John Wayne Gacy was a respected person in his community, who owned his own construction business and who was active in many respectable organizations.
He was a member of a Catholic church, and he often performed as a clown at children’s parties.
He was also known as a shocking serial killer and rapist, who raped and murdered more than 30 young boys in the 70s, burying their bodies under his home.
The Early Years of John Wayne Gacy
On March 17, 1942, Elaine and John Gacy welcomed their infant son, John Wayne Gacy Jr into the world. Gacy was born in a Chicago hospital and was the second child of the couple. He had a two year old sister at the time by the name of Joanne; and two years later, his parents brought another girl into the world, whom they named Karen. The Gacy family members were devout Catholics, and all of the children attended a Catholic school, where John was known as one of the quietest students in the school.
Gacy’s childhood was quite normal except for a few health problems and a bit of a difficult relationship with his father. He grew up in a middle-class neighborhood, and he was quite active in his community. He was a member of the Boy Scouts, and he also worked part-time as a bagger and stocker at a local grocery store. While John was not one of the popular children in school, his teachers and co-workers liked him, and he did maintain a few friends.
John was quite active, and he seemed to have a normal life, with the exception of a tragic accident and some health problems. The accident occurred at the age of 11 while John was playing on a swing set, and one of the swings hit him in the head. Gacy suffered blood clots on his brain from the accident; however, doctors did not discover the clots until he was about 16. John experienced frequent black-outs after the accident, prompting his parents to take him back to his doctor, who gave him medication to dissolve the clots. After this, his blackouts stopped.
When John was 17, his doctor diagnosed him with a non-specific heart ailment. Gacy had to be hospitalized several times throughout his life for his heart problems, but doctors could never find an exact cause for his pain. John was often heard complaining about chest pains, but he never had any heart attacks. Some people think that his heart problems may have been the result of his problems with his father. During much of his teen years, Gacy had many problems with John Sr.
While John had extremely loving and strong relationships with his sisters and his mother, his relationship with his father seemed to be in constant turmoil. He father was a severe alcoholic, who often physically abused his mother and verbally abused John and his sisters. Even through all of this abuse, John continued to love his father, and he tried to get along with him. He was never able to have a close relationship with him though, and after his father’s death, he regretted not trying harder.
John Wayne Gacy as a Young Man
While John attended four different high-schools, he never graduated. He quit school in his senior year and left Chicago for Las Vegas. While he was in Vegas, he obtained employment at a funeral parlor, working mostly as a janitor. He did not like living in Las Vegas because he could not find work that he enjoyed, and he started saving money so that he could return home.
It took him about 3 months to save enough money to go back home and move back in with his family. In the early 1960s, he enrolled in a local business college, taking courses in salesmanship. After completing his program, he began working for the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company as a manager trainee. Not long after he obtained this job, the company transferred him to their clothing outlet in Springfield where he worked as a manager.
It was not long after he gained his new position at the clothing outlet that John began having serious health problems. He had put on a lot of weight, and he began having many problems with his heart. He was hospitalized twice, once for his heart and once for an injury to his back. Gary’s medical problems affected him throughout his life; however, he continued to be quite active.
While John was in Springfield, he became active in many different organizations of his community. He was a chairman of the Chi Rho Club, board member of the Catholic Inter-Club Council, member of the Federal Civil Defense, commanding captain of the Chicago Civil Defense, officer of the Holy Name Society, and vice-president of the Jaycees, whom also voted him as “Man of the Year” at one point.
John was serious about his involvement within the community, and he devoted much of his spare time to these organizations. Everybody, who knew John, thought of him as a highly ambitious and respectable individual. However, at one point, John worked so hard that he ended up in the hospital due to exhaustion. He did not let this stop him though, and he continued on with his busy lifestyle.
John’s Marriage and New Life in Iowa
In September, 1964, John met and married a woman by the name of Marilynn Myers. Marilynn’s father, Fred, owned several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Iowa, and he offered John a position with his company. John accepted the offer, and he and his new wife moved to Iowa. John learned all about his father-in-law’s business, working in excess of 12 hours a day in hopes of taking over the company some day.
