John Wayne Gacy was convicted of 33 murders of mostly teenage boys. He
was sentenced to death for 12 of those murders (12 proved to have been
committed after Illinois had passed post-Furman death penalty), and to
natural life in prison for the others.
The bodies of most of the victims
were unearthed in the crawl space under Gacy's middle class home in the
Evidence showed that the defendant led a double life,
engaging in charitable and political activities at the same time he was
committing a series of sadistic torture murders. He enticed many young
men to his home for homosexual liaisons, tying or handcuffing his
partners then strangling or choking them. Gacy was a successful
contractor, was active in the community, and often dressed up as a clown
On December 11, 1978, a 15-year-old Des Plaines high school sophomore,
Robert Piest, disappeared shortly after leaving work at a pharmacy where
Gacy had recently completed a remodeling job.
Police put Gacy under
surveillance, and when it was learned that two teenage employees of Gacy,
Gregory Godzik and John Butkovich, also had recently disappeared, the
police obtained a search warrant for Gacy's home. A roll of film
belonging to Piest was seized in the ensuing search.
A second search
warrant was executed and three lime-covered bodies were found in the
crawl space. Gacy pointed officers to the precise locations of certain
bodies in the crawl space and stated that he had lured the victims to
his home, either expressly for sex or through the promise of employment,
and then strangled them. A total of 29 bodies were recovered on the
property and 4 more were discovered in a nearby river.
Gacy recanted his
confession and did not testify at trial, where he asserted an insanity
People v. Gacy, 468 N.E.2d 1171 (Ill. 1984) (Direct Appeal).
People v. Gacy, 530 N.E.2d 1340 (Ill. 1988) (PCR).
Gacy v. Welborn, 994 F.2d 305 (7th Cir. 1993) (Habeas).
Gacy v. Page, 24 F.3d 887 (7th Cir. 1994) (Habeas/Stay).
A dozen deep fried shrimp, a bucket
of original recipe chicken from KFC, a pound of fresh strawberries and
"Kiss my ass".
John Wayne Gacy
Serial Killers Archives by David Lohr
John Wayne Gacy was born on March 17, 1942, in Chicago Illinois.
According to the book Killer Clown, by Terry Sullivan and Peter Maiken,
Gacy seemed to have a regular childhood with the exception of his
turbulent relationship with his father, John Wayne Gacy Sr. The authors
describe the father as an unpleasant, abusive alcoholic prone to
physically and verbally assaulting his children. They describe Gacy as
deeply loving his father and wanting desperately to gain his approval
and attention, but failing to win him over. (Gacy Sr. died on Christmas
After attending four high schools during his senior year and never
graduating, Gacy dropped out of school and left Chicago for Las Vegas.
While there, he worked part time as a janitor for Palm Mortuary. Unhappy
in Vegas, he returned to Chicago a few months later.
During the early 1960’s, Gacy enrolled in a business college and
developed a talent for salesmanship. A born salesman, he could talk his
way in and out of practically any situation. Upon graduating, he went to
work as a management trainee at Nunn Bush Shoe Co in downtown Chicago.
He excelled in his position and within weeks was transferred to
Springfield, Ill., to manage a men’s clothing outlet for the company,
where he remained employed for nearly a year.
Shortly after his
promotion, Gacy married into a wealthy family and relocated with his new
bride to Waterloo, Iowa. In 1966, at the request of his father-in-law,
Gacy took over management of the family’s chicken restaurant. Gacy
quickly became a well-known and liked member of the community, according
to later accounts in the Waterloo Courier.
However, all was not well with Gacy. The future serial killer would
be arrested for the first time in 1968. The felony charge, attempting to
coerce a male employee into homosexual acts, came as a big surprise to
those who thought they knew this likable father of two infants,
especially his wife of two years.
Gacy pled guilty to sodomy and was
sentenced to 10 years in Iowa’s State Men’s Reformatory in Anamosa. His
wife filed for divorce following the sentencing. Angered, Gacy informed
her he did not want to see his children again and would henceforth
consider her and the two kids dead.
After serving 18 months, Gacy was paroled in 1971 and moved back to
Chicago. He went to work as a construction contractor and then started
his own construction business. That July he remarried a recently
divorced women he had met through mutual friends and, with financial
assistance from his mother, moved into a house in Des Plaines, with
financial help from his mother. In February 1971, Gacy again ran into
trouble with the law. He was charged with the attempted rape of a young
man. The charges were dropped when the victim failed to appear in court
for the hearing.
Gacy had a talent for business. According to the Des Plaines Journal,
he was known by local merchants as a sharp businessman, who would often
undercut his business rivals' contracts by hiring on a number of
high-school age employees to cut his costs. His business grew.
spent part of his leisure time hosting elaborate street parties for
friends and neighbors, dressing as a clown, and entertaining children at
local hospitals. He also immersed himself in organizations such as the
Jaycees and the local Democratic party. As a Democratic precinct captain
he once had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalyn Carter.
Gacy’s second wife divorced him in March of 1976. According to
accounts in Harlan Mendenhall’s book, Fall of the House of Gacy, Gacy's
second wife felt she could no longer cope with the marriage due to her
husband's unpredictable moods and bizarre obsession with homosexual
magazines. The couple did not have children.
On Dec. 12, 1978, the police again focused their attention on John
Wayne Gacy. Robert Piest, a teenage stock boy at a local Des Plaines
pharmacy, had come up missing. Gacy was the last person seen with the
boy prior to his disappearance. When investigators ran a background
check on Gacy, they were surprised to discover that he had previously
served time for committing sodomy on a teenage boy. With this
incriminating information, investigators were able to obtain a warrant
to search Gacy’s house.
During the execution of the warrant,
investigators entered a crawl space located beneath the home. A rancid
odor was quickly noticed. The smell was believed to be faulty sewage
lines and was quickly dismissed. Without any noticeable incriminating
evidence, investigators returned to headquarters to run tests on the
evidence they seized.
During a review of the items confiscated from Gacy’s house,
investigators soon realized that they had unknowingly seized a piece of
critical evidence. One of the rings found at Gacy’s house belonged to
another teenager who had disappeared a year earlier. With this new
information, investigators began to realize the possible enormity of the
case that was unfolding before them. Following the discovery of their
new information, it was not long before investigators were able to
obtain a second search warrant for Gacy’s home.
On Dec. 22, 1978, Gacy, realizing that his dark secrets were about to
be exposed, confessed to police, telling them that he had murdered
approximately 33 young men over the past seven years. He also drew them
a detailed map to the locations of 28 shallow graves under his house and
Further he admitted to dumping five others into the Des Plaines
River. Gacy told detectives, "There are four Johns." He later explained
that there was John the contractor, John the clown, and John the
politician. The fourth person went by the name of Jack Hanley. Jack was
the killer and did all the evil things.
Gacy’s murder trial began Feb. 6, 1980, in the Cook County Criminal
Courts Building in Chicago. During the five-week trial the prosecution
and the defense called more than 100 witnesses to testify.
strategy was to establish that Gacy was insane and out of control at the
time of the killings. To bolster this claim the defense put on the stand
psychiatrists who had interviewed Gacy prior to trial. After the closing
arguments, the jury deliberated for only two hours before finding Gacy
guilty of murdering 33 people.
On March 13, 1980, Gacy was sentenced to die. Gacy was transported to
Menard Correctional Center in Illinois. He would remain there for just
over 14 years until he was transported to the Statesville Penitentiary
near Joliet for execution.
On May 9, 1994, Gacy sat down for his last meal: fried chicken,
French fries, Coke and strawberry shortcake. Prison officials later
described his demeanor as "chatty . . . talking up a storm." In a phone
interview shortly before his execution, he told a Knight-Tribune
reporter, "There's been 11 hardback books on me, 31 paperbacks, two
screenplays, one movie, one off-Broadway play, five songs, and over
5,000 articles. What can I say about it?" But of course, he quickly
protested, "I have no ego for any of this garbage."
Just after midnight on May 10, 1994, Gacy was executed by lethal
injection. For his last words, Gacy snarled, ''Kiss my ass.''
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (March 17, 1942 – May 10,
1994) was an American serial killer.
He was convicted and later executed for the rape and
murder of 33 boys and young men between 1972 and his arrest in 1978, 27
of whom he buried in a crawl space under the floor of his house, while
others were found in nearby rivers. He became notorious as the "Killer
Clown" because of the many block parties he threw for his friends and
neighbors, entertaining children in a clown suit and makeup, under the
name of "Pogo the Clown".
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois,
the second of three children, to John Wayne Gacy, Sr. (June 20, 1900 –
December 25, 1965), a machinist, and Marion Elaine Robinson (May 4, 1908
– December 14, 1989). Cook County marriage records provide his mother's
name as Marion E. Robertson.
He was of Polish and Danish heritage. He had a
troubled relationship with his father, an alcoholic who abused him and
called him a "sissy". He was close to his sisters and mother, who
affectionately called him "Johnny".
When Gacy was 11, he was struck on the forehead by a
swing. The resulting head trauma formed a blood clot in his brain that
went unnoticed until he was 16, when he began to suffer blackouts. He
was prescribed medication to dissolve the clot.
After attending four high schools, Gacy dropped out
before completing his senior year and left his family, heading west.
After running out of money in Las Vegas, Nevada, he worked long enough
to earn money to travel back home to Chicago. Without returning to high
school, he enrolled in and eventually graduated from Northwestern
A management trainee position with the Nunn-Bush Shoe
Company followed shortly after graduation, and in 1964, Gacy was
transferred to Springfield, Illinois. There he met coworker Marlynn
Myers, and they married in September 1964. He became active in local
Springfield organizations, joining the Jaycees and rising to vice-president
of the Springfield chapter by 1965.
Marlynn's parents, who had purchased a group of
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchises, offered Gacy a job as manager
of a Waterloo, Iowa KFC, and the Gacys moved there from Springfield.
Imprisonment, divorce, parole
The Gacys settled in Waterloo and had two children, a
son and a daughter. Gacy worked hard at his KFC franchise but still
found time to again join the Jaycees. Rumors of Gacy's homosexuality
began to spread but did not stop him from being named "outstanding vice-president"
of the Waterloo Jaycees in 1967. However, there was a seamier side
of Jaycee life in Waterloo, one that involved prostitution, pornography,
and drugs, in which Gacy was deeply involved. Gacy was cheating on his
wife regularly. At the same time, Gacy opened a "club" in his basement
for the young boys of Waterloo, where he allowed them to drink alcohol
and made sexual advances towards them.
