John Gacy – The Worst
It is no surprise that John Gacy was admired and liked by most who had known him. He was a sharp businessman who had spent his time, when not building up his contracting company, hosting elaborate street parties for friends and neighbors, dressing as a clown and entertaining children at local hospitals and immersing himself in organizations such as the Jaycees, working to make his community a better place to live.
People who knew John Gacy thought of him as a generous, friendly and hard-working man, devoted to his family and community. However, there was another side to Gacy that few had ever witnessed.
It was May 22, 1978, and Jeffrey Ringall had recently returned from a winter vacation in Florida to his home in Chicago. He decided to reacquaint himself with the city by visiting New Town, a popular area of Chicago where many popular bars and discos could be found. While walking through the area, his path was blocked by a black Oldsmobile. The heavy-set driver leaned out from the window and complimented Ringall on his unseasonable tan. He continued to make small talk and then asked if Ringall wanted to share a joint with him while they rode around town.
Ringall was delighted to escape the cold and share a marijuana cigarette with the stranger. He hopped in the car and began to smoke with his friendly new acquaintance. Before they were half way through with the joint, the man grabbed Ringall and quickly shoved a rag over his face doused with chloroform. Ringall lost consciousness and only briefly reawakened a couple of times during the car ride.
During his wakeful periods Ringall watched in a daze as street signs passed, trying to make sense of what was happening to him. Yet before he was able to understand where he was and what was happening, the stranger again covered his face with the chloroform-soaked rag and he passed out. Once when he was awake, Ringall remembered being in a house and seeing the heavy-set man naked before him.
Ringall also remembered seeing on the floor a number of varying sized dildos that the stranger pointed out to him and remarked on how he was going to use them on his unwilling prisoner. That evening Ringall was viciously raped, tortured and drugged by the sadistic stranger.
Later the next morning, Ringall awoke from one of his blackouts fully clothed and under a statue in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. He was surprised to be alive after the trauma that was inflicted on his body. He made his way to his girlfriend’s and later to the hospital where he stayed for six days.
During his hospital stay, Ringall reported the incident to the police who were skeptical about finding his rapist, given the little information that Ringall could provide. Along with skin lacerations, burns and permanent liver damage caused from the chloroform, Ringall suffered severe emotional trauma.
Yet, he was fortunate to be alive. Ringall was one of the few victims of John Wayne Gacy, Jr. to have survived. During a three-year-period, Gacy went on to viciously torture, rape and murder more than thirty other young men, who would later be discovered under the floorboards of his home and in the local river.
Chicago’s Irish inhabitants and Mr. and Mrs. John Gacy marked the day with celebration. It was St. Patrick’s Day and Marion Elaine Robinson Gacy and John Wayne Gacy, Sr. welcomed their first son into the world at Edgewater Hospital in 1942.
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was the second of three children. His older sister Joanne was born two years before him and two years later came his youngest sister Karen. All of the Gacy children were raised Catholic and all three attended Catholic schools where they lived on the northern side of Chicago.
The neighborhood in which Gacy grew up was middle class and it was not uncommon for young boys to take on part-time jobs after school. Gacy was no exception and he busied himself after school with a series of part-time positions and Boy Scout activities. The young Gacy had newspaper routes and worked in a grocery store as a bag-boy and stock clerk.
Although he was not a particularly popular kid in school, he was liked by his teachers and co-workers and had made friends at school and in his Boy Scout troop. He always remained active with other children and thoroughly enjoyed outdoor scouting activities. Gacy seemed to have a very normal childhood with the exception of his relationship with his father and a series of accidents that affected him.
When John Gacy was eleven years old he was playing by a swing set when he was hit in the head by one of the swings. The accident caused a blood clot in the brain. However, the blood clot was not discovered until he was sixteen. From the age of eleven to sixteen he suffered a series of blackouts caused by the clot, yet the blackouts ceased when he was given medication to dissolve the blockage in the brain.
At the age of seventeen, Gacy was diagnosed with a non-specific heart ailment. He was hospitalized on several occasions for his problem throughout his life but they were not able to find an exact cause for the pain he was suffering. However, although he complained frequently about his heart (especially after his arrest), he never suffered any serious heart attack.