When John was not working for his father-in-law, he was active in the local Jaycees organization, conducting volunteer work for the community. However, he did find some time for Marilynn, and shortly after their move to Iowa, they celebrated the birth of their son. Soon after the birth of their son, they had a daughter. The Gacy family lived in a nice home in a quiet neighborhood, and everything seemed to be going quite well for them.
The Turning Point of John Wayne Gacy
Nobody knows exactly when or why Gacy began to change; but soon after the birth of his daughter, Gacy began changing. Gacy began making lewd passes at young boys who worked for him; and in May, 1968, a young boy by the name of Mark Miller pressed charges against John. Mark stated that Gacy lured him to his home, where John then tied him up and viciously raped him. While Gacy denied the charges, saying that Miller willingly had sex with him, the grand jury indicted him for committing sodomy with Mark.
About four months later, Gacy hired an 18 year old man named Dwight Anderson, to beat Mark, which he paid him more than $300 to do the job. Anderson took Mark to a secluded area, where he sprayed mace in his face and began to attack him. However, Mark fought back, breaking Dwight’s nose and escaping. Miller reported the attack to the police, and soon after that, the officers arrested Dwight. While in custody, Anderson told the police that John had paid him to beat Miller.
Miller brought additional charges against John, and the courts made Gacy agree to an intense psychiatric evaluation to determine if he was competent enough for trial. While the evaluation determined that John had an anti-social personality, it also determined that he was competent for trial. Before the trial, John admitted he was guilty of the sodomy charges, and the judge sentenced him with 10 years in the Iowa State Reformatory.
While John was in prison, his father died, and his wife divorced him, saying that John violated their wedding vows. Gacy was a model prisoner, following all of the prison’s rules, in hopes of receiving parole. His hopes became realities on June 18, 1970, when the courts approved his parole and released him. After John left prison, he returned to Chicago once again.
Gacy’s New Life Back Home
While John went through some bouts of depression because of his father’s death and his divorce, he was determined not to let his depression ruin his life. He obtained a job working as a chef, and after about four months, he moved out of his mothers home, taking his own home just outside of Chicago. Gacy’s home was in a nice neighborhood, and he quickly made friends with his neighbors, Lillie and Edward Grexa.
The Grexas knew nothing about John’s criminal history, and they often spent time with him, playing poker or just meeting to chat and drink. A few months after he moved into his new home, officers arrested him for trying to commit sexual acts on a young boy. The boy told police that Gacy picked him up at a bus station and tried to get him to submit to various sexual acts, but the boy escaped. However, the boy never showed up for court; thus, the judge dropped the charges.
John began dating a divorced woman by the name of Carol Hoff shortly after his court proceedings, and on June 1, 1972, they married. Carol had two young daughters; and while she was aware of John’s past, she believed him when he said that he wanted to change. Carol and her girls moved into Gacy’s home, and the couple maintained a friendly relationship with their neighbors, the Grexas. They often invited the Grexas to their home for cookouts and parties, and the Grexas gladly accepted the invitations.
Lillie Grexa often complained to John about a horrible smell in the Gacy’s home, but she was convinced that it was because of a dead animal beneath the flooring. John maintained that the smell was coming from a build-up of moisture beneath the house. Nobody pressed the issue of the smell, and John was able to hide the real cause of the smell for several years. As a matter of fact, the Gacy’s held many parties, of which several of their neighbors attended.
Gacy Loses His Second Wife
Gacy began his own business in 1974, naming it PDM Contractors Inc, with PDM standing for painting, decorating and maintenance. He hired mainly teenage boys to help him, telling people that he did so to help cut expenses. However, his true intentions were to seduce the boys. His wife often questioned his intentions towards the boys, and her and John began having several marital problems.
John refused to have sex with Carol, and his moods became quite unpredictable, often exploding at the drop of a hat. He could not sleep, and this seemed to make him even more irritable. He rarely stayed home at night; and if he did, he spent his time working on something in the garage or yard. At one point, Carol found several pornographic magazines with nude men in them; and when she confronted John with them, he admitted that he preferred men to women. Soon after this, Carol filed for a divorce, and the courts finalized it on March 2, 1976.
