Solved: John Wayne Gacy: The Killer Clown (1976 – 1978)

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Our Next case on Crime Blog is one of the most prolific serial killers of our time. This case is about John Wayne Gacy: The Killer Clown. John Wayne Gacy took 33 lives in his killing spree. Here is the story.

John Wayne Gacy was born on March 17, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. His father was an alcoholic abusive World War I veteran, and his mother was a homemaker. He had 2 other siblings. Gacy was born with a heart problem that made it impossible for him to play sports which caused him to be overweight as a child and into his adult life. Gacy would take beatings from his father from a razor strop on more than one instance. Gacy also suffered from verbal abuse, being called dumb and stupid by his father. Gacy often felt he was never going to be good enough for his father.

Gacy’s mother tried her best to protect him from his father but this would only result in more verbal abuse being called a momma’s boy and sissy. Even though Gacy’s mother knew he had a heart problem she could not do much to protect him from the verbal abuse. Gacy was hospitalized for much of his teenage years (between 14-18), he had mysterious seizures which caused other illnesses and a ruptured appendix. His father accused Gacy of faking these problems to get some attention.

Ok…. I understand parents can be harsh and want to push children to be the best, but verbal abuse when your child is sick and a medical problem it does not sit well with me. But neither does killing 33 people.

Gacy’s problems with the law started when he was only 6 years old when he stole a truck from a store, his mother made him take it back and apologize but his father beat him. At age 7, him and another boy were accused of molesting a young girl. This also earned him a beating from the trust razor strop, but Gacy was also molested by a family friend at the age of 7, so instead of telling his family because he knew he would be called a liar and receive a beating, he suffered in silence.

One disturbing fact that I did find, and it still sends chills to my bones is in 1962, after Gacy left his home for Las Vegas, he worked as a mortuary assistant and would sleep behind the embalming room, he states that one night he decided to climb inside a coffin of a teenage male that had been prepared for a funeral and spent some time cuddled up with the body before disgust took over him and forced him out. Well hell yeah disgust should have taken over way before even getting in there with the dead corpse.

Gacy returned home to Chicago Illinois and attended college and graduated in 1963, not too much time after that, Gacy met his first wife, Marlynn Myers. After a brief dating spree, the couple married and moved to Waterloo, Iowa.

Marlynn’s father was an owner of 3 KFC restaurants in the area and named Gacy the manager. Gacy joined the Jaycee’s in Waterloo, Iowa, an organization that teaches leadership and offers civic opportunities for members. Gacy developed quickly and became vice president.

It was at this point in his life, Gacy appeared to be an upstanding member of society, but things do not always appear as they seem. The Jaycees…. well…they had somewhat of a dark side. Some members were involved in prostitution, wife swapping and drug use, and of course, Gacy was involved in all these offenses. He even went as far as opening a club in his basement were young children, particularly boys could do drugs and alcohol.

Gacy would make sexual advances towards the teenage boys who worked for him and that were involved with the club in his basement, when the boys would refuse, Gacy played it off like it was some kind of sick joke, but this was only the beginning of his darkness.

In 1967, Gacy was enjoying a normal, successful life in Iowa, he had 2 children, gained respect from his father, but it was not enough to keep Gacy from the darkness that was inside of him.

Gacy’s first victim would be 15-year-old Daniel Voorhees, a son of a member of the Jaycees. Gacy fed him alcohol and forced Voorhees to perform oral sex. Several other boys were assaulted by Gacy around the same time as Voorhees, he would tell the boys it was a science experiment and paid them $50. So pretty much prostitution is what its saying.

Voorhees ended up telling his father about the encounter with Gacy and Gacy was arrested for the assault on Voorhees as well as attempted assault on a 16-year-old boy. Gacy of course denied anything to do with the assault and even requested that he would take a polygraph test which would show the nervousness when denying the charges. Gacy even went as a far as to say the assault accusations were motivated by a power-hungry member of the Jaycees. Oh goodness, so this is how it all started…here we go on this disturbing journey.

In 1968, Gacy was indicted in the case brought about by Voorhees and in attempt to get the charges off him, Gacy paid an employee to attack Voorhees to convince him not to testify. Russell Schroeder attacked Voorhees, sprayed him in the face with mace, beat him and all while yelling at him to not testify. Voorhees finally escaped the attack and went on to testify. Gacy was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to 10 years. When this happened, Gacy’s wife filed for divorce, won, and Gacy never saw her or his children ever again.

While Gacy was in prison, he was said to have been a model prisoner, oh please, can nobody see this is an act? He became the head cook and joined the prison Jaycee’s. He took on projects to enhance the lives of prisoners, he went as far as getting a pay increase for inmates, and after just 18 months of his 10-year sentence, Gacy was released on parole. What in the world? Seriously you sexually assault a boy and try to do the same to another one and you serve 18 months? That is ridiculous.

After Gacy was released from prison, Gacy purchased him a home in Cook County, Iowa and this would be the house where most of his murders occurred. He reunited with his high school sweetheart, Carole Hoff, they married and Carole and her 2 children from a previous marriage moved into the house with Gacy.

In 1973, Gacy had started his own construction company but it still was not enough to keep him out of the darkness inside of him. During a business trip to Florida to look at property, Gacy attacked a young employee in the hotel room. Gacy raped this boy, after the rape, the young boy sat all night out on the beach refusing to go back to the hotel room. After returning home, the boy waited for Gacy and beat him. Gacy’s mother-in-law stepped in. Gacy finally told his wife that the boy was upset because he had refused to pay him due to bad work he provided.