During Gacy’s late teens, he suffered some turmoil with his father, although relations with his mother and sisters were very strong. John Wayne Gacy, Sr. was an abusive alcoholic who physically abused his wife and verbally assaulted his children. Although John Sr. was an unpleasant individual, young John Gacy deeply loved his father and wanted desperately to gain his devotion and attention. Unfortunately, he was never able to get very close to his father before he died, something which he regretted his entire life.
After attending four high schools in his senior year and never graduating, John Gacy dropped out of school and left home for Las Vegas. While in Vegas, he worked part time as a janitor in a funeral parlor performing odd jobs. He was not happy in Vegas because he couldn’t get a decent job.
He tried desperately to earn enough money to get back home. However, it was difficult because there were few jobs available for those who did not have a high school diploma. It took him three months to earn enough money for a ticket back to Chicago where his two sisters and mother joyfully awaited his arrival.
Soon after Gacy returned from Las Vegas in the early 1960’s, he enrolled himself into a business college and eventually graduated. While at business college, he perfected his talent in salesmanship: John Gacy was a born salesman who could talk his way in and out of almost anything.
John Wayne Gacy put his talents to work when he was hired at his first job out of business school at the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company. He excelled in his position as a management trainee and it was not too long after his start with the company that he was transferred to manage a men’s clothing outlet in Springfield, Illinois.
It was during this time that Gacy’s health again took a turn for the worse. He had gained a great deal of weight and he began to suffer more problems with his heart condition. Soon after his hospitalization for his heart, he was hospitalized again for a spinal injury. His weight, heart and back problems would plague Gacy for the rest of his life, yet that would not stop him from his work or other activities.
While in Springfield, John Gacy became involved in several organizations that served the community: the Chi Rho Club where he was membership chairman, the Catholic Inter-Club Council where Gacy was a member of the board, The Federal Civil Defense for Illinois, the Chicago Civil Defense where Gacy was a commanding captain, the Holy Name Society where he was named an officer and the Jaycees where Gacy devoted most of his time to and eventually became first vice-president and “Man of the Year.”
It was obvious that John Gacy took his involvement in community organizations very seriously and he devoted most of his free time to them. Many who knew Gacy at this time considered him to be very ambitious and eager to make a name for himself in the community. He worked so hard that on one occasion he was hospitalized for nervous exhaustion. However, once again he refused to let his health problems stand in the way of life and happiness.
In September 1964, John Gacy met and married a co-worker named Marlynn Myers whose parents owned a string of Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurant franchises in Waterloo, Iowa. Fred W. Myers, Gacy’s new father-in-law, offered him a position with one of his franchises. Soon after that Gacy and his new wife moved to Iowa. Life seemed to hold a lot of promise for Gacy at this time in his life.
John Wayne Gacy began working for his father-in-law, learning the business from the ground up. On average he worked for twelve hours a day, yet it was not uncommon for him to work fourteen or more hours a day. He was enthusiastic and eager to learn, with hopes of one day taking over the string of fast food restaurants.
When Gacy was not working, he was active in the Waterloo, Iowa, Jaycees. John worked tirelessly performing volunteer work for his community through the Jaycees. It was there that he made most of his friends and spent most of his time.
The Man Who Killed Boys
In Clifford L. Linedecker’s book, The Man Who Killed Boys, he quoted Charlie Hill, a Jaycee volunteer who knew well: “He wanted to be very successful and he wanted to be recognized by his peers…. [Gacy] was always working on some project and he was devoted to the Jaycees. The club was his whole life.”
However, John Gacy managed to find some time with his wife when not working for his father-in-law or doing volunteer work. Marlynn gave birth to a boy shortly after their move to Iowa and soon after the birth of their son, they celebrated the birth of a daughter.
The Gacy’s had every reason to be happy during the first few years in Iowa. They had a nice house in the suburbs and a loving and healthy family. Marlynn enjoyed looking after the children and John was happy in work and with the Jaycees. He was even working on a campaign for the presidency of the Jaycees. Everything seemed almost too good to be true, and indeed it was.
