity for daily updates, and thanks for reading!
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