John Wayne Gacy
March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994
Wayne Gacy Straight out of the he's-such-a-nice-guy file, Johnny
was the type of man who liked to dress in a homemade Pogo the
Clown outfit to entertain kids. A lonely and sadistic
contractor, Johnny also liked to entertain young boys privately
in a very different fashion. The prototypical organized killer,
he had all aspects of the murder worked out before each kill.
Once he entered his murderous fantasy, there was no turning
enjoyed handcuffing his victims, anally raping them, beating
them to a pulp, offering to make peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches, reciting verses from the Bible and strangling them
to death. In 1978 he was tracked down by the police in Chicago.
Thirty bodies were found buried in the crawl space underneath
his house, explaining his wife's complaints about the constant
stench. As a prisoner, Johnny Boy started a new career as an
artist, painting mostly colourful clown pictures, which have
been shown in galleries nationwide. He was executed by lethal
injection in 1994.
On November 11, 1998, the Chicago Tribune reported that police,
acting on a tip from a former detective, were searching for
human remains in a parking lot behind Gacy's mother's house.
Authorities believe there could be as many as four bodies buried
3 1/2 feet deep. Former Detective Bill Dorsch, now a private
investigator, told prosecutors of a night in 1975 when he found
Gacy holding a dirty shovel next to the alley where the new
search is proposed. "I stopped and said, 'John, what are you
doing out here at this time of night with a shovel?"' Dorsch
said. Gacy replied: "Well, with all the kind of work I do, there
just isn't enough time in the day. So here I am."
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was an American serial killer.
He was convicted and later executed for the rape and murder of
33 boys and young men between 1972 and his arrest in 1978, 27 of
whom he buried in a crawl space under the floor of his house,
while others were found in nearby rivers. He became notorious as
the "Killer Clown" because of the many block parties he threw
for his friends and neighbours, entertaining children in a clown
suit and makeup, under the name of "Pogo the Clown".
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was born March 17, 1942 in Chicago,
Illinois, the second of three children, to John Wayne Gacy, Sr.
(June 20, 1900 – December 25, 1965), a machinist, and Marion
Elaine Robinson (May 4, 1908 – December 14, 1989). Cook County
marriage records provide his mother's name as Marion E.
He was of Polish and Danish heritage. He had a troubled
relationship with his father, an alcoholic who abused him and
called him 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 high schools, Gacy dropped out before
completing his senior year and left his family, heading west.
After running out of money in Las Vegas, Nevada, he worked long
enough to earn money to travel back home to Chicago. Without
returning to high school, he enrolled in and eventually
graduated from Northwestern Business College. A management
trainee position with the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company followed
shortly after graduation, and in 1964, Gacy was transferred to
Springfield, Illinois. There he met a pretty co-worker named
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 by 1965.
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 Gacys settled in Waterloo and had two children, a son and a
daughter. Gacy worked hard at his KFC franchise but still found
time to again join the Jaycees. Rumors of Gacy's homosexuality
began to spread but did not stop 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. At the same time, 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 idyll in Waterloo came crashing down in
March 1968 when two Waterloo boys, aged 16 and 15, accused him
of sexually assaulting them. Gacy professed his innocence and it
appeared he might beat the charges, but in August of that year
he hired another Waterloo youth to beat up one of his accusers.
The youth was caught and confessed all, and Gacy was arrested.
Before the year was out, he was convicted of sodomy and
sentenced to ten years in the Iowa State Penitentiary.
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. He was paroled in 1970, after
serving 18 months. After Gacy was released, he moved back to
Illinois to live with his mother. He successfully hid this
criminal record until police began investigating him for his
Businessman and political activist
Gacy moved in with his mother and got a job as a chef in a
Chicago restaurant. In 1971, with his mother's financial
assistance, he bought a house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, in
an unincorporated area of Norwood Park Township, Cook County,
which is surrounded by the northwest side Chicago neighbourhood
of Norwood Park. 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.