Gacy's middle class idyll in Waterloo came crashing
down in March 1968 when two Waterloo boys, aged 16 and 15, accused him
of sexually assaulting them. Gacy professed his innocence and it
appeared he might beat the charges, but in August of that year he hired
another Waterloo youth to beat up one of his accusers. The youth was
caught and confessed all, and Gacy was arrested. Before the year was
out, he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to 10 years in the Iowa
Gacy's imprisonment was rapidly followed by his
wife's petition for divorce, which was final in 1969. He never saw his
children again. During his incarceration, Gacy's father died from
cirrhosis, on Christmas Day 1969. He was paroled in 1970, after serving
18 months. After Gacy was released, he moved back to Illinois to live
with his mother. He successfully hid this criminal record until police
began investigating him for his later murders.
Businessman and political activist
Gacy moved in with his mother and got a job as a chef
in a Chicago restaurant. In 1971, with his mother's financial assistance,
he bought a house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, in an unincorporated
area of Norwood Park Township, Cook County, which is surrounded by the
northwest side Chicago neighborhood of Norwood Park. The house had a
four-foot deep crawl space under the floor.
On February 12, 1971, Gacy was charged with
disorderly conduct; a teenaged boy claimed that Gacy picked him up and
tried to force him into sex. The complaint was dropped when the boy did
not appear in court. The Iowa Board of Parole did not learn of this, and
Gacy was discharged from parole in October 1971.
On June 22, 1972, Gacy was arrested again and charged
with battery after another young man said that Gacy flashed a sheriff's
badge, lured him into Gacy's car, and forced him into sex. Again charges
In June 1972, Gacy married Carole Hoff, an
acquaintance from his teenage years. Hoff and her two daughters moved
into the Summerdale Avenue house. In 1975, Gacy started his own business,
PDM Contractors, a construction company. At the same time, his marriage
began to deteriorate. The Gacys' sex life came to a halt, and John Gacy
would go out late and stay out all night. Carole Gacy found wallets with
IDs from young men lying around. John Gacy began bringing gay
pornography into the house. The Gacys divorced in March 1976.
Gacy became active in the local Democratic Party,
first volunteering to clean the party offices. In 1975 and 1976, he
served on the Norwood Park Township street lighting committee. He
eventually earned the title of precinct captain. In this capacity, he
met and was photographed with First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who was in
town for the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade, held on May 6, 1978.
Gacy was directing the parade that year, for the
third year in a row. Carter posed for pictures with Gacy and autographed
the photo "To John Gacy. Best Wishes. Rosalynn Carter". In the picture,
Gacy is wearing an "S" pin, indicating a person who has received special
clearance by the United States Secret Service. During the search of
Gacy's house after his arrest, this photo caused a major embarrassment
to the Secret Service.
In July 1975, one of Gacy's employees, John Butkovich,
disappeared. Butkovich had recently left Gacy's employ after an argument
over back pay Butkovich was owed. Butkovich's parents urged police to
check out Gacy, but nothing came of it and the young man's disappearance
In December 1976, another Gacy employee, Gregory
Godzik, disappeared, and his parents asked police to investigate Gacy,
one of the last people known to have spoken to the boy. In neither case
did the police pursue Gacy nor did they discover his criminal record.
In January 1977, John Szyc, an acquaintance of
Butkovich, Godzik and Gacy, disappeared. Later that year, another of
Gacy's employees was arrested for stealing gasoline from a station; the
car he was driving had belonged to Szyc. Gacy said that Szyc had sold
the car to him before leaving town, and the police failed to pursue the
Gacy then started getting tired of digging holes in
his crawlspace, he wanted space that was available at all times. He
hired one of his employees David Cram to make more space. Cram also
stayed in the spare bedroom in his boss' house. One night, Cram came
home from work and found Gacy drunk and in his clown costume. They had a
few drinks and then Gacy tricked Cram into the handcuffs. Gacy then
started growling and began spinning Cram around the room screaming "I'm
going to rape you". Cram pushed Gacy down and some how grabbed the key
and escaped to his room.
Not all of Gacy's victims died. In March 1978, Gacy
lured Jeffrey Rignall into his car. Gacy chloroformed the young man,
took him back to the house on Summerdale, raped and tortured him, and
dumped him in Lincoln Park. Police drew a blank, but Rignall remembered,
through the chloroform haze of that night, a black Oldsmobile, the
Kennedy Expressway, and some side streets. He staked out the exit on the
Expressway until he saw the black Oldsmobile, which he followed to 8213
West Summerdale. Police issued a warrant, and arrested Gacy on July 15.
He was facing trial on a battery charge for the Rignall incident when he
was arrested in December for the other murders. In December 1977, a 19-year-old
man complained that Gacy had kidnapped him at gunpoint and forced him
into sex. Yet again, Chicago police took no action.
Robert Piest, a 15-year-old boy, disappeared on
December 11, 1978 from the Des Plaines pharmacy where he worked after
school. Just before he vanished, Piest told a co-worker he was going to
a house down the street to talk to "some contractor" about a job. Gacy
had been at the pharmacy that night discussing a remodeling job with the
owner. Gacy denied talking to Piest when Des Plaines police called him
the next day, but the Des Plaines police did what Chicago police failed
to do and checked Gacy's record, discovering that he had done time for
A search of Gacy's house on December 13 turned up
some suspicious items: a 1975 high school class ring, drivers' licenses
for other people, handcuffs, a two-by-four with holes drilled in the
ends, a syringe, clothing too small for Gacy, and a photo receipt from
the pharmacy where Piest worked. Detectives noticed an offensive odor
coming from the crawlspace beneath the house.
Further investigation revealed Godzik's disappearance.
The high school ring was traced to Szyc. From Gacy's second wife, they
learned of Butkovich.
On December 21, 1978, one of Gacy's employees told
the police that Gacy had confessed to more than 30 murders. Shortly
thereafter, Gacy was arrested for marijuana possession. Police took out
a second warrant, went back to the house on Summerdale, and found human
bones in the crawlspace.
After being informed that he would now face murder
charges, Gacy confessed to some 25-30 murders, telling investigators
that most were buried in the crawlspace and on his property, and that he
threw the last five bodies, after the crawlspace was full, off the I-55
bridge and into the Des Plaines River, including that of Piest. Gacy
drew police a diagram of his crawlspace to show where the bodies were
Gacy told the police that he would pick up male
teenage runaways or male prostitutes off the streets, and take them back
to his house with either promising them money for sex, or just grab them
by force. He picked up at least one of his victims at the bus station.
Once they got back to his house, he would handcuff them or tie them up
in another way. Gacy would often stick clothing in their mouths to
muffle their screams. After this, he would choke them with a rope or a
board as he sexually assaulted them. Gacy would also keep the bodies
with him for as long as decomposition would allow.
The police had already gone back to the house to
search for more remains, mostly under the crawlspace. For the next four
months, more and more human remains emerged from the house, as reporters,
TV news crews, and astonished onlookers watched. Twenty-nine bodies were
found in Gacy's crawlspace and on his property between December 1978 and
The youngest identified victims were Samuel Stapleton
and Michael Marino, both 14 years old; the oldest were Russell Nelson
and James Mazzara, both 21 years old. Eight of the victims were so badly
decomposed that they were never identified. Robert Piest's body was
discovered on the banks of the Des Plaines River on April 9.
Trial and execution
On February 6, 1980, Gacy's trial began in Chicago.
During the trial, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. However,
this plea was rejected outright; Gacy's lawyer, Sam Amirante, said that
Gacy had moments of temporary insanity at the time of each individual
murder, but regained his sanity before and after to lure and dispose of
While on trial, Gacy joked that the only thing he was
guilty of was "running a cemetery without a license." At one point in
the trial, Gacy's defense also tried to claim that all 33 murders were
accidental deaths as part of erotic asphyxia, but the Cook County
Coroner countered this assertion with evidence that Gacy's claim was
impossible. Gacy had also made an earlier confession to police, and was
unable to have this evidence suppressed. He was found guilty on March 13
and sentenced to death.
On May 10, 1994, Gacy was executed at Stateville
Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, by lethal injection.
His last meal consisted of a dozen deep fried shrimp, a bucket of
original recipe chicken from KFC, a pound of fresh strawberries and
French fries. His execution was a minor media sensation, and large
crowds of people gathered for "execution parties" outside the
penitentiary, with numerous arrests for public intoxication, open
container violations, and disorderly conduct. Vendors sold Gacy-related
T-shirts and other merchandise, and the crowd cheered at the moment when
Gacy was pronounced dead.
According to reports, Gacy did not express remorse.
His last words to his lawyer in his cell were to the effect that killing
him would not bring anyone back, and it is reported his last words were
"kiss my ass," which he said to a correctional officer while he was
being sent to the execution chamber.
Before the execution began, the lethal chemicals
unexpectedly solidified, clogging the IV tube that led into Gacy's arm,
and prevented any further passage. Blinds covering the window through
which witnesses observed the execution were drawn, and the execution
team replaced the clogged tube with a new one. Ten minutes later, the
blinds were reopened and the execution resumed. It took 18 minutes to
Anesthesiologists blamed the problem on the
inexperience of prison officials who were conducting the execution,
saying that proper procedures taught in "IV 101" would have prevented
the error. This apparently led to Illinois' adoption of a different
method of lethal injection. On this subject, the chief prosecutor at
Gacy's trial, William Kunkle, said "He still got a much easier death
than any of his victims."
After his execution, Gacy's brain was removed. It is
currently in the possession of Dr. Helen Morrison, who interviewed Gacy
and other serial killers in an attempt to isolate common personality
traits of violent sociopaths; however, an examination of Gacy's brain
after his execution by the forensic psychiatrist hired by his lawyers
revealed no abnormalities.
Known Gacy victims, with date of disappearance.
Timothy McCoy, 18, January 3, 1972
John Butkovitch, 17, July 21, 1975
Darrell Sampson, 18, April 6, 1976
Randall Reffett, 15, May 14, 1976
Sam Stapleton, 14, May 14, 1976
Michael Bonnin, 17, June 3, 1976
William Carroll, 16, June 13, 1976
Rick Johnston, 17, August 6, 1976
Kenneth Parker, 16, October 25, 1976
Michael Marino, 14, October 25, 1976
Gregory Godzik, 17, December 12, 1976
John Szyc, 19, January 20, 1977
Jon Prestidge, 20, March 15, 1977
Matthew Bowman, 19, July 5, 1977
Robert Gilroy, 18, September 15, 1977
John Mowery, 19, September 25, 1977
Russell Nelson, 21, October 17, 1977
Robert Winch, 16, November 10, 1977
Tommy Boling, 20, November 18, 1977
David Talsma, 19, December 9, 1977
William Kindred, 19, February 16, 1978
Timothy O'Rourke, 20, June 1978
Frank Landingin, 19, November 4, 1978
James Mazzara, 21, November 24, 1978
Robert Piest, 15, December 11, 1978
Eight of Gacy's victims are still unidentified. It is
also believed that there may have been other victims never identified or
found who were buried at other locations.
