John Wayne Gacy: The Killer Clown
Written By: Jara Hernandez
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
John Wayne Gacy was an American serial killer who victimized at least 33 males in the 1970s. He was dubbed as the “Killer Clown” because he liked to entertain at children’s parties and hospitals as “Pogo the Clown”. His gruesome crimes received international media attention and shocked his suburban Chicago community, where he was adored and respected.
What Happened in John Wayne Gacy’s Early Life?
John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 17, 1942. His parents, John Stanley Gacy and Marion Robinson, had three children, with John Wayne as their second child and only son. Gacy’s alcoholic father was abusive to him, his mother, and his sisters. Being feminine and overweight, he was often belittled and physically abused by his father. Despite the physical assaults and endless insults, Gacy still sought his father’s approval and denied any hatred towards him.
At 7-years-old, a friend of the family sexually molested Gacy repeatedly. A contractor often took Gacy for rides in his truck, where he would fondle him. However, his parents were left in the dark because the young boy feared that his father would blame him and that he would receive worse punishments.
After Gacy turned 18, he left the family home and drove to Las Vegas, Nevada. He worked within the ambulance service before he was transferred to Palm Mortuary as an attendant. There, he slept on a cot behind the embalming room. During his stay, he admitted to fondling the deceased body of a teenage boy. The shocking act prompted Gacy to return to his hometown.
Upon his return, he successfully enrolled in the Northwestern Business College, where he graduated in 1963. Subsequently, he took a management trainee position with the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company. Then, he was transferred to Springfield, Illinois, where he was promoted to a management position. There, he met Marlynn Meyers, whom he married after nine months of dating.
During his first year in Springfield, Gacy dedicated his time to the local Jaycees. He quickly rose through the Jaycee ranks and became the vice-president of the Jaycee’s Springfield division in 1965. Gacy and Meyers then moved to Waterloo, Iowa where Gacy managed three Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants owned by his father-in-law. For the first time in his life, Gacy’s father praised him.
Hidden Desires Reawakened
Gacy joined the Waterloo division of the Jaycees, quickly moving up the ranks once again. But unlike the Springfield division, the Waterloo Jaycees hid many sick secrets. Many members were involved in wife swapping, pornography, prostitutes, and illegal drug use. Gacy regularly participated in these activities and slowly worked on his personal desires.
In August 1967, Gacy committed his first known sexual assault upon a teenage boy, identified as the son of a fellow Jaycee, 15-year-old Donald Voorhees. Gacy got Donald drunk and lured the boy into performing oral sex. Several other teenage boys fell victim to Gacy’s tricks that involve blackmailing and claiming the oral sex was for scientific research.
In March 1968, Donald told his father about Gacy’s sexual assault. The police were immediately informed, and they charged Gacy with oral sodomy in relation to Donald and the attempted assault of 16-year-old Edward Lynch. On November 7, 1968, he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. That same day, his wife petitioned for divorce, taking their two children with her.
Gacy was released after serving only 18 months of his 10-year sentence due to good behavior.
The Birth of Pogo the Clown
Gacy relocated to Chicago to live with his mother and worked as a short-order cook in a restaurant. He returned to his old habits of luring teenage boys, but this time, it was for sexual intercourse. One boy pressed charges against Gacy, but the complaint was dismissed after the boy failed to appear in court.
Things took a darker turn when Gacy met 16-year-old Timothy Jack McCoy on January 2, 1972. The boy was planning on sleeping at the bus terminal when Gacy offered help. The next morning, Timothy prepared breakfast and went to Gacy’s room to wake him up. However, Gacy thought that Timothy intended on killing him. Gacy then stabbed the teen to death before realizing that Timothy had no ill intentions. This incident sexually aroused Gacy to the point of orgasm. Timothy then became the very first victim buried in the crawl space under Gacy’s home.
Gacy then married Carole Hoff, who was aware of his previous assault charges but was convinced that her husband had changed his ways. Unbeknownst to Hoff, Gacy kept on adding bodies under his house throughout their marriage.
In 1974, Gacy started a contracting business called Painting, Decorating, and Maintenance, or PDM Contractors, Inc. He hired teenage boys to keep his costs down, but Gacy also saw it as another way to lure them into his basement of horrors.
During the daytime, Gacy worked on community projects and developed friendships with his neighbors. He often dressed as Pogo the Clown at birthday parties and the children’s hospital. The community loved Gacy and they never suspected a thing.
In October 1975, Gacy admitted to Hoff about his sexual preference, causing the latter to file for divorce. This helped Gacy focus on his façade and his sexual gratification. In 2 years, he managed to hide 29 bodies in his property. But due to lack of space, Gacy had to dump his victims into the Des Moines River.
The Start of the End
On December 11, 1978, 15-year-old Robert Piest was reported missing after leaving his job at a pharmacy. Investigators determined that Gacy was the last person seen with Piest and he was put under strict surveillance. Officers searched Gacy’s home and found a high school ring for the class of 1975 with initials J.A.S., handcuffs, drugs and drug paraphernalia, two driver’s licenses that were not issued to Gacy, child pornography, police badges, guns and ammunition, a switchblade, a piece of stained carpet, hair samples from Gacy’s automobiles, store receipts, and several items of teen-styled clothing. However, the police did not find the bodies of the victims, even after searching the crawl space.
Gacy became friendly with the investigators in attempt to persuade them or taunt them. At one point, he proudly claimed that “clowns can get away with murder.” After days of stressful surveillance, Gacy attempted to sue the Des Plaines police but to no avail. Several witnesses have come forward, which convinced investigators to do a thorough search of the crawl space.
The stress eventually broke Gacy and he confessed to torturing, raping, and killing at least 33 young men. Although investigators believe that the total number of victims could be as high as 45. According to Gacy, he would trick his victims into putting on handcuffs for a magic trick. Then, he would stuff socks or underwear into their mouths before chaining them around their neck. He would then choke them to death while raping them.
Police were able to identify 25 out of the 33 victims:
Timothy Jack McCoy (16)
John Butkovich (18)
Darrell Julius Samson (18)
Randall Wayne Reffett (15)
Samuel G. Dodd Stapleton (14)
Michael Bonnin (17)
William Huey Carroll, Jr. (16)
James Byron Haakenson (16)
Rick Louis Johnston (17)
Kenneth Ray Parker (16)
Michael Marino (14)
William George Bundy (19)
Gregory John Godzik (17)
John Alan Szyc (19)
Jon Steven Prestidge (20)
Matthew Bowman (19)
Robert Edward Gilroy, Jr. (18)
John Antheney Mowery (19)
Russell Lloyd Nelson (21)
Robert Winch (16)
Tommy Joe Boling (20)
David Paul Talsma (19)
William Wayne Kindred (19)
Timothy D. O’Rourke (20)
Frank William Landingin (19)
James Mazzara (20)
Robert Jerome Piest (15)
Authorities are still working on identifying six other victims.
The Fate of John Wayne Gacy
Gacy went on trial on February 6, 1980, for the murder of thirty-three young men. His defense attorneys attempted to prove Gacy’s insanity, but the jury did not agree. After two hours of deliberation, the jury found Gacy guilty of the thirty-three charges of murder, sexual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child. Gacy was given the death penalty.
His execution was initially set for June 2, 1980, but Gacy kept on trying to appeal his case. Finally, on May 9, 1994, Gacy was executed by lethal injection. His last words were, “Kiss my ass.”
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