Gacy’s Life in Politics
Gacy did not let his second divorce stop him from striving for success, and he began to involve himself in politics, with the goal of running for office one day. John began volunteering for various community projects, which helped him meet Robert Matwick, a Democratic Committee Man. In an effort to impress Robert, John and some of his employees volunteered to clean the headquarters of the Democratic Party, and John would often dress up as a clown to entertain young children at local hospitals and parties.
Matwick, who did not know of John’s past, was impressed with Gacy, and he nominated him to the street lighting commission. While John became the secretary treasurer in 1975, it was not long before Gacy resumed his criminal behavior. Gacy had been making several sexual advances towards a 16 year old boy by the name of Tony Antonucci. Tony threatened to hit John with a chair, and Gacy left him alone for several weeks.
However, one day, while Tony was visiting John’s home, Gacy handcuffed the boy and began to undress him. Tony was able to free himself though, and he wrestled John to the floor. While Antonucci had John on the floor, he put the handcuffs on him and made John promise never to bother him again. Gacy agreed, and the boy let him go. Tony continued to work for John for about a year after this incident.
Some time after the incident with Tony, John hired a 17 year old boy by the name of Johnny Butkovich. Johnny got along quite well with Gacy, until one week when his boss refused to pay him for about two weeks worth of work. John often refused to pay his employees in an effort to save money.
Johnny became extremely angry, and he and two of his friends went to Gacy’s home to claim Johnny’s money. However, Gacy refused to pay Johnny, and they began arguing. Johnny made some threats to John, but he saw that Gacy had no intentions of paying him, and he and his friends left. After Butkovich dropped his friends off at their homes, nobody ever saw him alive again.
In June, 1976, another boy, by the name of Michael Bonnin, disappeared from a local train station. 17 year old Bonnin was not an employee of John, but there were rumors that Gacy may have been involved with the disappearance. On another occasion in June, a 16 year old boy by the name of Billy Caroll disappeared from his home in Chicago. Billy also did not work for Gacy, but people were suspicious of his involvement in the disappearance of Billy.
The Disappearances Continue
Boys continued to turn up missing in Chicago for quite some time, and on December 12, 1976, the perpetrator struck again. This time it was a 17 year old boy by the name of Gregory Godzick, who was an employee of John’s company. Gregory had been on a date with a girl and never returned home. While officers found Godzick’s vehicle, they could not find the boy.
On January 20, 1977, a 19 year old boy by the name of John Szyc, who did not work for Gacy, mysteriously disappeared. A short time after John’s parents reported their son missing, police picked up a young boy driving Szyc’s car. The boy did not know anything about Szyc’s disappearance, and he told officers that he got the vehicle from his roommate, John Gacy. Although the police went to Gacy’s home to question him, John told them that Szyc had sold him the car, and the officers believed him.
The disappearances continued, and on September 15, 1977, an 18 year old boy by the name of Robert Gilroy disappeared on his way to meet some friends. Robert did not work for Gacy either; and his father, who was a police sergeant launched an intensive investigation of Robert’s disappearance. However, police could not find Robert or any clues to where he may have been.
About one year later, a 15 year old boy by the name of Robert Piest disappeared from his job at a local pharmacy. His mother had been waiting for him, but Robert never showed up. She searched the surrounding area, but she could not find Robert. At that point, she called the police, who found out that Robert had been talking to Gacy before his disappearance, prompting them to take Gacy in for questioning.
The Investigation of John Wayne Gacy’s Home
On December 13, 1978, several police officers went to Gacy’s home. While John was not there, police entered and began looking for any evidence that may link him to Robert’s disappearance. During their search, they found two driver’s licenses belonging to young boys and a class ring with the initials JAS. They also found such things as marijuana, rolling papers, Valium, a switchblade, an address book, a scale, pornographic movies, handcuffs, a pistol, police badges, a syringe and needle, small clothing, and some nylon rope.