The ninth unidentified victim, case file, 959UMIL was
identified in June 2007 as Timothy McCoy from Nebraska. McCoy was Gacy's
first known and identified victim.
Brian Dennehy starred as Gacy in the television film
To Catch a Killer, aired in
1992. The feature film Gacy, starring Mark Holton as John Gacy, was
Gacy as an artist
During his 14 years on death row, Gacy took up oil
painting, his favorite subject being portraits of clowns. He said he
used his clown act as an alter ego, once sardonically saying that "A
clown can get away with murder". His paintings included pictures of Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs and his fellow serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer
and Ed Gein. They are among the most famous examples of serial killer
Many of Gacy's paintings were sold at auction after
his execution. Nineteen were put up for sale, prices ranging from $195,
for an acrylic painting of a bird, to $9500 for a depiction of dwarfs
playing baseball against the Chicago Cubs. Some bought Gacy's paintings
to destroy them. A bonfire in Naperville, Illinois in June 1994 was
attended by 300 people, including family members of nine victims who
watched 25 of the paintings burn.
The privately owned National Museum of Crime &
Punishment exhibits two Gacy paintings including “Baseball Hall of Fame”,
signed by 46 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame including Duke Snider,
Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax,
Yogi Berra, and Roy Campanella. President Richard Nixon also signed the
work. All signers were unaware that Gacy was the artist.
John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
By Rachael Bell and Marilyn Bardsley
It is no surprise that John Wayne Gacy, Jr. 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 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.
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
During his hospital stay, Ringall reported the incident to the
police who were sceptical 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 Wayne 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 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 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, 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
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: Gacy was a
born salesman who could talk his way in and out of almost anything.
He 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, 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."
obvious that 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
In September 1964, 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.
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. Gacy 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.
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
However, 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 Gacys 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
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 amongst Jaycee members regarding Gacy’s sexual
preference. It seemed that young boys were always in Gacy’s presence.
Everyone heard the stories that 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 Gacy 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. 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. 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 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, Gacy pleaded guilty to the charge of
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
While in prison 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. Gacy went through difficult periods of depression after
his release from prison because he regretted never saying goodbye to his
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.
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.
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 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. Gacy was a free man once
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
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. Gacy knew the real and
more sinister cause for the stench and he kept the truth from everyone
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.
two that were attended by the most people were a luau theme party and a
Western theme party. Both were huge successes. Gacy thrived on the
attention he received from people who had either been to or heard of the
parties. He liked to feel important.
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.
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 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 Gacy hoped to make his
mark in the world. He had high aspirations and hoped to one day run for
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.
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, 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
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, 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 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. Gacy tried to trick the young man into handcuffs and
believing he was securely cuffed he began to undress the boy.
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
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 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 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
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.
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 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
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 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 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
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 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.
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. 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.
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 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
Around the time 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
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
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. 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 gravesite 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 gravesite.
Throughout the night and into the days that followed the digging
progressed under the watchful eye of Dr. Stein.
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
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.
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
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. 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.
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.
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 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
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.
If had been found insane, 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 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.
continued for the next several weeks, including that of friends and
neighbors of Gacy, police officers involved in the investigation and
arrest of Gacy, and psychologists who found Gacy sane during the
killings. Before the state rested. it had called some sixty witnesses to
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 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 Gacy was able to control
himself. Ringall didn't believe so, considering the savagery of Gacy's
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 Gacy sat by exhibiting no signs of
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 Gacy 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
Others who testified for the defense told of how 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 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 behaviour.
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 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 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
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.
silence was broken when the court clerk read, "We, the jury, find the
defendant, John Wayne Gacy, guilty..." Gacy 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." Gacy received the death penalty and was sent
to Menard Correctional Center where, after years of appeals, he
eventually was killed by lethal injection.
This feature story is primarily drawn from the Chicago Tribune and
the Chicago Sun-Times, plus the following books:
- Cahill, Tim, Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer
Linedecker, Clifford L., Man Who Killed Boys (St. Martin's Paperbacks,
Mendenhall, Harlan, Fall of the House of Gacy (Mass Market Paperbacks,
Sullivan, Terry and Peter T. Maiken, Killer Clown (Mass Market Paperback,
JOHNNY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE! (Four Visits to Serial Killer John Wayne
By Charles Nemo.
Just after midnight on May 10, 1994, American serial killer (1) John
Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection at the Stateville Prison in
Joliet, Illinois. Published accounts indicate that Gacy went stoically
to his death. (2) Although he generally denied responsibility for the
gruesome murders of 29 young men buried in the crawl space of his home (and
at least four more dumped into a nearby river) just outside Chicago, he
did make revealing comments during various audio and video interviews
that allow reasonable inference of more than passing knowledge of the
young lads’ untimely demise.
I visited Gacy four times on Death Row at Menard Correctional Center
in Chester, Illinois in 1993 and 1994. I also received dozens of letters,
postcards and collect calls from him. (3) These events turned out to be
the end of my long journey into "the heart of darkness", that mid-life
passage that all of us must make if we wish to evolve and mature, or at
least come to understand how things really are and adjust to them.
had begun almost 10 years earlier with the break-up of my long-term
marriage and some severe career disappointments in the form of
encounters with sociopathic clients and colleagues. (4) I survived those
challenges and managed to preserve some small hope for the human race
until my encounters with John Wayne Gacy and the criminal so-called "justice"
system. Then I could no longer ignore the truly grim realities of life.
Let me tell you how I approached this article. I began with the dry
historical information about Gacy’s life and alleged (5) crimes and the
details of how I came to visit him in the first place in order to get in
the mood for more brutal thinking. Then I wrote my conclusions. I had to
hit the key lessons from the encounter. Lastly I filled in the blanks
with my explanations of everything I felt I had learned. I’ve always
worked that way, believing that if you can’t state your conclusions
succinctly, then you really don’t understand the subject. I’ll leave it
to my readers to judge both my approach and the substance of my work.
Four Trips to Hell
I had the opportunity in to visit Gacy on Death Row (6) four times
during the last year of his life. I had had many sociopathic clients and
colleagues, but I was interested in meeting a real "bad ass" in order to
test my perceptive capabilities to the maximum. I was dating a so-called
"Riot Grrrl" (an ardent female fan of heavy metal music, who often
dressed in black clothes and combat boots) during that time who had come
to regard Gacy as a father figure (7) during several years of letters
and phone calls. She had the contact, and I had the cash, so we went
together for the first two visits in 1993. (8)
We broke up in January,
1994, and I traveled with two other women for the last two visits in
1994. All the women were luridly good-looking and eager for action,
which delighted Gacy and his inmate "bodyguard" (who always shared in
the visits), as well as the redneck prison guards. (9)
The drill was the same each time. My companion(s) and I would fly to
St. Louis on Saturday morning, shack up at the Embassy Suites on the
waterfront and "party hearty" on Saturday night. A nightclub called
Mississippi Nights across the street from the hotel always had good beer
and decent bands, some of them well-known groups such as Gwar. I always
drove a Cadillac, and after several hours at the club, we’d cruise the
dark night on both sides of the Mississippi River.
We made a number of
side trips to such places as heavily-black East St. Louis, where we saw
running mobs in the streets, and dozens of hookers linked up along the
curb outside seedy roadhouses (with apt names such as the Discreet
Hotel) waiting for anyone stupid enough to pick them up for an
The slaughterhouses just across the river from St.
Louis were also a grim attraction. Anything dealing with death and urban
decay was an object of fascination, but we were always safe from the
real lessons inside our locked luxury car. We typically ended our
Saturday-night fun with pizza and beer back at the hotel anywhere from 4
AM to 6 AM on Sunday morning. Sometimes there was hot, sweaty sex, and
we’d fall asleep exhausted.
Rising on Sunday afternoon, we’d play some more and then drive two
hours south to the gritty rural redneck town of Chester, Illinois. Its
only claims to fame are a statue honoring the creator of the Popeye
cartoon, a grim fortress for the criminally insane, and the Menard
Correctional Center. Motels were terrible during the first two visits,
but a new Best Western was completed in early 1994, and we were among
its first guests in its finest room, priced at a reasonable sixty
dollars and complete with a Jacuzzi hot tub.
There was nothing really
remarkable about our stays in Chester, except that my Riot Grrrl
companion nearly got me killed on the second trip when she got drunk and
tried to provoke a fight in Chester’s lone biker bar, but I was able to
talk both of us out of that. Cute little waitresses desperate for action
and attention would ask why we were in town and perk right up when we
told them. Women indeed love "bad boys", as I observed in an earlier
The Menard Correctional Center is a century-old brick maximum-security
monstrosity on the banks of the Mississippi River. Menard serves as one
of two Illinois death rows and is also a maximum-security prison for
several hundred other felons.
We had to be there early Monday morning
and could stay until 2:30 PM. Visitors pass through a guardhouse where
they must remove all metal items and store them in lockers. Shoes are x-rayed
and a quick patdown done before a guard accompanies the visitors through
a half dozen gates and iron doors to a cafeteria. A guard watches
closely while visitors buy food, cigarettes and snacks from vending
The goodies are stacked on trays which visitors carry through
another half dozen barriers to the death row visiting area, an air-conditioned
series of small rooms furnished with metal tables and chairs on either
side of a short corridor. There are no windows. An ominous sense of loss
hits you like a fist in the gut when you pass through so many barriers
and are told all the things you can’t do. (10) Even chewing gum is
Altogether I met with Gacy for almost 20 hours, at least half of it
being just the two of us in a room while the women met with Gacy’s
unofficial "bodyguard" (another death row inmate) in another room across
the hall. Unlike many prison meeting areas, there were no bars or
windows between Gacy and his visitors, although he was always in
A camera in one ceiling corner allowed guards in a room on
the other side of a barred gate to watch us. I never worried about Gacy
doing anything dangerous, although he once made the comment (as he
walked behind me and noticed me watching him very carefully) that he
could have broken my neck before guards would have been able to get
through the gate from their room down the hall where they watched the
television monitors. (11)
Gacy always brought documents from his legal proceedings and
explained them, together with the thick log book in which he had been
tracking his daily activities and visitors since his incarceration in
late 1978. He also brought small gifts such as prison-made cigarettes.
I particularly waited with eager anticipation for the paintings, which he
had done for me at nominal cost. I eventually ended up with four (12) of
my own, plus several (13) which I gave to women friends. Much of each
meeting was taken up with mundane conversations about life and
philosophy, and we always had lunch brought to us by guards -- a decent
salad, bread and butter, milk, and overcooked meat or fish.
always "pig out" on the snacks we brought; he had a real sweet tooth,
and the snacks were things he didn’t get elsewhere. We’d stay until
about 2 PM, have one of the guards take some Polaroid photos at a dollar
apiece (one of each pose for us and one for Gacy), and then dash madly
for the St. Louis airport for a late afternoon flight back home.