Everything seemed to be looking good for John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Yet, his lucky streak would not last too much longer. Rumors were spreading around town and among Jaycee members regarding Gacy’s sexual preference. It seemed that young boys were always in Gacy’s presence.
Everyone heard the stories that John Gacy was homosexual and made passes at the young boys who worked for him at the fast food franchises. Yet, people close to him refused to believe in the gossip, until May of 1968 when rumors became truths.
In the spring of 1968, Gacy was indicted by a grand jury in Black Hawk County for allegedly committing the act of sodomy with a teenage boy named Mark Miller. Miller told the courts that John Wayne Gacy Jr. had tricked him into being tied up while visiting Gacy’s home a year earlier, and had violently raped him.
Gacy denied all the charges against him and told a conflicting story, stating that Miller willingly had sexual relations with him in order to earn extra money. John Gacy further insisted that Jaycee members opposed to him becoming president of the local chapter organization were setting him up.
However, Miller’s were not the only charges that Gacy would have to face. Four months later Gacy was charged with hiring an eighteen-year-old boy to beat up Mark Miller. John Gacy offered Dwight Andersson ten dollars plus three hundred more dollars to pay off his car loan if he carried out the beating.
Andersson lured Miller to his car and drove him to a wooded area where he sprayed mace in his eyes and began to beat him. Miller fought back and broke Andersson’s nose and managed to break away and run to safety. Soon after Miller called the police, Andersson was picked up and taken into police custody where he gave Gacy’s name as the man who hired him to perform the beating.
A judge ordered John Gacy to undergo psychiatric evaluation at several mental health facilities to find if he were mentally competent to stand trial. Upon evaluation, Gacy was found to be mentally competent. However, he was considered to be an antisocial personality who would probably not benefit from any known medical treatment. Soon after health authorities submitted the report, John Gacy plead guilty to the charge of sodomy.
When the judge finally handed down the sentence, Gacy received ten years at the Iowa State Reformatory for men, the maximum time for such an offence. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was twenty-six years old when he entered prison for the first time. Shortly after Gacy entered prison, his wife divorced him on the grounds that Gacy violated their marriage vows.
While in prison John Gacy adhered to all the rules and stayed far from trouble. He was a model prisoner, realizing that there was a high possibility of an early parole if he remained non-violent and well behaved. Eighteen months later, Gacy’s hopes came true, his parole was approved. On June 18, 1970, Gacy left the confines of the prison gates and made his way back to his place of birth in Chicago.
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. immediately began to put his life back on track again after moving back to Chicago. He knew he could not afford to let the past disrupt his future if he could help it. The only thing that seemed to have weighed Gacy down was the death of his father while Gacy was in prison. John Gacy went through difficult periods of depression after his release from prison because he regretted never saying goodbye to his father.
He felt cheated that he never had a chance to improve his relationship with John W. Gacy, Sr., a man whom he loved dearly despite of his abusive behavior. However, although deeply saddened by unresolved conflicts with his father, Gacy refused to let it ruin his future. Gacy moved in with his mother and obtained work as a chef in a Chicago restaurant. A job that he enjoyed and worked at with enthusiasm.
After four months of living with his mother, Gacy decided it was time he lived on his own. His mother had been impressed with how her son had readjusted to life outside the prison walls and she helped him obtain a house of his own immediately outside Chicago’s city limits.
Gacy owned one-half of his new house located at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue in the Norwood Park Township and his mother and sisters owned the remaining half of the home. Gacy was very happy with his new two-bedroom 1950’s ranch style house that was located in a nice, clean, family oriented neighborhood. He was quick to make friends with his new neighbors, Edward and Lillie Grexa, who had lived in the neighborhood since the time it had been first built.
A Past Hidden
After only seven months of living in his new home, he was spending Christmas evening with the Grexas, whom he had invited over for dinner with his mother. The neighbors became fast friends and often gathered together for drinks or a game of poker in the comfort of their homes. The Grexas had no idea of Gacy’s criminal past or his most recent run in with the law.
A little more than a month after the Grexas had visited for Christmas dinner at Gacy’s home, he had been charged with disorderly conduct. The charges stated that John Gacy had forced a young boy, whom he had picked up at a bus terminal, to commit sexual acts upon him. Gacy had been officially discharged from his parole for only a few months before he was already breaking the law again. However, Gacy slipped through the system when all charges against him were dropped, due to the no-show of his young accuser at the court proceedings. John Gacy was a free man once again.