Gacy once again became a role model citizen, he was working for the democratic party and was appointed the director of the Polish Constitution Day Parade in Chicago, he served in this for 3 years and during that time he had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

He also joined the Moose Club and joined the Jolly Joker Clown Club where he created his characters “Pogo and Patches.”

In 1972, Gacy picked up 16-year-old Timothy Jack McCoy from a Greyhound terminal. Took him sightseeing around the city and offered to let him spend the night so he could take him to the bus terminal in the morning. When Gacy awoke, he found McCoy standing over him with a knife, Gacy tackled McCoy and accidentally killing him. I do not know if honestly believe this story, why would he just be standing over him with a knife? Something had to have happened.

Gacy buried McCoy in the crawl space under a layer of concrete, after killing the boy, Gacy walked into his kitchen to find breakfast on the table and an uncut slab of bacon. Chances are that the boy was coming to wake Gacy for breakfast while holding the knife and Gacy too it as he was trying to kill him.

In 1975, Gacy was working 12 to 16 hours a day and spent what little free time he had looking for men. He used that phrase to say he was picking up young boys to torture and murder. He developed techniques to make subduing and killing easier for him. He required a skilled technique called the “Handcuff Trick”, getting the victims to put handcuffs on themselves. He would get the boys to partake in drugs or alcohol and Gacy would preform his clown acts for him and once handcuffed and drugged or drunk, they would be unable to fight back. Next would the “Rope Trip” Gacy would use a rope as a tourniquet to strangle is victims. Well, this escalated quickly!

Well, Gacy’s constant absence led Carole asking for a divorce. They both mutually agreed to a divorce in 1976. The reason that was listed was because of Gacy’s infidelities with other woman. Little did anybody know, Gacy had been actively killing boys in their home since 1972. The same home that Carole and her daughters were in. My goodness how could they not have heard something or smelt something. Dead bodies smell. Even if you bury them, the smell always comes to surface.

After the divorce, Gacy tried to stay active in the community but neighbors would talk about changes in his personality and they also reported that Gacy was coming and going at odd hours of the night, lights being on and off, one neighbor even reported hearing screams of suffering coming from his house. But nothing was done.

Between 1976 and 1978 Gacy murdered 23 boys and buried them in the crawl space. He would make his employees dig the trenches and told them to spread lime. Lime is known to speed up the process of decomposition.

But in 1978, Gacy ran into a huge problem. His crawl space was full with no more rooms for bodies. He went as far as stacking bodies in the trenches sometimes 3 deep, but still no more room so, he began dumping bodies in the Des Plains River. But he messed up and almost got caught, He dumped one victim, but they survived, Jeffery Rignall was left for dead, he did end up surviving, but he could not place Gacy as his attacker.

Like all things, it has to end at some point, Gacy was going to make a mistake it was just a matter of when. Gacy offered 15-year-old Robert Piest a job that would pay more than his job he currently had. Piest told his mother where he was headed to meet Gacy, but when he did not return home, his mother filed a missing persons report, but Gacy denied meeting Piest even though he had more than one witness stating they seen them at the pharmacy.

While police had the Piest investigation under way it made the police remember of Rignall’s tale of Gacy’s violence as well as other witnesses to his actions. Gacy was then placed under constant surveillance but he turned it into a game and told the detectives over breakfast, “You know…. clowns can get away with murder.” He is an idiot, im sorry, but you just pretty much told on yourself!

Eventually, investigators and detectives came knocking on Gacy’s Door with a warrant, the first search they found nothing, but the second search, a detective noticed a smell coming from the air ducts that he said smelled of rotting corpses. During the first search the temperature was cold, but during the 2nd search it was a little warmer which of course, made the smell much more distinctive.

On the morning of December 22, 1978, Gacy got time of hiding his tales and sat down with detectives to come clean of everything. He told of looking for boys, but he referred to the boys as prostitutes, liars, and hustlers. He explained he would take them to his house, where he would put handcuffs on them and strangle them. He even explained how certain victims he would partially drown them before reviving them to being the torture all over again.

He told the detectives he had 23 bodies in the crawl space, when detectives went to search the home, they found a broken sump pump which means, you guessed it right, the crawl space had flooded, once the pipe was fixed, detectives had to wait for the water to subside, when the water was gone, they were met with soaking wet, decomposing flesh. Just picturing that makes me shiver.

February 6, 1980, John Wayne Gacy was charged with 33 counts of murder. He pleaded not guilty by reasons of insanity plea. He would then spend hours being interviewed by psychiatrists. It was determined that Gacy had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, but the prosecution claimed premeditation proves Gacy was in his right might at the time he committed these murders.

March 12, 1980 with the jury only spending 2 hours, Gacy was found guilty of 33 murders, sexual assault, and indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced to 12 life sentences to start being carried out June 2, 1980.

Gacy tried to appeal his conviction multiple times but lost, on May 9, 1994 he was put to death by lethal injection. His last words were “Kiss my ass.” Well, if that is not putting it simple and to the point, I do not know what is.

Gacy was responsible for 33 lives and 6 of them still remain unidentified today. Gacy’s reign of terror made a last impression on culture that remains to this day.

Here is to hoping the last 6 victims can be identified so the families have closure.


Everything You Need To Know About John Wayne Gacy (

John Wayne Gacy – Crime Museum

John Wayne Gacy – Wikipedia

John Wayne Gacy | Biography, Murders, Execution, & Facts | Britannica