This gives you an idea of the structure of our trips. The last of the
four trips was the most remarkable. We saw him on Monday a week before
his execution and were his last visitors other than family and appellate
attorneys. He’d called and written more frequently in the last few weeks
and was plainly nervous, but still full of the old braggadocio. (14)
He talked vaguely about an unnamed donor who was going to give him half a
million dollars to fund another round of appeals. It all sounded
possible, but I when I saw him in person I knew he was just blowing
smoke. Ever the con artist, he almost had me convinced, but his
unhealthy, beet red complexion and copious sweating even in air
conditioning gave it all away. It was and always had been bullshit.
He was going down and damn well knew it. He knew I knew it too. I almost
felt sorry for him, but the looming image in my mind of his lifetime of
lies wouldn’t allow it. I listened quietly, shook his clammy hand when
it was time to leave, and said that it had been interesting to know him.
I said I wished him well, but both he and I sensed the insincerity of
everything. He called later in the week for a short chat, cocky as
always but definitely edgy, and then once more the weekend before his
execution to say good-bye, but luckily I wasn’t home to take the call.
Gacy’s Life (15)
In the few years before his December, 1978 arrest, John Wayne Gacy
killed at least 33 boys and young men and buried most of them in the
crawl space under his home near Chicago, Illinois. Gacy, a building
contractor, lured them to his home with prospects of employment and sex,
and then tortured them before killing them. He had an abusive father,
but there was little else in his background to portend such infamy. (16)
Born on March 17, 1942, he claimed his father was alcoholic and
frequently beat both him and his mother. John had an effeminate side and
could never seem to earn his father’s approval regardless of the efforts
he made. He dropped out of high school in his senior year and left home
for a short time, working in a mortuary in Las Vegas. He returned home
to attend a local business college and began selling shoes.
At the age
of 22, he married a woman whose father owned a chain of Kentucky Fried
Chicken restaurants in Waterloo, Iowa. Gacy became a successful manager
of his father-in-law’s business and a socially-active citizen. He joined
the local Jaycees (17) and held key offices and received numerous honors
as a Jaycee.
In 1968 he began a tortuous ten-year downward journey of criminality
that would culminate in his arrest as a serial killer. Although he
claimed to have been framed, he was sentenced to prison after pleading
guilty to molesting a teenager employed in the restaurant he managed.
His wife divorced him. Gacy was an exemplary prisoner and was paroled
after only 18 months, returning to Chicago to become a cook and later to
open a construction and remodeling business and become a small-time
His next arrest in 1971 involved a teenager’s accusation that Gacy
had tried to force him to engage in sex, but the charge was dismissed
when the youth failed to appear in court. He remarried but soon ceased
sexual relations with his wife. Gacy had become active in community
affairs as a Democratic precinct captain and as a clown ("Pogo" or
"Patches") at children’s parties and hospitals.
He hosted large parties
at his home for local dignitaries and neighbors. Gacy answered comments
by his wife and others about the peculiar smell in the home by saying
that there was a lot of dampness in the crawl space. In fact, he had
employed teenagers in his business and had them dig trenches in the
crawl space underneath his home.
Gacy had been sexually torturing to
death some of the young men who worked for him and others that he picked
up in downtown Chicago. He lured them by promising them money or
employment. One of his favorite routines was to persuade them to
participate in his "handcuff trick" in order to incapacitate them. He
would then chloroform them and sodomize them. This was followed by his
"rope trick" in which he would insert a rope around the victim’s neck,
insert a stick in the loop, and twist it slowly like a tourniquet until
the victim strangled to death. Gacy liked to read passages from the
Bible while doing this.
He buried most of his sexual victims in shallow graves in the crawl
space under the house, covered them with lime, and left them to
decompose. One potential victim was lured into Gacy’s black Oldsmobile
(complete with spotlight to look like an unmarked police car) on the
pretense of police questioning, handcuffed, abused sexually and then
released for unknown reasons. Enraged by liver damage caused by the
chloroform, the victim staked out freeway entrances until he spotted
Gacy’s car and then demanded action by authorities. Authorities declined
to prosecute Gacy because of lack of evidence.
Gacy’s undoing came in December, 1978 when he visited a pharmacy to
do a remodeling estimate, and lured away a 15-year-old boy whose mother
had dropped him off at the pharmacy to file a job application. Police
learned that Gacy had been there just before the boy’s disappearance and
began watching Gacy closely, especially after learning about his
previous molestation conviction.
A detective asked to use the bathroom
during a visit to Gacy’s home and smelled the telltale odor of
decomposition when the furnace fan kicked on. A search warrant led
promptly to the discovery of rotting corpses in the crawl space.
Nationally televised news reports showed heavily-garbed police workers
as they went about the grim task of collecting the remains.
Gacy is alleged to have confessed his crimes during interrogation and
even to have drawn a map of the bodies’ placement, but Gacy signed
nothing. He was convicted of murder and all appeals denied. Execution at
just after midnight on May 10, 1994 was greeted by a large, enthusiastic
crowd outside the prison, tempered by a small number of death penalty
protesters. Audio interviews recorded just after his arrest and aired
after his death were extremely incriminating, and video interviews in
the years just before his death showed him to be extremely callous.
Gacy the Man
Above all I was struck by the ordinariness of the man. He could be
anybody -- your neighbor, co-worker or friend, or even your father (he
had two children by two wives). He was somewhat short (5’8") and fat (well
over 200 lb.) with oily skin and greasy, dishwater hair streaked with
gray. He was jolly and likable -- perfect for the role he assumed in
clown suit and makeup as Pogo or Patches for entertaining at children’s
parties and visits to children’s hospital wards. His demeanor was good
enough to get him voted Jaycees Man of the Year, and a minor role in
Chicago politics that eventually led to his infamous photo shaking hands
with the wife of President Jimmy Carter.
Yet he was a habitual liar. (18) He steadfastly denied any guilt
during our early visits and was quite convincing in his many claims,
always presenting himself as a victim of one kind or another. (19) He
was extremely garrulous, though, and not nearly as intelligent as he
liked others to believe (20), which led inevitably to his being caught
in at least some of his lies. His average intelligence was reflected in
his art, which was colorful but as two-dimensional as he was.
crude and brutal about his bisexuality and other matters, and enjoyed
trying to shock people that he thought might disapprove of his
preference for boys and young men to satisfy his sexual appetites. (21)
His lack of sensitivity became particularly evident in a videotaped
interview that I saw after his death in which he made the claim, "The
only thing I’m guilty of is running an unlicensed cemetery" (referring
to the 29 bodies buried in the crawl space under his home and in his
These characteristics were not all immediately evident, and even
after listening and watching carefully for hours, I never would have
guessed he was a serial killer without being told.
In my younger years, untouched by the hard realities of life, I was
in favor of capital punishment -- "an eye for an eye" and all that sort
of thing. Four visits to John Wayne Gacy, coupled with extensive reading
about so-called criminal "justice", have changed my views. Why?
1. It costs much less on average to house, feed and clothe a murderer
for life than it does to go through the extended legal appeals. (22)
2. So why not just shortcut the appeals process? The answer is that
many innocent people are sent to Death Row. (23)
3. America seems to be producing more and more serial murderers and
other major felons. (24) Why not promise these people life in prison
under reasonable conditions in return for a promise of continued
co-operation as better tests for genetic and other defects are
developed? Let’s study the criminal profile scientifically (25) and do
what we can to prevent the development of serial killers, i.e., deal
with the cause of the problem to save much misery later on.
4. Capital punishment just doesn’t prevent crime. Most murderers and
serial killers in particular act in the heat of passion and/or honestly
believe they won’t get caught. (26) The thought of execution doesn’t
even enter their minds let alone worry them.
5. America claims to be a Christian nation. What happened to the
forgiveness we preach to others? Is our religion just another of
America’s many hypocrisies? (27)
There’s an old maxim about not judging a book by its cover. While
usually applied as an admonition against drawing unfavorable conclusions
too quickly, it has its dark flipside too. One need only note the
appalling daily media reports to realize the folly of being too
trusting. Perhaps any trust is too much, and parents groan as they
destroy their young children’s innocence by cautioning them with tales
of evil strangers. Ultimately we all become strangers to each other, and
the social fabric of trust that binds us together first frays and then
Gacy confirmed my lessons in the corporate world and life generally
that real evil usually is not flamboyant; it does its very best to hide
under a cover of respectability. (28) There are many actual and
potential Gacy’s, and we must always be on guard against them. (29) We
can’t like our neighbors if we can’t trust them; therefore, we have no
reason to do them good, and ultimately only a reason to hurt them as our
hardness deadens our sensitivity to pain.
This is the bitter, black legacy from John Wayne Gacy, and most of
all from our leaders who created the conditions that that spawned Gacy
and others like him. Our business, political, religious and military
leaders have failed us abysmally. (30)
I no longer believe in anything
but the inevitability of death and the need to have as much pleasure as
possible beforehand, with the proviso that I absolutely will not take
advantage of others along the way, and will help the truly helpless when
I can. The latter proviso is at least a matter of expedience, since I
have no desire to end up as Gacy did. It’s my own private moral
standard, but it’s the best I can manage. I don’t know if Hell exists,
but if it does then John Wayne Gacy surely must be there.
Fox, James Alan et al. Overkill -- Mass Murder & Serial Killing
Exposed (1994). Plenum Press, 233 Spring Street, New York, NY
Gacy, John Wayne. A Question of Doubt (1991). Craig Bowley
Consultants, P.O. Box 225, Times Square Station, New York, NY
10108-0225. This 216-page tome is Gacy’s version of events. It was
scheduled for publication in a limited edition of 500 copies at $250.00
each complete with deluxe binding, color photo of Gacy, and Gacy’s
autograph, but I do not know if it was ever published. I obtained a
proof copy from Gacy himself.
Hickey, Eric W. Serial Murderers and Their Victims (1991). Wadsworth
Publishing Company, 10 Davis Drive, Belmont, CA 94002.
Holmes, Ronald M. et al. Serial Murder
(1988). Sage Publications, Inc., 2111 West Hillcrest Drive, Newbury Park,
Kozenczak, Joseph et al. A Passing Acquaintance
(1992). Carlton Press, Inc., New York, NY. $12.95. Kozenczak was the
chief of police in Gacy’s home town of Des Plaines, Illinois and the man
responsible for bringing Gacy to justice.
Lester, Harold. Serial Killers - The Insatiable
Passion (1995). The Charles Press, P.O. Box 15715, Philadelphia, PA
Moore, W. John, "The Death Penalty’s Marathon Man".
The National Journal, December 18, 1993, p. 51.
Ressler, Robert K. et al. Whoever Fights Monsters
(1992). $22.95. St, Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
Sparks, James Arthur. A Case Study on John Wayne Gacy
(1996). The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. Thesis submitted for
M.S. in Criminal Justice.
