John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 17 1942. Gacy had an uneventful childhood up until the age of eleven. While out playing he had been struck on the head by a swing. Subsequently he suffered fainting fits for many years. Gacy graduated from business school and went on to work as a shoe salesman for the Nunn Bush shoe company. Gacy met and then married work colleague Marilynn Myres in 1964. The marriage ended when Gacy was imprisoned for ten years at a correctional institute in Waterloo, Iowa for various sex and violent crimes against young men.
In 1971 Gacy was arrested again for trying to rape a teenage boy. John Wayne Gacy was married for the second time in 1972 to Carol Hoff. He set up a business as a renovation contractor at this time. This marriage also ended partly because Carol was frightened of he husband’s temper. Despite all this Gacy worked very hard at trying to be liked. He was an enthusiastic member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce as “Pogo the Clown” a children’s entertainer. Gacy would use his contracting business to attract young men eager for work, many of whom were subjected to rape.
Thirty-three of who lost their lives. At nine o’clock on the evening of 11 December 1978, fifteen year old Robert Piest went to a chemist’s shop in his home town of Des Plaines, Illinois. He was going to see a building contractor who was working in the shop about a holiday job. Robert Piest was supposed to go straight home, where his family was holding a birthday party for his mother. When Robert had not arrived home by 11:30pm, his family contacted the police. Police investigating the case learned that the contractor hired by the shop was in fact John Wayne Gacy a name not unfamiliar to them.
Gacy had been reported earlier in the year by a 27-year-old man named Jeffery Rignall. According to Mr. Rignall’s story, a plump man with a flashy car had approached him. The man invited him to join him in the vehicle to smoke some marijuana. Once in the car the man pushed chloroform soaked handkerchief into Rignall’s face and drove him, unconscious, to a house where he was beaten with whips and raped. Rignall regained consciousness then next morning where he had been dumped in Lincoln Park. In lieu of the fact that Rignall could not give them much information, the Police were unable to be of much help.
In fact even when Jeffery Rignell went out into the city and looked and indeed found the car, it was some time before the police went to arrest it’s owner – one John Wayne Gacy. When investigating officers paid a visit to 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, Des Plaines, they followed the unpleasant smell to a trap door that led to the crawl space under Gacy’s house. On Friday, December 22, 1978, Gacy finally confessed to police that he killed at least thirty people and buried most of the remains of the victims beneath the crawl space of his house.
According to the book Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders by Sullivan and Maiken, Gacy said that, “his first killing took place in January, 1972, and the second in January, 1974, about a year and a half after his marriage. ” He further confessed that he would lure his victims into being handcuffed and then he would sexually assault them. To muffle the screams of his victims, he would stuff a sock or underwear into their mouths and kill them by pulling a rope or board against their throats, as he raped them.
Gacy admitted to sometimes keeping the dead bodies under his bed or in the attic for several hours before eventually burying them in the crawl space. On the first day that the police began their digging, they found two bodies. One of the bodies was buried under the garage. The other body was the one found in the crawl space. As the days passed, the body count grew higher. Some of the victims were found with their underwear still lodged deep in their throats. Other victims were buried so close together that police believed they were probably killed or buried at the same time.
Gacy did confirm to police that he had on several occasions killed more than one person in a day. However, the reason he gave for them being buried so close together was that he was running out of room and needed to conserve space. On the 28th of December, police had removed a total of twenty-seven bodies from Gacy’s house. There was also another body found weeks earlier, yet it was not in the crawl space. The naked corpse of Frank Landingin was found in the Des Plaines River. At the time of the discovery police were not yet aware of Gacy’s horrible crimes and the case was still under investigation.
But, investigators found Landingin’s driver’s license in Gacy’s home and connected him to the young mans murder. Landingin was not the only one of Gacy’s victims to be found in the river. Also, on December 28th, police removed from the Des Plaines River the body of James Mazzara, who still had his underwear lodged in his throat. The coroner said that the underwear stuffed down the victim’s throat had caused Mazzara to suffocate. Gacy told police that the reason he disposed of the bodies in the river was because he ran out of room in his crawl space and because he had been experiencing back problems from digging the graves.
Mazzara was the twenty-ninth victim of Gacy’s to be found; yet it would not be the last. By the end of February, police were still digging up Gacy’s property. They had already gutted the house and were unable to find anymore bodies in the crawl space. It had taken investigators longer than expected to resume the search due to bad winter storms that froze the ground and the long process of obtaining proper search warrants. However, they believed there were still more bodies to be found and they were right. While workmen were breaking up the concrete of Gacy’s patio, they came across another horrific discovery.
They found the body of a man still in good condition preserved in the concrete. The man wore a pair of blue jeans shorts and a wedding ring. Gacy’s victims no longer included just young boys or suspected homosexuals, but now also married men. The following week another body was discovered. The thirty-first body to be found linked to Gacy was in the Illinois River. Investigators were able to discover the identity of the young man by a “Tim Lee” tattoo on one of his arms. A friend of the victim’s father had recognized the “Tim Lee” tattoo while reading a newspaper story about the discovery of a body in the river.
The victim’s name was Timothy O’Rourke, who was said to be such a fan of Bruce Lee’s that he took the Kung Fu master’s last name and added it to his own name in his tattoo. It is possible that Gacy had become aquatinted with the young man in one of the gay bars in New Town. Yet, another body was found on Gacy’s property around the time O’Rourke was discovered and pulled from the river. The body was located beneath the recreation room of Gacy’s house. It would be the last body to be found on Gacy’s property. Soon after the discovery, the house was destroyed and reduced to rubble.
Unfortunately, among the thirty-two bodies that were discovered that of Robert Piest was still unaccounted for. Piest was still missing. Finally in April 1979, the remains of Robert Piest were discovered in the Illinois River. His body had supposedly been lodged somewhere along the river making it difficult to find his body. However, strong winds must have dislodged the corpse and carried it to the locks at Dresden Dam where it was eventually discovered. Autopsy reports on Piest determined that he had suffocated from paper towels being lodged down his throat.
The family soon after filed a $85-million suit against Gacy for murder and the Iowa Board of Parole, the Department of Corrections and the Chicago Police Department for negligence. Police investigators continued to match dental records and other clues to help identify the remaining victims who were found on Gacy’s property. All but nine of the victims were finally identified. John Wayne Gacy at 51 was executed by lethal injection at Stateville penitentiary on May 10, 1994, a little more than 14 years after he was found guilty of murdering 33 boys and young men. The jury rejected his claim of insanity.