Police also confiscated Gacy’s three vehicles, as well, which included a 1978 Chevy pickup, a 79 Olds Delta and a van. They found several strands of hair in the Olds that labs determined to belong to Piest.
Police decided to investigate deeper, and some of them explored the crawl space under John’s home. While there was a terrible odor under the house, they thought it came from sewage. They did not find anything under the home at this point and returned to the station to begin testing their evidence. They called John to come into the station for further questioning; however, when John learned about the investigation, he became angry and called his lawyer. Since they did not have any substantial evidence yet, they had to release John, but they kept him on constant surveillance.
In the days that followed, police began questioning Gacy’s friends and family, as well. However, John’s friends could not believe that John could commit murder, and they offered police little information linking him to murder. Since they could not find any substantial evidence linking John to the disappearance of Piest, they arrested him on drug charges instead. After some further investigation and laboratory work, the police had substantial evidence against John.
The class ring, found in Gacy’s home, had belonged to John Szyc, and a receipt that they had found in John’s home had belonged to Robert Piest. This gave officers enough evidence to search John’s home again. During the search, John admitted to killing one person in self defense. He told the police that he buried the body under his garage. However, officers decided to search under the house first, and they found a large mound.
After spending several minutes digging, they found a decaying corpse. They continued digging around the property, finding the body of John Butkovich under the garage, and dozens more under the house. Some of the victims had socks or underwear stuck deep inside their throats. By the end of the day, on December 28, officers had found a total of 27 bodies buried under John’s house and garage.
They linked John to the murder of a man by the name of Frank Landingin, as well, whom they had found in a river, as they found Frank’s driver’s license in Gacy’s home. They also linked John to another murder of a man by the name of James Mazzara, whom was found in the same river. James had a pair of underwear stuck in his throat. Mazzara made the death count 29.
John Wayne Gacy’s Confession and Further Investigation
On December 22, 1978, John confessed to murdering 30 young boys and burying their bodies around his home. He said that he committed his first murder in January, 1972 and his second in January, 1974. He said that he would convince his victims to let him handcuff them, and he would then proceed to rape them. He often stuffed underwear or socks down their throats to muffle their screams. He further admitted to keeping the bodies in his attic or under his bed for hours before burying them.
Police continued their investigation of Gacy’s property, and by the end of February, 1979, they found two more bodies. They found one man buried in concrete on John’s porch and another man in the Illinois River, bringing the death count to 31. Shortly after they found the man in the river, they found another body under John’s home; and two months later, they found the body of Robert Piest in the Illinois River, making the total 33.
The Trial of John Wayne Gacy
John’s trial began on February 6, 1980, with seven men and five women on the jury. Gacy’s attorney told the jury that John was insane, and he did not have control over his actions. Testimony continued for several weeks, including that of John’s employees, neighbors and friends. Police officers and psychologists also testified, maintaining that Gacy was insane when he committed the murders.
One of the witnesses was a man by the name of Jeffrey Ringall. Ringall was one of the few people who survived Gacy’s attacks. While Jeffrey gave an excellent testimony, he became quite distraught on the stand and began vomiting and crying uncontrollably. While Gacy’s friends and family testified that John was a brilliant and generous man, it did not sway the jurors. After listening to more than one hundred witnesses, it took the jury only two hours to agree on a verdict. They found John sane and guilty of all charges brought against him, giving him the death penalty.
Final Days for John Wayne Gacy
After John’s trial, the courts transferred him to the Menard Correctional Center in Illinois, where he resided for 14 years. While John was in prison, he painted several pictures, which were later auctioned off and sold for up to $20,000 each. He also read many law books while in prison, and tried to appeal on several occasions, but the courts denied him every time.
On May 9, 1994, the courts transferred John to Stateville Correctional Center, where he was to be executed. Guards allowed him to visit with his family the afternoon before his execution and pray with a Catholic priest, as well. They then escorted him to the execution chamber, and at approximately 12:58 am on May 10, 1994 they pronounced John Gacy dead. It is essential to note that an examination of Gacy’s brain, after his execution, revealed no abnormalities.