Staton, Rick, ed. More Letters to Mr. Gacy (1992).
Myco Associates, P.O. Box 45888, Baton Rouge, IL 70895. $20.00. A sequel
to They Call Him Mr. Gacy, this book captures photocopies of several
hundred of the more interesting of thousands of letters to and from Gacy.
Sullivan, Terry. Killer Clown (1983). Windsor
Publishing Group, 475 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016. $4.99. Gacy
hated this book with a passion.
Taylor, Gary, "Fake Evidence Becomes Real Problem".
National Law Journal, October 9, 1995, p. A1.
Wallis, Claudia, "Medicine for the Soul". Time, July 11, 1994. p. 64.
Wertz, Marianna, "How Many Innocents Have Been Executed in the United
States?" The New Federalist, March 3, 1997, p. 11.
Wilkinson, Alec, "Conversations with a Killer". The New Yorker, April
18, 1994, p. 58.
1. A serial killer can be defined as someone who kills three or more
people with a "cooling off period" between killings. One definition of
the cooling off period is more than 30 days between the first and last
killing. Lester, p. 16.
2. Cable News Network, May 10, 1994.
3. Gacy was
a prolific writer, painter and raconteur. He claimed to have written
more than 10,000 letters during his 14 years on Death Row, as well as
completed more than 2,000 oil paintings, entertained hundreds of
visitors, made thousands of phone calls, and fielded dozens of
4. The only differences between white-collar criminals and
other kinds are that the former are richer and better educated. It’s
been estimated that 3% of all U.S. adult males are sociopaths. Fox et
al, p. 19. I’m convinced that a substantial number of these twisted
people become key executives by virtue of their enormous drive for power
and wealth. See footnote 16 for further definition of the term "sociopath".
5. Attorneys use the word "alleged" a lot even when the evidence of
their clients’ guilt is overwhelming, which exposes attorneys to the
ridicule and contempt of the general public, who have little use for the
concept of "innocent until proven guilty". One only need watch the
grotesque litany of endless American talk shows and sports broadcasts to
understand that the American equivalents of Roman bread and circuses are
welfare and mindless entertainment. Americans don’t care much about
ideas or ideals -- we just want to see blood!
6. August and October,
1993, and February and May, 1994. In fact, Gacy told me when he called
to say good-bye two days before his execution that we were his last
outside visitors except for his family and lawyers.
7. It has truly
amazed me to see the number of young (teens to late 20’s) Americans who
have sought paternal approval and affection from John Wayne Gacy,
Richard Ramirez and other well-known sociopaths and psychopaths.
Understandably, the criminals themselves groove on it totally. One of
our four visits to Gacy was shared with a small, skinny man in his mid-20’s
who had come all the way from California with his girlfriend to visit
Gacy because the visitor had never had any relationship with his real
father. Gacy had offered the young man advice and fatherly concern (and
gotten a blow job from him in a visiting room with a broken camera as
his girlfriend watched; we were visiting Gacy’s inmate "bodyguard" in
another room down the hall at the time). The young man confided in me
because I was dressed in black from head to toe, including a black linen
shirt, slacks and boots, and he believed that I was a priest because of
my dress -- in spite of my pierced ear and shoulder length hair! Gacy
later told me the same story without being asked, so it was probably
true, especially in view of the notoriously lax conditions in Illinois
prisons (see footnote 14).
8. Gacy required that a biographical
questionnaire be sent to him by every prospective visitor, and he had
one of his own that he sent as an example. Gacy liked to write letters
and make collect phone calls, and I received several dozen of each
during the year that I knew him. He was always brusquely optimistic and
chatty. At Christmas, 1993 he sent Christmas cards with a color photo of
him as Pogo or Patches the Clown, roles he had assumed as an entertainer
at children’s parties and in children’s hospital wards during the years
before he was tagged as America’s most prolific serial killer. The
letters and cards are now valuable collectors items, and there was a
scandal in the months before his death as it became widely known that
large sums of money were being sent to private accounts for his
paintings, other collectibles and even a John Wayne Gacy $1.99/minute
telephone "hot line". Ostensibly, the money was used for his legal
defense fund, but Gacy’s defense team was provided at public expense.
9. It also delighted the women. Let me put it bluntly: "bad boys" make
women wet! See, for example, Sheila Eisenberg’s Men Who Kill & the Women
Who Love Them. Sure, there are some women such as fundamentalist
Christians who want to castrate anything male, but these are the
exception rather than the rule.
10. Anyone who thinks seriously of
committing a crime, and not committing suicide if caught, should visit a
real prison. I was thinking recently about Charles Manson who was
convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to death (later commuted to life
in prison) for the Tate/LaBianca slayings shortly after I married my
first wife. In the quarter of a century since then, I’ve had several
wives and well over a hundred lovers, traveled and lived well, and
generally done what I pleased. Charlie has rotted in a small cell, been
the subject of several assassination attempts, and been deprived of
almost everything the rest of us take for granted, even his guitar. Can
any of us really conceive what that kind of misery must be like???
11. I thought of Robert Ressler’s spooky anecdote about his visit to infamous
6’9" 300 lb. California serial killer Edmund Kemper. Ressler reported
that after conclusion of his interview, he rang for the guard, who did
not come for a good 20 minutes because it was shift change time. Kemper
commented that he could have screwed Ressler’s head off and placed it on
the table to greet the guard. Ressler et al, p. 47.
12. He sold me a
graphic rendition of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein (model for Robert
Bloch’s Psycho) complete with realistic red paint splatters resembling
blood, and a colorful Charles Manson portrait. Gacy gave me a Hitler
caricature, and I bought a beautifully framed skull with bloody teeth (captioned
"Dahmer Skull") on black matte background at an exhibition of serial
13. These included a one-of-a-kind depiction of Russian
serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, as well as several of the Pogo oils for
which Gacy is best known, and a one-of-a-kind portrayal of cartoon
character Fred Flintstone.
14. "Hey, death row’s great -- death row’s a
fucking blast. I get cable t.v., I get phone access any time I want, I
get to paint, I get all these privileges and nobody fucks with me. On
the other hand, the general population [of the prison], that’s for fools
and animals. It’s a jungle out there, so you’re at the mercy of being
killed at any moment for anything, and some people just have time to
kill, they get petty." Letter from John Wayne Gacy. I had some doubt as
to the veracity of this claim at the time, but the infamous Richard
Speck video changed my mind. Speck, a Chicago mass murderer of eight
nurses, died in prison of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 1990. Five
years later a video made secretly while he was on death row was released.
It showed Speck, with pockmarked face and hormonally-enlarged breasts,
dressed in women’s panties and cavorting with a black inmate. The two
snorted what appeared to be cocaine through a rolled $100 bill and
engaged in various sex acts, all the while bragging about what a good
time they had been having. Subsequent public outrage led to a
significant crackdown on Illinois inmate freedom.
15. See the REFERENCES
at the end of this article for a detailed bibliography.
to laymen, the term "sociopath" is usually applied to serial murderers
like Gacy rather than a term such as "psychopath" that would indicate
less responsibility for their actions. Sociopathy is an "antisocial
character disorder" in which a person has a complete lack of empathy for
others. "Yet they are otherwise rational, logical, appropriate,
competent, even charming and persuasive." Holmes et al, p.66. Sociopaths
do exactly what they want to do without conscience or respect for the
rights of others. They can rise high in careers requiring ambition and
drive, such as business, the military, government or even religion. See
also footnotes 4 and 18.
17. In Gacy’s day, the Jaycees were a
charitable and social group of young men in their 20’s and 30’s,
typically ambitious, smooth-talking self-promoters climbing fast in the
business world. They organized "smokers" at which they played cards,
drank and smoked, watched porn videos, and planned their charitable
activities. It’s been claimed that they’ve "cleaned up their act"
following unfavorable publicity about their social activities.
18. Sociopaths often are intelligent and charming. A number of my clients
and colleagues have been quite convincing in their folksy, "Hi! How are
ya?" approaches. It may take years before one becomes aware of the evil
underneath the pleasant mask, especially when it’s further cloaked in
the rectitude of fundamentalist Christianity. In general, hypocrites and
other crooks "wear" religions like shit "wears" stink!!!
19. Gacy had
many plaintive woes that he described at great length to anyone who
would listen. For example, he claimed to have a congenital "bottleneck"
heart defect, but there is no such medical condition. He particularly
liked to say, "I’m the 34th victim." It was a mark of his lack of
imagination that he never changed his stories about such obvious
fallacies as the "bottleneck" heart even after he had been exposed in
various newspaper articles and books as a liar.
20. His claim of two
college degrees was also a lie.
21. He liked to say, "I’m a pitcher, not
a catcher." This meant that he took the dominant "top" role in his
22. "Millions Misspent, a 1992 report, said that
Texas has spent three times more on each death penalty case than it
spends to keep a convict in prison for 40 years." Moore, p. 51.
313 executions in the United States between 1970 and the end of 1995,
... one Death Row inmate is released because of innocence for every five
inmates executed." Wertz, p. 11. This fact, caused at least in part by
badly contaminated evidence (such as the unreliable lab reports and
Detective Mark Fuhrman’s perjury in the O.J. Simpson murder trial), is
just the tip of the iceberg of the flawed American criminal "justice"
system. See the detailed discussion of fake evidence in Taylor, p. A1.
24. Holmes et al, p. 21. Hickey, p. 131.
25. "According to a recent
report in Science, researchers have found discrete locations in the
brain of an intricate system that serves, among other things, as the
human moral compass. ... It is quite possible that some of history’s
greatest villains harbored an unseen wound...in the prefrontal cortex.
Such may be the condition of all psychopaths. ... And now...scientists
will know where to search for that hole. It is surely where they will
look when studying the brain -- donated to science -- of serial killer
John Wayne Gacy executed last May in Illinois. Suppose a...defect is
found? Will it seem fair to have executed the man if he was physically
incapable of moral judgment? ... If moral judgment can be broken, surely
the next step is to fix it." Time, July 11, 1994, p. 64.
26. Holmes et
al, p. 67.
27. See my article "Violence: the Sour Cherry in America’s
Pie" in EsoTerra #6.
28. Real evil comes into the open only in unusual circumstances or when
it finds safety in numbers, e.g., Pol Pot’s genocidal Communists in
Cambodia. I have a theory that American fundamentalist Christians are
about to show their real face of evil under the mask of patriotism and
29. One recent study estimates that there are 350
serial killers in America with an average of 10-12 victims per killer.
Holmes et al, pp. 20-21. I have seen other estimates ranging from 50 to
several thousand active serial killers.
30. See footnote 27.
John Wayne Gacy Jr.