On June 1, 1972 Gacy married Carole Hoff, a newly divorced mother of two daughters. Gacy had romanced the woman who was in a state of emotional vulnerability and she immediately fell for him. She was attracted to Gacy’s charm and generosity and she believed he would be a good provider for her and her children. She was aware of Gacy’s prison experience, yet she trusted that he had changed his life around for the better. Carole and her daughters quickly settled into their new home with Gacy.
Odor of Death
The couple maintained a close relationship with their neighbors and the Grexas were always invited over to Gacy’s house for elaborate parties and barbecues. As flattered as they were to receive such invitations by their young neighbors, they were always bothered by a horrible stench that prevailed through the house. Lillie Grexa was sure a rat had died beneath the floorboards of Gacy’s house and she urged him to solve his problem.
However, Gacy blamed the horrible stench on the moisture build-up in the crawl space under his house. Yet, it wasn’t a problem with moisture beneath the house. John Gacy knew the real and more sinister cause for the stench and he kept the truth from everyone for years.
Although many friends, family members and neighbors complained about the strange smells coming from Gacy’s house, it certainly didn’t stop them from attending his theme parties. Gacy threw two memorable barbecue parties in which he invited all those close to him. On one occasion more than three hundred guests showed up to attend one of Gacy’s parties.
The two that were attended by the most people were a luau theme party and a Western theme party. Both were huge successes. John Gacy thrived on the attention he received from people who had either been to or heard of the parties. He liked to feel important.
A New Business
In 1974, Gacy decided he wanted to go into business for himself. He began a contracting business named Painting, Decorating, and Maintenance or PDM Contractors, Incorporated. He hired young teenage boys to work for him. He told friends that he hired such young men to keep the costs low. However, that was not Gacy’s only reason for hiring teenage boys: Gacy intended to seduce his young employees. His homosexual desires and urge to inflict harm were slowly becoming more apparent to those around him, especially his wife.
Carole and John had drifted apart by 1975. Their sex life had come to a halt and Gacy’s moods became more unpredictable. He would be in a good mood one moment and the next moment he would be flying into an uncontrollable rage and throwing furniture. He was an insomniac and his lack of sleep seemed to have only exacerbated his other problems.
John Gacy was rarely home in the evenings and when he was, he was either fixing something with the outside of the house or working in the garage. However, there was one thing that Carole was extremely worried about. It was not only that Gacy showed no sexual interest in her that hurt Carole, but also what pained her even more was when she began to find magazines with naked men and boys in her house.
She knew that John Gacy was reading them and he acted nonchalantly about his new choice of reading material. In fact, Gacy had told Carole that he preferred boys to women. Naturally, Carole was distressed and she soon filed for divorce. The couple’s divorce became final on March 2, 1976.
Although Gacy was having marital problems, he refused to let it hold him back from realizing his dream of success. Being a man who thrived on and delighted in recognition and attention, Gacy turned his sights to the world of politics. It was in politics that John Gacy hoped to make his mark in the world. He had high aspirations and hoped to one day run for public office.
John Wayne Gacy realized that he had to get his name out and make himself known by participating in volunteer projects and community activities. He also knew that if he were to succeed in politics he had to win over the people. Gacy had a natural talent when it came to persuading others and he creatively came up with a way to gain the recognition he sought.
It was not long before Gacy caught the attention of Robert F. Matwick, the Democratic township committeeman for Norwood Park. As a free service to the community, John Gacy and his employees volunteered to clean-up Democratic Party headquarters. Gacy further impressed Matwick when the contractor dressed up as “Pogo the Clown” and entertained children at parties and hospitals.
Unaware of Gacy’s past and impressed by his sense of duty and dedication towards the community, Matwick nominated Gacy to the street lighting commission. In 1975, John Gacy became the secretary treasurer. It seemed as if Gacy’s dreams of success were beginning to come true; however his career in politics would be short-lived. Troubles started to brew when rumors began to circulate about Gacy having homosexual interest in teenage boys.
