The likes of Bundy, Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy have gained high levels of notoriety for their crimes. Increasing widespread media coverage has helped serial killer interest overflow into households. Let’s take a look at Mr John Wayne Gacy himself.
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 17th 1942. He was the second of three children born to John Stanley Gacy and Marion Elaine Robinson, and was of Polish and Danish heritage. He was close to his two sisters and mother, but endured a difficult relationship with his father, an alcoholic who was physically abusive toward his wife and children.
At the age of nine, Gacy was molested by a family friend, a contractor who would take Gacy for rides in his truck and fondle him. Gacy never told his father about these incidents as he was afraid his father would blame him.
When he was 20, in 1962 he found work within the ambulance service before he was transferred to work as a mortuary attendant in Las Vegas, Nevada. In this role, he observed morticians embalming dead bodies. He later confessed to the fact that on one evening while alone, he had clambered into the coffin of a deceased teenage male, embracing and caressing the body before experiencing a sense of shock. The sense of shock prompted Gacy to drive back to live with his family in Chicago.
In August 1967, Gacy committed his first known sexual assault upon a teenage boy. The youth was a 15-year-old named Donald Voorhees. Gacy lured the youth to his house upon the promise of showing Voorhees pornographic films. Plying Voorhees with alcohol, Gacy persuaded the youth to perform oral sex upon him. Several other youths were sexually abused over the following months, including one whom Gacy encouraged to sleep with his wife before blackmailing the youth into performing oral sex upon him. Several teenagers were tricked into believing Gacy was commissioned with carrying out homosexual experiments in the interests of “scientific research,” for which the youths were each paid up to $50.
In March 1968, Donald Voorhees reported to his father that Gacy had sexually assaulted him. Voorhees Snr. immediately informed the police and Gacy was arrested and subsequently charged with oral sodomy in relation to Voorhees and the attempted assault of a 16-year-old named Edward Lynch. Gacy vehemently denied the charges and demanded to take a polygraph test but the results indicated Gacy was lying when he denied any wrongdoing in relation to either Voorhees or Lynch.
Upon advice from his attorney, Gacy entered a plea of guilty to one count of sodomy in relation to the charges filed against him by Donald Voorhees, pleading not guilty to the other charges lodged against him. Despite his lawyers’ recommendations for parole and Gacy’s pleas, Gacy was convicted of sodomy on December 3rd, 1968, and sentenced to 10 years at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. Gacy’s wife divorced him and he never saw his first wife or children again.
Gacy was granted parole with 12 months’ probation on June 18th, 1970, after serving just 18 months of his 10-year sentence. Two of the conditions of his probation were that Gacy would relocate to Chicago to live with his mother and that he was to observe a 10pm curfew.
Gacy soon became aware of a “Jolly Joker” clown club whose members, dressed as clowns, and would regularly perform at fundraising events and parades in addition to voluntarily entertaining hospitalized children. By late 1975, Gacy had joined the Jolly Jokers and had created his own performance character, “Pogo the Clown.” Gacy designed his own costumes and taught himself how to apply clown makeup.
On January 2nd, 1972, Gacy picked up 15-year-old Timothy Jack McCoy from Chicago’s Greyhound bus terminal with the promise that he could spend the night, and be driven back to the station in time to catch his bus in the morning. Gacy later said that he awoke the following morning to find McCoy standing in his bedroom doorway with a kitchen knife in his hand. After McCoy tried to surrender, Gacy twisted the knife from McCoy’s wrist, banged his head against his bedroom wall and grabbed the youth, wrestling him to the floor. He then stabbed him repeatedly in the chest as he straddled him with his body. Gacy subsequently buried McCoy in his crawl space and later covered the youth’s grave with a layer of concrete.
In an interview after his arrest, Gacy stated that immediately after killing McCoy, he felt “totally drained”, yet noted that he had experienced orgasm as he killed the youth. In this 1980’s interview, he added: “That’s when I realized that death was the ultimate thrill.”
After suspicion and tip offs following a number of murders and disappearances the police soon started to visit Gacy regularly. After one police officer noticed a smell that can only be described as rotting flesh coming from a heating duct, a full search of Gacy’s house was warranted. After being informed that police had found human remains in his crawl space and that he would now face murder charges, Gacy told officers he wanted to “clear the air”. He added that he knew his arrest was inevitable since he had spent the previous evening on the couch in his lawyers’ office.
In the early hours of December 22nd, 1978, Gacy confessed to police that since 1972, he had committed approximately 25 to 30 murders, all of whom he falsely claimed were teenage male runaways or male prostitutes. He would lure the victims by force or conned into believing Gacy was a police officer. Once back at Gacy’s house, the victims would be handcuffed or otherwise bound, then choked with a rope or a board as they were sexually assaulted. Gacy would often stick clothing in the victims’ mouths to muffle their screams. Many of his victims had been strangled with a tourniquet, which Gacy referred to as his “rope trick.” Occasionally, the victim had convulsed for an “hour or two” after the rope trick before dying.
Most victims were buried in Gacy’s crawl space where, periodically, he would pour quicklime to hasten the decomposition of the bodies. Gacy stated he had lost count of the number of victims buried in his crawl space and had initially considered stowing bodies in his attic, before opting to dispose of his victims off the I-55 bridge into the Des Plaines River. Thus the final five victims—all killed in 1978—were disposed of in this manner because his crawl space was full.
John Wayne Gacy was brought to trial on February 6th, 1980, charged with 33 murders.
After an extensive trial the jury deliberated for more than two hours before they returned with their verdict: Gacy was sentenced to death for the twelve counts of murder upon which the prosecution had sought this penalty. An initial date of execution was set for June 2nd, 1980.
Upon being sentenced, Gacy was transferred to the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois, where he was to remain incarcerated on death row for 14 years. On the morning of May 9th, 1994, Gacy was transferred from the Menard Correctional Center to Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill to be executed. That afternoon, he was allowed a private picnic on the prison grounds with his family and that evening, he observed prayer with a Catholic priest before being escorted to the Stateville execution chamber to receive a lethal injection.