John Wayne Gacy Jr., born in Chicago in 1942, was beaten and called a
"sissy" by his alcoholic father; and suffered a childhood head injury
that caused him to have periodic blackouts for years. He was a
restaurant manager in Iowa in 1968, when his arrest for sodomizing a
young male employee and paying to have a witness beaten for testifying
against him led to the breakup of his first marriage.
settled in a Chicago suburb and kept his homosexuality secret, narrowly
avoiding a 1971 sodomy rape charge when the victim failed to show in
court. Gacy was a community activist, a successful independent
contractor, a leader in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and Jaycee-elected
'Man of the Year." He entertained hospitalized children as Pogo the
Gacy began to torture and kill in 1972. His victims, all male, ranged
in age from nine to 27. Many were lured by promises of construction jobs,
offered liquor and, once drunk, were tied to a chair and chloroformed.
Each was violated, and those Gacy killed were usually buried in the
crawlspace beneath his home.
In 1978 Gacy's wife left him, in 1977 one
victim survived and reported Gacy to police, but they were slow to act
and only charged him with a misdemeanor. In late 1978, the mother of a
missing man told police her son had phoned to tell her he'd been offered
a job by Gacy. investigators found 28 bodies in the crawlspace and five
more corpses in a local river. Survivors then came forth to identify
In 1988, Gacy was sentenced to 21 life imprisonments and 12 death
sentences. Alternately denying his guilt and attributing his crimes to
childhood atrocities, he paints clown portraits in jail.
Gacy Killed Dozens, and Maybe Was Good for More Than
By Terry H. Burns - Suburban Chicago News
Chicago -- Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was convicted of
systematically murdering 33 young men and boys from the early to late
1970's. No one in this country ever has been convicted of killing so
many people. Is it beyond reason to believe that America's most horrific
killer might has murdered other? "I personally believe he killed a lot
more than 33 people," said Joseph Kozenczak, a former Des Plaines police
detective who headed the Gacy investigation. "I thin there are other
victims out there, but we might never know," he added.
Part of the problem is that Gacy at first admitted to his role in the
killings, but since has denied his part in all but one. The killing,
Gacy told authorities, involved a boy he picked up at a bus station and
murdered after the teen-ager come after him with a kitchen knife. That
boy was one of 27 later found buried in the crawl space under Gacy's
Norwood Park Township home near Des Plaines, IL. "I think there are
missing kids out there, and no one has ever tried to link them to Gacy,"
said Terry Sullivan, one of several former Gacy prosecutors.
Even 14 years after the fact, Sullivan admits that the most
frustrating aspects of the case are its "enormity" and "probably never
knowing whether there were any more victims out there." "There's a real
possibility there are," he added. Others are reluctant to link Gacy to
other murders. "I don't think it would fit his pattern," said Steven
Egger, professor of criminal justice at Sangamon State University and an
expert on serial killers. "He started killing when he got to Chicago
because he had a base and a comfort zone, his home," Egger said.
Although he insists that Gacy's killings were confined to the Chicago
area, Egger admits that it's not "beyond the realm of possibility" that
other victims exist. Other officials contend that more victims might
exist because Gacy lived and worked in various cities across the country
before settling down in the Chicago suburbs.
Gacy not only lived in Iowa -- where he served a prison sentence for
sodomy -- but spent a brief time in Springfield and several East Coast
cities. "Serial killers always travel a lot, and I can't see where Gacy
would be the exception," Kozenczak added. Especially intriguing to
prosecutors and investigators was a large United States map discovered
in a room that Gacy used as an office in his suburban home.
The map was littered with colored pins showing the towns were Gacy
had lived or worked through the years. "There were pins all over the
place," recalled Robert Ressler, former head of the FBI's Violent
Criminal Apprehension Program and an expert on serial killers. Although
Ressler said that, during his conversations with Gacy, the accused
killer has denied any link between the map and other killings, "I think
Gacy's good for more than 33."
Gacy meets death at midnight
Execution: Unless last-minute
appeals succeed, the killer of 33 will meet a drug-induced death
Terry H. Burns - Suburban Chicago News
Joliet -- Time is quickly running out for convicted
serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Instead of measuring his life in terms of
weeks or years, the 52-year-old Gacy has only a matter of hours. Unless
last-minute appeals forestall the inevitable, the former building
contractor who killed 33 young men and boys has a date with the
In addition, the tile walls have been covered with
reinforced steel plating "to prevent any escape," said Nic Howell, an
Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman. Gacy will be watched
around the clock by a correctional officer sitting at a desk directly
across from his cell. From inside his cell, Gacy should be able to see a
small enclosed courtyard that at one time was used as a basketball court
by death row inmates. "It all depends on his attitude, but he will be
allowed (into the courtyard) for some fresh air. We'll be as cooperative
as we can," Howell said.
Gacy's last day - On his final day, Gacy will be
allowed the customary visits from family and friends and, of course, his
last meal. At about 9 p.m., any family or friends will be asked to leave,
but Gacy can spend the next few hours with a minister "if that's what he
chooses," Howell added.
At about 11 p.m., the final preparations begin, and
Gacy will be offered a sedative, something Walker refused. Then, at
exactly 12:01 a.m., the serial killer will be taken from his cell,
strapped onto a gurney and given an intravenous saline solution in his
arm. Ironically, one of the last things Gacy will see as he's wheeled
into the death chamber is an exit sign hanging over the door. Once in
the chamber, the saline tube is removed and replaced by an intravenous
line running to the drug-filled syringes in the "delivery module"
attached to the wall.
Although corrections officials contend that they "have
a handle" on carrying out the procedure, Gacy's attorneys say the lethal-injection
machine in prone to malfunction. As part of their appeal, attorney John
Greenlees said state prison officials botched the 1990 Walker execution
when an intravenous line carrying the deadly chemicals developed a kink.
Instead of dying quickly and painlessly, "it appears highly likely that
Mr. Walker was literally tortured to death," he said. Prison officials
dispute that charge. "I was there, and 27 or 28 others were in the room,
and nobody said boo about anything going wrong," Howell said. "Obviously,
the system worked, because Charles (Walker) is no longer with us," he
The execution - As for Gacy, once his arms are cuffed
at the wrists, and restraints fastened around his waist and upper chest,
a white sheet will be placed over him to cover everything but his head.
The two executioners -- chosen by corrections Director Howard Peters III
-- stand behind a one-way mirror just above Gacy's head. From behind the
glass, the execution team can see Gacy's feet, but not his face. At a
few minutes after midnight, Warden Sal Godinez will give Gacy a chance
to say any last words, and then signal the executioners to
simultaneously push buttons on a small machine that starts the flow of
lethal drugs. Although there are two executioners, the machine randomly
selects the one who actually triggers the drugs.
Three drugs will be administered in 30-second to one-minute
intervals -- sodium pentathol, an anesthetic; pancuronium bromide, to
paralyze the respiratory system; and potassium chloride, to stop the
heart. If all goes as planned, Gacy should be pronounced dead within 10
to 15 minutes.
The Wacky World of Murder
JOHN WAYNE GACY - BORN : March, 1942 - VICTIMS : 33
I'm sure that you all know what Gacy did, if not then
here's a brief summary: Gacy was a hypocondriac - in childhood he was
hit in the head with a swing, and had a blood-clot on the brain, once
this was removed he seemed to just invent any illness so people would
pay attention. This little habit never seemed to leave him in later life.
(He seemed to develop a heart problem anytime he was in danger)
He graduated business college and went on to marry
into a wealthy family, taking over the management of the families
chicken restaurant. John became a well known and liked member of the
community, and his arrest in 1968, on a charge of attempting to coerce a
male employee into homosexual acts came as a big suprise to everyone,
especially his wife. Gacy didn't really want to go to trial so he paid
for the young male to be beaten. All this did was cause more trouble and
he had more charges laid against him. In the end Gacy pled guilty to
sodomy and recieved 10 years in prison. Since he was such a model
prisoner he was paroled in only eighteen months. Needless to say his
wife divorced him while he was inside.
Gacy moved to Chicago where he set up as a building
contractor. Once again he turned out to be a great success at his chosen
profession. Gacy remarried and moved into a very upmarket neighborhood.
He became active in politics, working for the Democrats (he even had his
picture taken with First Lady Rosalyn Carter), and also performed for
sick children as 'Pogo the Clown'.
Gacy ran into trouble with the police again in
February, 1971 when he was charged with the attempted rape of a young
man. This charge was dropped as the victim never appeared in court at
Gacy's hearing and the charges were dropped. On October 18, 1971, Gacy
had his probation officially discharged. Less than three months later
Gacy killed for the first time. Gacy picked up the unidentified young
man at a bus terminal and took him for a drive he would never return
from. What Gacy did to his victims has never actually been clear, but it
is known they were tortured rather violently, usually raped repeatedly,
then shown the 'rope trick'. The 'rope trick' was strangulation.
Gacy went on killing young men almost at will for
seven years, burying them in the crawlspace under his house. Gacy made
up a story about sewer problems as the smell from the crawl space began
to get worse, and it seems everyone believed him The beginning of the
end came for Gacy's on December 12, 1978. He picked up Robert Piest at a
pharmacy where Piest worked. Gacy fed him a line about a better job and
Piest fell for it, accompanying Gacy back to his house. The next time
anyone would see Piest he was a bloated corpse.
As Gacy was the last person seen with Piest police
decided to check him out, and as he had previous arrests for shagging
young men, he made a great suspect. The police went to interview Gacy at
his house and with the stench of 28 corpse wafting up into the house it
didn't take to long for them to realize what was under the house, but
they had no way of getting down there to check. Once the police had
decided Gacy was there man they basically hassled the poor bastard into
screwing up, and once they had the evidence they needed Gacy was
John made a full confession, admitting there were 28
bodies under his house and garage and that he had dumped another five in
a local river. After arrest Gacy tried feigning insanity, pretending he
had another personality, Jack, who did all the evil shit. Then, once
Jack failed, he tried to say he was forced into a confession and, in
fact, it was a conspiracy by three other people who did all the killing
and then set him up. POOR BABY.
While in prison Gacy did hundreds of paintings that
were bought by everyone from Hollywood stars to the average guy. It
became something of a trend to own one. Gacy was executed on May 10,
1994, by leathal injection.
Illinois Death Penalty.com
John Wayne Gacy, 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 bodies
of most of the victims were unearthed in the crawl space under Gacy's
brick bungalow in an unincorporated area known as Norwood Park northwest
of Chicago. Gacy, a self-employed contractor, had moved to Norwood Park
in 1971 when he was paroled after serving 3 years of a 10-year sentence
in Iowa for sodomy of a male teenager.