One of the rumors stemmed from an actual incident that took place during the time John Gacy was involved with cleaning the Democratic Party headquarters. One of the teenagers who worked with Gacy on that particular project was sixteen-year-old Tony Antonucci. According to the boy, Gacy made sexual advances towards him, yet backed off when Antonucci threatened to hit him with a chair. Gacy joked about the situation and left him alone for a month.
The following month while visiting Gacy’s home, Gacy again approached Antonucci. John tried to trick the young man into handcuffs and believing he was securely cuffed he began to undress the boy.
However, Antonucci had made sure that one of his hands was loosely cuffed and he was able to free himself and wrestle Gacy to the ground. Once he had John Gacy on the ground he handcuffed him, but eventually let him go after Gacy promised he would never again try touching him. Gacy never made sexual advances towards Antonucci again and the boy remained working for Gacy for almost a year, following the incident.
Seventeen-year-old Johnny Butkovich was like most young men who enjoyed cars and he took great pride in his 1968 Dodge on which he was continually working. He particularly loved to race his car, a hobby that cost quite a bit for a young man of seventeen.
In order to pay for new parts to sustain his hobby, he knew he had to get a job. Johnny began doing remodeling work for John Gacy at PDM Contractors — a position that he enjoyed and that paid well. He and Gacy had a good working relationship, which made the long hours pass by more quickly. However, their working relationship ended abruptly when Gacy refused to pay Johnny for two weeks of work — something Gacy did often to his employees in order to save money for himself.
Angered that John Gacy had withheld his pay, Johnny went over to his boss’s house with two friends to collect what he believed was rightfully his. When Johnny confronted him about his pay check, Gacy refused to pay him and a large argument erupted. Johnny threatened that he was going to tell authorities that he was not deducting taxes from earnings. Gacy was enraged and screamed at him. Finally, Johnny and his friends realized that there was little they could do and they eventually left Gacy’s house. Johnny dropped off his friends at their house and drove away, never to be seen alive again.
Michael Bonnin, also seventeen, was not too different from Johnny in that he enjoyed working with his hands. He especially liked doing wood working and carpentry and he was often busy with several projects at a time. In June of 1976, he had almost completed work on restoring an old jukebox, yet he never had a chance to finish the job he had begun. While on route to catch a train to meet his stepfather’s brother, he disappeared.
Billy Carroll, Jr. was the kind of boy who seemed to be always getting into trouble ever since his parents could remember. At the age of nine he was in a juvenile home for stealing a purse and at age eleven he was caught with a gun. Billy was mischievous and spent most of his time on the streets in Uptown, Chicago.
At the age of sixteen, Billy was making money by arranging meetings between teenage homosexual boys and adult clientele for a commission. Although Billy came from a very different background than Michael Bonnin and Johnny Butkovich, they all had one thing in common — John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Just like Johnny and Michael, Billy also disappeared suddenly. On June 13, 1976, Billy left his home and was never seen alive again.
Gregory Godzik loved his job with PDM Contractors and he didn’t mind doing the odd jobs that his boss required of him, such as cleaning work. The money from his job also allowed for him to buy parts for his 1966 Pontiac car, a time-consuming hobby. He was proud of his car and, although it was a bit of an eye sore, it served its purpose.
On December 12, 1976, Gregory dropped his date off at her house, a girl he had had a crush on for some while, and drove off towards his home. The following day police found Gregory’s Pontiac, but Gregory was missing. He was seventeen years old.
On January 20, 1977, nineteen-year-old John Szyc also disappeared much like the other young men before him. He had driven off in his 1971 Plymouth Satellite and was never seen alive again. Interestingly, a short while after the young man vanished, another teenager was picked up by police in a 1971 Plymouth Satellite while trying to leave a gas station without paying.
The youth said that the man he lived with could explain the situation. The man was John Gacy, who explained to police that Szyc had earlier sold him the car. Police never checked the car title which had been signed eighteen days after Szyc’s disappearance with a signature that was not his own. In Linedecker’s The Man Who Killed Boys, the author points out that Szyc had known not only Gregory Godzik and Johnny Butkovich but had also, “been an acquaintance of John Gacy, although he hadn’t worked for PDM Contractors.”