John Gacy began bringing gay pornography into the house. 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
In July 1975, one of Gacy's employees, John Butkovich,
disappeared. Butkovich had recently left Gacy's employ after an
angry argument over back pay Butkovich was owed. Butkovich's
parents urged police to check out Gacy, but nothing came of it
and the young man's disappearance went unsolved.
After Gacy's divorce, the killings began in earnest, and Chicago
police would miss several more chances to stop him. In December
1976, another Gacy employee, Gregory Godzik, disappeared, and
his 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. Later that year, another of Gacy's
employees was arrested for stealing gasoline from a station; the
car he was driving had belonged to Szyc. Gacy said that Szyc had
sold the car to him before leaving town, and the police failed
to pursue the matter further.
Not all of Gacy's victims died. In March 1978, Gacy lured
Jeffrey Rignall into his car. Gacy chloroformed the young man,
took him back to the house on Summerdale, raped and tortured
him, and dumped him 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 other murders. 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
Robert Piest, a 15-year-old boy, disappeared on December 11,
1978 from the Des Plaines pharmacy where he worked after school.
Just before he vanished, Piest told a co-worker he was going to
a house down the street to talk to "some contractor" about a
job. Gacy had been at the pharmacy that night discussing a
remodelling job with the owner. Gacy denied talking to Piest
when Des Plaines police called him the next day, but the Des
Plaines police did what Chicago police failed to do and checked
Gacy's record, discovering that he had done time for sodomy. A
search of Gacy's house on December 13 turned up some suspicious
items: a 1975 high school class ring, drivers' licenses for
other people, handcuffs, a two-by-four with holes drilled in the
ends, a syringe, clothing too small for Gacy, and a photo
receipt from the pharmacy where Piest worked. Detectives noticed
an offensive odor coming from the crawlspace beneath the house.
Further investigation revealed Godzik's disappearance. The high
school ring was traced to Szyc. From Gacy's second wife, they
learned of Butkovich.
On December 21, 1978, one of Gacy's employees told the police
that Gacy had confessed to more than 30 murders. Shortly
thereafter, Gacy was arrested for marijuana possession. Police
took out a second warrant, went back to the house on Summerdale,
and found human bones in the crawlspace. After being informed
that he would now face murder charges, Gacy confessed to some
25-30 murders, telling investigators that most were buried in
the crawlspace and on his property, and that he threw the last
five bodies, after the crawlspace was full, off the I-55 bridge
and into the Des Plaines River, including that of Piest. Gacy
drew police a diagram of his crawlspace to show where the bodies
Gacy told the police that he would pick up male teenage runaways
or male prostitutes off the streets, and take them back to his
house with either promising them money for sex, or just grab
them by force. He picked up at least one of his victims at the
bus station. Once they got back to his house, he would handcuff
them or tie them up in another way. Gacy would often stick
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. Gacy would also keep the bodies with him for as long as
decomposition would allow.
The police had already gone back to the house to search for more
remains, mostly under the crawlspace. For the next four months,
more and more human remains emerged from the house, as
reporters, TV news crews, and astonished onlookers watched.
Twenty-nine bodies were found in Gacy's crawlspace and on his
property between December 1978 and March 1979. 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 in 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 defense also tried to claim that all 33 murders
were accidental deaths as part of erotic asphyxia, but the Cook
County Coroner countered this assertion with evidence that
Gacy's claim was impossible. Gacy had also made an earlier
confession to police, and was unable to have this evidence
suppressed. He was found guilty on March 13 and sentenced to
On May 10, 1994, Gacy was executed at Stateville Correctional
Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, by lethal injection. His last
meal consisted of a dozen deep fried shrimp, a bucket of
original recipe chicken from KFC, a pound of fresh strawberries
and French fries. His execution was a minor media sensation, and
large 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 remorse. 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, the chief prosecutor 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 currently
in the possession of Dr. Helen Morrison, who interviewed Gacy
and other serial killers in an attempt to isolate common
personality traits of violent sociopaths; however, an
examination of Gacy's brain after his execution by the forensic
psychiatrist hired by his lawyers revealed no abnormalities.
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This web page was last updated on:
24 December, 2008