On December 11, 1978, a 15-year-old Des Plaines high
school sophomore, Robert Piest, disappeared shortly after leaving work
at a pharmacy where Gacy had recently completed a remodeling job. The
youth's mother had come to drive him home, but he asked her to wait a
few minutes while he went to talk to a man about a job. The boy did not
When routine checking of Gacy's background turned up his Iowa
criminal record, Des Plaines police put him under surveillance. After
additional investigation revealed that two teenage employees of Gacy,
Gregory Godzik and John Butkovich, also had recently disappeared, the
police obtained a search warrant for Gacy's home. A roll of film was
seized in the ensuing search, and it was soon determined that it
belonged to the Piest boy.
At this point, the Cook County Sheriff's Police
obtained a second search warrant. When they executed it the night of
December 21, they found three lime-covered bodies in the crawl space.
According to Cook County Sheriff Richard J. Elrod, Gacy pointed officers
to the precise locations of certain bodies in the crawl space and stated
that he had lured the victims to his home, either expressly for sex or
through the promise of employment, and then strangled them.
22, the day after the first bodies were discovered, Gacy was charged
with the Piest murder. In the days that followed, 28 additional bodies
were exhumed from the crawl space and Piest's body was found in a river
where Gacy had dumped it. Eventually, Gacy was charged with and
convicted of all 33 murders. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Louis B.
Garippo sentenced Gacy to death for 12 of those murders and to natural
life in prison for the others. Gacy also found guilty of one count of
deviate sexual assault and one count of indecent liberties with a child.
Gacy's execution followed by four years the execution
of Charles Walker, who had abandoned his appeals and became first person
to be executed in Illinois after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital
punishment to be resumed in 1976 after a 4-year hiatus (Gregg v.
Georgia, 428 U.S. 153). Gacy was the first to be involuntarily executed.
Received in the mail on the day of his EXECUTION!
This interview I got from an American fanzine, and it
is said to be his last interview. It was received by the author at the
same day Gacy was executed, in the words of himself (the author): "I
received his response to my questions in the mail only 6 hours before
his death, when I got home from my job at 6:30 PM". I'm sorry I
can't say you the name of author and fanzine that it was published (I've
lost the whole mag ...)...
Please give a short biography of yourself:
Full name: John Wayne Michael Gacy
Date Of Birth: 5-17-42
Height; weight: 5'9" 220 lbs
Marital Status: twice divorced
Family: 2 sisters, 5 children
Few people know that you were actively involved in
many civic and charitable organizations and that you received several
commendations before your arrest. What is your most treasured honor?
Being voted THE JAYCEE's "MAN OF THE YEAR"
in 3 different cities.
Please Describe the traits in man/woman that you find
man- Bright, bold, honest, dependable and someone that
says what they are thinking.
Woman- independent, thinker, self starter, and someone
that has a mind of their own.
Who were your childhood heroes, and who do you
J.F.Kennedy and R.J.Daley were my early heroes. Two
people I currently admire now are Mario Cuomo and Donald Trump.
What are your favorite TV shows and movies?
Unsolved Mysteries and Nacional Geographic specials.
As far as movies: Önce Upon A Time In America", "Good Fellas"
and "The Ten Commandments".
What are your favorite bands-musicians/songs/ and
Musicians - Elton John, Zamfir, Reo-Speedwagon.
Songs - "Amazing Grace" and "Send In
The Clowns". (ironic?)
Singers - Sha na na, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Roy
Orbison and Neil Diamond.
What are some of your hobbies?
Correspondance, oil painting, and the study of human
Can you give us some book recomendations; and what
were the last few books you've read?
"The Texas Connection" and "A Question
Of Doubt". The last books that I read were: "Naked Lunch"
and "Wild Boys" by Williams S.Burroughs.
What is something about you that very few people know
Almost no one seems to realize that I'm a character
that loves to tease and joke around.
What is your biggest regret in life?
Being so trusting and guilible, or just plain being
taken advantage of! (I bet the 28 men found under your house and the 5
at the river feel exact same way! - ED.)
If things had turned out out completely different in
your life and you were in a position of power such as the President;
what would be your 1st objective?
I'd make sure that the people in this country had jobs
and a place to live before worrying about other countries and their
What kind of advice would you have for children and
Be yourself, think positive and respect their parents.
(And avoid serial killers at all costs?-ED)
What are some things that you don't like about people
and what are your "pet peeves"?
I don't like phonies and people that don't keep their
word. I dislike people who say they will do something that they have no
intention of doing.
What is your biggest fear in life?
Dying before I have a chance to clear my name with the
Do you have any supertitions?
None at all; they are for negative people.
What do your friendslike about you the most?
The fact that I'm outspoken and honest, fun loving,
If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
I would like to meet MICHELANGELO and LEONARD DA VINCI.
What are your personal goals for the future?
To see that my children are provided for.
How do you view yourself personally?
I think of myself as a positive thinker, a self stater,
open minded and non-judgemental.
What are your political views and what do you think
about this country?
I am a semi-liberal democrat but I don't think that
either party has all the answers. This country would be great if people
would work for it; instead of against it by pointing fingers at others.
Our problems take all races to make it better.
What do you think about all the crime that we have
There's too much political corruption and the allowed
drugs by the government has off-set the balance of judicial reform and
Do you think that drugs should be legalized?
I hink they should make some legal to avoid crime but
block the rest from the country.
What are your views on sex?
I consider myself liberal; but WITH VALUES. Whatever
that will of consenting adults who are in control of their own well
being, and lives.
What do you expect from friends?
I want them to be light hearted, fun loving,
dependable, honest and someone who is with you through thick and thin;
but they expect nothing in return.
Do you have any religious beliefs?
My faith is in God but I think that churches need to
work on the family units.
What are your artistic interests?
To please myself and hope that my expression is
enjoyable to others with bold and brightness of colors. Art; as in life;
is a journey and not a destination. If you don't like it then you need
to move on. Just like music to the ear, or food to the smell and taste.
The following questions are the ones that John Wayne
Gacy didn't answer:
1) Besides the negative comments that the history books
might say about you; it certainly can't be said that you were failure in
the world of enterprise! Why were you so sucessful in the many business
ventures that you embarked upon in your life? Was it hard work, good
fortune, connections with helpful persons, or was it some other
2) I am amazed at all things you have going on from
prison! The paintings that you have for sale and the phone line that
people can call (for a fee per minute) to hear a recording of you
discussing the legal aspects of your case. How did you manage to set
these things up and does the anti-profiteering law affect you?(a law
that prevents convicted criminals from earning any moneyfrom the
notoriety of their crimes) If it does; who keeps the money earned from
3) I know you express your creative side and vent your
frustrations through your artwork and paintings but these pieces are
selling for amounts out of proportion with your level of ability. I
believe this is due to your notoriety and your "colorful" past;
very much like VINCENT VAN GOGH. Do you agree and is it just another
"good business opportunity"?
4) I know of at least 3 biographies and a movie made
about your life. Besides the fact you are portrayed as guilty of the
crimes that you claim you are innocent of; which is the most accurate
about the events that led up to the controversy?
5) Please tell about your meeting with G.G.ALLIN! Do
you think he was insane or mentally ill? Was he putting on an act or was
6) I'll never forget the day you were arrested! It made
the national news for weeks and created quite a stir. Many things I have
read about that period in your life statted that your abuse of several
substances caused you to be in a "narcotic haze" or "diminished
state of conciouusness" which prevented you from being able to
remember any the events of that time. Has the effects of being removed
from these intoxicants "cleared up the clouds" in your memory
and allowed you to remember the truth more clearly now?
7) Would you say that your dad's unreasonable
expectations for you created your endless drive to suceed in business?
8) Describe the events of your meeting with President
Carter and his wife, the mayor of Chicago and other proeminent citizens
you have met. Didi you ever meet Harlan Sanders when you worked for
Kentucky Fried Chicken?
9) Do you see any symbolism in the fact that a clown
can be anyone behind the mask that he paints over his face?
10) Have you met any other "well known"
convicted murders or has the subject held any fascination for you? How
do you feel about the fact that in history your name will be placed
alonside Fish, Gein, Bundy, Lucas, and Dahmer?
11) Do you fear death and do you believe in a final
judgememnt? Will you be vindicated in the afterlife?
12) Would you agree with the saying that: "You're
never more alive than when you're at the edge of death"?
Name: John Wayne Gacy
RECORD: 1968: sexual abuse of a boy in Iowa (sentence:
1972: molestation of a gay
1978: 33 murders on boys in the age of 15 - 20 (dead-penalty)
Gacy claims to be abused on the age of 5 by a female
teenager and on the age of 8 by a man. After his father came home from
work he often went to the basement and started drinking. When it was
dinner time, he came up, was pissed and started beating up his wife and
children. (that probably was the reason why he buried his victims in the
basement) Gacy worked several years for his uncle in a Fried Chicken
Restaurant where he took advantage of his position and had sex to
several employees. He sometimes offered them sex with his first wife
after having oral sex with Gacy.
After he was sent to jail for ten years in 1968 he was
released in 1970 on good behaviour.
He moved to Chicago and claims to
commited his first murder in 1972 when he picked up a boy, had sex with
him and (as Gacy claims) the next morning the boy tried to attack him
with a knife. He got hold of the knife, killed the boy and buried him
under his garage. When the smell became too bad he covered the body with
The second murder was somewhere between 1972 and 1975 when he
worgened a boy and also buried him in his basement. After he was
divorced of his second wife in 1976 the lust for murdering became more
intense and killed almost every month. He took them home and filled with
alchoolics and drugs. After that he started to watch movies with'em and
then offered to show'em his handcuff trick. After he had handcuffed them
he often worgened them. After he had kidnapped and killed more the
tortures became more serious and intense: he sometimes almost drowned'em
and then had sex with'em or he put a plastic bag over their head so they
almost stiched.When his handcuff trick had succedded he said he had
another trick: the rope trick. He did the rope around the victim's neck
and putted a stick between it and slowly turned it that long that the
victim stiched. Gacy used to kidnap kids who didn't have a definite
place to stay so they weren't missed for a long time, but when he wasn't
even suspected from murdering them he became more brutal and picked them
from the street in his neighbourhood where everybody could see it. That
was his worst mistake.
On December 11th 1978 he kidnapped Robert Piest
after he has had an application conversation with him in front of the
drug store. The kid's mother became worried when he didn't return and
called the police. Gacy's house was searched, but they couldn't find any
evidence. (Robert's body was hidden on the garret!!) Later Gacy told
about the young man who attacked him and whom he had killed and pointed
the place where he had buried him. Then they also found a trapdoor to
the basement where they found three other which were decaying... Later
they had found 29 bodies and parts of it under his house and Gacy
confessed he had thrown 4 other people in the Des Plain river. Gacy
confessed the murders and said he wanted to liberate the world fromyoung
pain in the asses and faggots. Later on he told that there were other
people who had a key of his fron door and that they also murdered some
of the bodies... Until today that hasn't been proved. (the author of
this text claims getting mostly inspiration from "Who ever fights
monsters" from Robert K. Ressler.)