Robert Gilroy was an outdoorsman, avid camper and horse lover. On September 15, 1977, eighteen-year-old Gilroy was supposed to catch a bus with friends to go horseback riding but he never showed up. His father, who was a Chicago police sergeant, immediately began searching for Robert when he heard that his son was missing. Although a full-scale investigation was mounted for his son, Robert was nowhere to be found.
More than a year later another young man named Robert Piest would vanish mysteriously. The investigation into his disappearance would lead to not only the discovery of his body but the bodies of Butkovich, Bonnin, Carroll, Szyc, Gilroy and twenty-seven other young men who had suffered similar fates. It would be a discovery that would rock the foundations of Chicago and shock all of America.
Robert Piest was only fifteen when he disappeared from just outside the pharmacy where he had worked just minutes earlier. His mother, who had come to pick him up from work, had been waiting inside the pharmacy for Robert, who had said he’d be right back after talking with a contractor who had offered him a job.
Yet, Robert never returned. His mother began to worry as time passed. Eventually her worry turned to dread. She searched the pharmacy area outside and inside and still Robert was nowhere to be found. Three hours after Robert’s disappearance, the Des Plaines Police Department was notified. Lieutenant Joseph Kozenczak led the investigation.
Soon after learning the name of the contractor who had offered the job to Piest, Lt. Kozenczak knocked at the man’s door. When John Gacy answered, the lieutenant told him about the missing boy and asked Gacy to go with him to the police station for questioning.
Gacy said he was unable to leave his home at the moment because there was a recent death in the family and he had to attend to some phone calls. Gacy showed up at the police station hours later and gave his statement to police. Gacy said he knew nothing about the boy’s disappearance and left the station after further questioning.
Lt. Kozenczak decided to run a background check on John Gacy the next day and was surprised to find that Gacy had served time for committing sodomy on a teenager years earlier. Soon after Lt. Kozenczak’s discovery, he obtained a search warrant for Gacy’s house. It was there that he believed they would find Robert Piest.
On December 13, 1978, police entered John Wayne Gacy, Jr.’s house on Summerdale Avenue. Gacy was not at his home during the investigation. Inspector Kautz was in charge of taking inventory of any recovered evidence that might be found at the house.
Some of the items on his list that were confiscated from Gacy’s home were: A jewelry box containing two driver’s licenses and several rings including one which had engraved on it the name Maine West High School class of 1975 and the initials J.A.S; A box containing marijuana and rolling papers; Seven erotic movies made in Sweden; Pills including amyl nitrite and Valium; A switchblade knife; A stained section of rug; Color photographs of pharmacies and drug stores; An address book; A scale; Books such as, Tight Teenagers, The Rights of Gay People, Bike Boy, Pederasty, Sex Between Men and Boys, Twenty-One Abnormal Sex Cases, The American Bi-Centennial Gay Guide, Heads & Tails and The Great Swallow; A pair of handcuffs with keys; A three-foot-long two-by-four wooden plank with two holes drilled in each end; A six mm. Italian pistol with possible gun caps; Police badges; An eighteen-inch rubber dildo was also found in the attic beneath insulation; A hypodermic syringe and needle and a small brown bottle; Clothing that was much too small for Gacy; A receipt for a roll of film with a serial number on it, from Nisson Pharmacy; Nylon rope.
Three automobiles belonging to John Gacy were also confiscated, including a 1978 Chevrolet pickup truck with snow plow attached that had the name “PDM Contractors” written on its side, a 1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and a van with “PDM Contractors” also written on its side. Within the trunk of the car were pieces of hair that were later matched to Rob Piest’s hair.
Further into the investigation, police entered the crawl space located beneath Gacy’s home. The first thing that struck investigators was a rancid odor that they believed to be sewage. The earth in the crawl space was sprinkled with lime but seemed to have been untouched. Police found nothing else during their first search and eventually returned back to headquarters to run tests on some of the evidence and research the case more.
John Gacy was called into the police department and told of the articles that they had confiscated. Gacy was enraged and immediately contacted his lawyer. When Gacy was presented with a Miranda waiver stating his rights and asked to sign it, he refused when instructed by his lawyer. Police had nothing to arrest him on and eventually had to release him after more questioning about the Piest boy’s disappearance. Gacy was put under twenty-four hour surveillance.
During the days following the police search of Gacy’s house, some of his friends were called into the police station and interrogated. John Gacy had told his friends earlier that police were trying to charge him with a murder but claimed he had nothing to do with such a thing.
From the interviews police gathered little information on any connection with Gacy to Robert Piest. Friends of Gacy could not believe he was capable of killing a teenage boy. Frustrated due to the lack of evidence that police had linking Gacy to Piest they decided to arrest John Gacy on possession of marijuana and Valium. Unknown to police at the time, Gacy had recently confided in a friend and co-worker a day before his arrest that he had indeed killed. Gacy further confided in his friend that he killed about thirty people because they were bad and trying to blackmail him.
Around the time John Gacy was arrested, he was awaiting action on the Ringall case in which he had been charged with rape. Determined to find his rapist, Ringall had months earlier waited by one of the highway exits that he was able to remember during one of his wakeful episode in Gacy’s car, before being chloroformed again. Finally, after hours of waiting by the exit, he spotted the familiar car and followed it to Gacy’s house.
Upon learning Gacy’s name, he immediately filed charges of sexual assault. Finally, after intense investigation and lab work into some of the items confiscated by police from Gacy’s house, they came up with critical evidence against Gacy. One of the rings found at Gacy’s house belonged to another teenager who had disappeared a year earlier named John Szyc. They also discovered that three former employees of John Gacy had also mysteriously disappeared.
Furthermore, the receipt for the roll of film that was found at Gacy’s home had belonged to a co-worker of Robert Piest who had given it to Robert the day of his disappearance. With the new information, investigators began to realize the enormity of the case that was unfolding before them.
It was not long before investigators were back searching Gacy’s house. John Gacy had finally confessed to police that he did kill someone but said it had been in self-defense. He said that he had buried the body underneath his garage. Gacy told police where they could find the body and police marked the grave site in the garage, but they did not immediately begin digging.
They first wanted to search the crawl space under Gacy’s house. It was not long before they discovered a suspicious mound of earth. Minutes after digging into the suspicious mound, investigators found the remains of a body. That evening, Dr. Robert Stein, Cook County Medical Examiner, was called in to help with the investigation. Upon his arrival at Gacy’s house, he immediately recognized a familiar odor –the distinctive smell of death.
Stein began to organize the search for more bodies by marking off the areas of earth in sections, as if it were an archaeological site. He knew that the excavation of a decomposing body must be done with the utmost care to preserve its integrity and that of the grave site. Throughout the night and into the days that followed the digging progressed under the watchful eye of Dr. Stein.
On Friday, December 22, 1978, John 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. John 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 that of John Butkovich who 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. John 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 Wayne “Dale” 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 “Mojo” 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. John 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 John 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 Jon Gacy had become acquainted 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 John 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. Although the search for the dead had finally come to an end, Gacy’s trial was just beginning.
The Trial of John Gacy
On Wednesday, February 6, 1980, John Wayne Gacy’s murder trial began in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, Illinois. Jury members, who consisted of five women and seven men, listened as prosecutor Bob Egan talked about Robert Piest’s life and his gruesome death and how Gacy was responsible for his murder and thirty-two other young men. Egan told them about the investigation into Gacy, the discovery of bodies beneath his house and how Gacy’s actions were premeditated and rational.
In Sullivan and Maiken’s book, Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders, it is said that Egan’s statement,” left a stunning impression on the jurors and the courtroom spectators, who were learning some of the details of Gacy’s killing for the first time.” Egan’s opening statement was followed by one of Gacy’s defense lawyers, Robert Motta. He opposed Egan’s statement by claiming Gacy’s actions were indeed, irrational and impulsive, but asserting that he was insane and no longer in control of his conduct.
Insane or Not
If had been found insane, John Gacy would have become a ward of the state mental health system. Furthermore, there are no time limits on the incarceration of such a person and in many cases they are set free when they are deemed mentally stable enough to re-enter society. This is what Robert Motta believed was best for his client. Yet, an insanity plea is usually a very difficult one to prove.
Although prosecutors were stung by Gacy’s insanity plea, it was something they had expected and were well prepared for. When the opening statements had concluded, the prosecution brought its first witness to the stand, Marko Butkovich, the father of Gacy’s victim John Butkovich. He was the first witness of many that included the family and friends of the murdered victims. Some of the witnesses broke down in tears on the bench, while others sadly recounted their last goodbyes to their loved ones.
Following the friends and family of the victims came the testimony of those who worked for John Gacy who survived sexual and usually violent encounters with their boss. Some of his ex-employees told of his mood swings and how he would trick them into being handcuffed. Others told of how he constantly made passes at them while at work.
The testimony continued for the next several weeks, including that of friends and neighbors of Gacy, police officers involved in the investigation and arrest of John Gacy, and psychologists who found Gacy sane during the killings. Before the state rested, it had called some sixty witnesses to the bench.
On February 24th, the defense began its proceedings and to the surprise of many in the courtroom, the first witness they had called was Jeffrey Ringall. It was expected that Ringall would testify in behalf of the prosecution. However, Ringall had previously mentioned his encounter with John Gacy in a book and the prosecution believed that would damage their case if they took him on as a witness.
Therefore, the prosecution did not call him as a witness because they believed his testimony would better help their case during cross-examination. Gacy’s other defense lawyer, Amirante, asked Ringall if he thought John Gacy was able to control himself. Ringall didn’t believe so, considering the savagery of Gacy’s attack.
Testimony of Ringall did not last very long because he broke down while telling the court the details of his rape. Ringall was so stressed that he began to vomit and cry hysterically. He was eventually removed from the courtroom as John Gacy sat by exhibiting no signs of emotion.
In an effort to prove Gacy’s insanity, Amirante and Motta called to the stand the friends and family of the accused killer. Gacy’s mother told of how her husband abused John on several occasions, at one time whipping him with a leather strap. Gacy’s sister told a similar story of how she repeatedly witnessed he brother being verbally abused by their father.
Others who testified for the defense told of how John Gacy was a good and generous man, who helped those in need and always had a smile on his face. Lillie Grexa took the stand and told of how wonderful a neighbor he was. However, Mrs. Grexa did say something that would prove damaging to Gacy’s case. She refused to say that he was crazy, instead she said she believed Gacy to be a “very brilliant man.” That statement would conflict with the defense’s story that he was unable to control his actions and was insane.
The defense then called Thomas Eliseo, a psychologist who interviewed Gacy before the trial. He found John Gacy to be extremely intelligent, yet believed that he suffered from borderline schizophrenia. Other medical experts that testified on behalf of the defense gave similar testimony stating that Gacy was schizophrenic, suffered from multiple personality disorder or had antisocial behavior.
They further stated that Gacy’s mental disorder impaired his ability to understand the magnitude of his criminal acts. In conclusion, they all found him to have been insane during the times he committed murder. After the testimony of the medical experts, the defense rested its case.
Both sides emotionally argued their cases to the jury that sat before them. Each side recalled previous witnesses and experts who had testified. The prosecution reminded the jury of the heinous crimes committed by John Gacy, talked of his manipulative behavior, his rape and torture of the victims and how his crimes were premeditated and planned.
The defense insisted that John Gacy was insane and out of control at the time of the killings and pointed to the testimony given by experts during the trial. After the closing arguments and the testimony of over a hundred witnesses over a period of five weeks, the jury was left to make their decision.
It took only two hours of deliberation before the jury came back with its verdict. The courtroom was filled with silence and everyone within stood at attention when the jury marched in with its verdict.
The silence was broken when the court clerk read, “We, the jury, find the defendant, John Wayne Gacy, guilty…” John Wayne Gacy Jr. was found guilty in the deaths of thirty-three young men and as Sullivan said, he had the “singular notoriety of having been convicted of more murders than anyone else in American history.” John Gacy received the death penalty and was sent to Menard Correctional Center where, after years of appeals, he eventually met the executioner. Just after midnight on May 10, 1994, John Gacy was executed by lethal injection.
His last words? “Kiss my ass”.