Boy Killer: John Wayne Gacy
By David Lohr
Not many people who knew him would have
suspected that John Wayne Gacy, a respected member of the Junior Chamber
of Commerce in Des Plaines, Ill., a performing clown at neighborhood
children's parties, a precinct captain in the local Democratic party,
and the owner of his own contracting business would come to be known as
one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history.
Nor would his childhood in any particular
way set off red flags that a monster was in the making. Gacy, a middle
child, was born in Chicago in 1942 into a blue-collar family. He had two
sisters, one two years older and the other two years younger. According
to the book Killer Clown, by Terry Sullivan and Peter Maiken,
Gacy seemed to have a regular childhood with the exception of his
turbulent relationship with his father, John Wayne Gacy Sr. The authors
describe the father as an unpleasant, abusive alcoholic prone to
physically and verbally assaulting his children. The authors describe
Gacy as deeply loving his father and wanting desperately to gain his
approval and attention, but failing to win him over.
According to the book The Man Who
Killed Boys by Clifford L. Lindecker, Gacy was struck in the head
with a playground swing when he was 11 years old. He suffered from
blackouts until the age of 16, when a doctor diagnosed him with a blood
clot on the brain and corrected the condition with medication.
After attending four high schools during
his senior year and never graduating, Gacy dropped out of school and
left Chicago for Las Vegas. While there, he worked part time as a
janitor for Palm Mortuary. Unhappy in Vegas, he returned to Chicago a
few months later.
During the early 1960s, Gacy enrolled in
a business college and developed a talent for salesmanship. A natural
salesman, he could talk his way in and out of practically any situation.
Upon graduating, he went to work as a management trainee at Nunn Bush
Shoe Co in downtown Chicago. He excelled in his position and within
weeks was transferred to Springfield, Ill., to manage a mens clothing
outlet for the company, where he remained employed for nearly a year.
In 1964, Gacy married Marilyn Myer, a
co-worker. Shortly after the wedding, the newlyweds relocated to her
hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Marilyns father prompted the move by
offering Gacy a position in the familys chicken restaurant. A year
later, Gacy's father died in Chicago.
In 1966, at the request of his
father-in-law, Gacy took over management of the familys chicken
restaurant. Gacy became a well-known and liked member of the community,
according to later accounts in the Waterloo Courier.
But all was not well with Gacy. The
future serial killer would be arrested for the first time in 1968. The
felony charge -- attempting to coerce a male employee into homosexual
acts -- came as a big surprise to those who thought they knew this
likable father of two toddlers, especially his wife of four years. Gacy
pled guilty to sodomy and was sentenced to 10 years in Iowas State Mens
Reformatory in Anamosa. His wife filed for divorce following the
sentencing. Angered, Gacy informed her he did not want to see his
children again and would henceforth consider her and the two kids dead.
After serving 18 months, Gacy was paroled
on Oct. 18, 1971 and returned to Chicago. Unknown to his parole officer,
Gacy was arrested by Chicago police on Feb. 12 -- eight months after his
release from prison -- and charged with attempted rape and disorderly
conduct. A gay youth had complained to authorities that Gacy had picked
him up at the Greyhound station in downtown Chicago. He told police that
Gacy took him back to his house and attempted to have sex with him.
However, the charges were dropped when the boy failed to appear in court
for the hearing.
Shortly after returning to Chicago, Gacy
went to work as a construction contractor. Three years later, in 1975,
he started his own construction business, PDM Contractors. That July he
remarried a recently divorced woman he had met through mutual friends
and, with financial assistance from his mother, moved into a house in
Des Plaines, a middle-class Chicago suburb.
Gacy had a talent for business. According
to the Des Plaines Journal, he was known by local merchants as a
sharp businessman. He often gained contracts by undercutting his
competitors' bids. He was able to cut costs by hiring on a number of
teenage boys. (At least five of these boys became his victims.) His
Gacy spent part of his leisure time
hosting elaborate street parties for friends and neighbors, dressing as
a clown, and entertaining children at local hospitals. He also immersed
himself in organizations such as the Jaycees and the local Democratic
party. As a Democratic precinct captain he once had his picture taken
with First Lady Rosalyn Carter.
Gacys second wife divorced him in March
of 1976. According to accounts in Harlan Mendenhalls book, Fall of
the House of Gacy, she felt she could no longer cope with the
marriage due to her husband's unpredictable moods and bizarre obsession
with homosexual magazines. The couple did not have children.
On Dec. 12, 1978, the police again
focused their attention on John Wayne Gacy. Robert Piest, a teenage
stock boy at a Nisson Pharmacy in Des Plaines, had come up missing. Gacy
was the last person seen with the boy prior to his disappearance. When
investigators ran a background check on Gacy, they were surprised to
discover that he had previously served time for committing sodomy on a
teenage boy. With this incriminating information, investigators were
able to obtain a warrant to search Gacys house.
During the execution of the warrant,
investigators entered a crawl space located beneath the home. A rancid
odor was quickly noticed. The smell was believed to be faulty sewage
lines and was dismissed. Without any noticeable incriminating evidence,
investigators returned to headquarters to run tests on the evidence they
During a review of the items confiscated
from Gacys house, investigators soon realized that they had unknowingly
seized a piece of critical evidence. One of the rings found at Gacys
house belonged to another teenager who had disappeared a year earlier.
They also discovered that a receipt for a roll of film found at Gacys
home had belonged to a co-worker of Robert Piest who had given it to
Robert the day of his disappearance.
With this new information, investigators
began to realize the possible enormity of the case that was unfolding
before them. Following the discovery of their new information, it was
not long before investigators were able to obtain a second search
warrant for Gacys home.
On Dec. 22, 1978, Gacy, realizing that
his dark secrets were about to be exposed, went to the police to
confess. Shortly into the confessions, Gacy waived his Miranda rights
and told detectives, ''There are four Johns.'' He later explained that
there was John the contractor, John the clown, and John the politician.
The fourth person went by the name of Jack Hanley. Jack was the killer
and did all the evil things.
According to accounts in Killer Clown,
Gacy informed investigators that his first killing took place in January
1972, and the second two years later in January 1974. He further
confessed that he lured his victims into being handcuffed. Gacy would
tell his victim that he wanted to show him a "pair of trick
handcuffs" he used in his clown act, claiming there was a special
way to unlock the cuffs and daring the youth to break out of them. Once
the youth was securely manacled, he would kill him 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
Gacy went on to make voluntary
confessions to over two dozen murders, although he couldn't answer all
the questions posed by the police, often responding, ''You'll have to
ask Jack that.'' He also drew them a detailed map to the locations of 28
shallow graves under his house and garage. Further he admitted to
dumping five other victims into the Des Plaines River.
Less than an hour after the initial dig
at Gacys house began, investigators discovered the first body in a crawl
space under the home. As the days and weeks passed, the body count grew.
So did the media coverage, exponentially. The macabre excavations at
Gacy's modest home in Des Plaines led the national news night after
night. The house itself became almost as familiar to American and
foreign viewing audiences as The White House.
The details of the dig were riveting.
Some of the victims had been buried so close together that police
believed they were probably killed or buried at the same time. By the
end of January, police and construction crews had gutted the entire
house and exhumed twenty-seven bodies. The search had taken longer than
expected due to the frozen ground and the winter cold.
During this time, four bodies that had
been discovered in the Des Plaines River were linked to Gacy by drivers
licenses and other personal items found in his home.
While the identities of the 32 victims
began to surface, investigators discovered that all of the victims were
young men ranging from their early teens to mid-twenties. While most
were male prostitutes known to solicit at "Bunghouse Square"
in Chicago, some were young boys who simply disappeared for no apparent
reason, and at least five were employees of PDM Contracting at one point
Surprisingly, the excavations and the
dragging of the river did not turn up the corpse of Robert Piest.
As the search for bodies came to and end,
two young men, Robert Donnelly and Jeff Rignall came forward and spoke
to investigators. The youths both felt extremely lucky to be alive and
their stories were startlingly similar in detail even though their run
ins with Gacy happened on different days. Each claimed that sometime in
December of 1977, he had been abducted at gunpoint by Gacy,
chloroformed, tortured, whipped and raped. For reasons only know to Gacy
himself, both youths were spared their lives. Whether it was fear or
embarrassment, neither youth had wished to pursue the matter directly
after it had occurred.
Finally in April 1979, the remains of
Robert Piest were discovered along the Illinois River. An autopsy later
determined that he had died as a result of suffocation. Gacy was charged
with his death.
Gacys murder trial began Feb. 6, 1980 in
the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. During the
five-week trial the prosecution and the defense called more than 100
witnesses to testify. The defense strategy was to establish that Gacy
was insane and out of control at the time of the killings. To bolster
this claim the defense put on the stand psychiatrists who had
interviewed Gacy prior to trial. The prosecution, on the other hand,
vigorously opposed the notion that Gacy was insane, contending that his
claim of multiple personalities was a death-penalty dodge.
The jury clearly sided with the
prosecution's version. It deliberated for only two hours before finding
Gacy guilty of murdering 33 people.
On March 13, 1980, Gacy was sentenced to
die. He was sent to Menard Correctional Center in Illinois. He would
remain there for just over 14 years until he was transported to the
Statesville Penitentiary near Joliet for execution.
On May 9, 1994, Gacy sat down for
his last meal: fried chicken, French fries, Coke and strawberry
shortcake. Prison officials later described his demeanor as ''chatty...
talking up a storm.'' In a phone interview shortly before his execution,
he told a Knight-Tribune reporter, ''There's been 11 hardback
books on me, 31 paperbacks, two screenplays, one movie, one off-Broadway
play, five songs, and over 5,000 articles. What can I say about it?''
But of course, he quickly protested, ''I have no ego for any of this
Just after midnight on May 10, 1994, Gacy
was executed by lethal injection. For his last words, Gacy snarled,
''Kiss my ass.''
John Wayne Gacy Confesses ONLY to
In 1978 when the then world's worst
serial killer, Illinois' John Wayne Gacy was first captured, I was just
22. Serial killers and their methods weren't really well known then and
I was hoping with John Gacy's arrest, that the world would finally learn
a lot more of the "whys" --- why these people choose to kill, why they
do the horrible things they do without regards to the feelings of others,
and how they truly think. I was to wait in vain to learn anything of
value about John Wayne Gacy from either the media or law enforcement.
The world waited in vain. Even after Gacy's May, 1994 execution few new
details came out at all. Police said Gacy wouldn't talk, fiegning mental
illness in the form of a dual or split personality.
Sadly, it was all just a legal ploy. I befriended John Gacy thru both a
series of letters and phone calls from 1989 through right up to his 1994
execution, learning invaluable facts about this brutal and sadistic
killer of 33 young men and boys, 27 of whom were buried under Mr. Gacy's
own house in a dank, dark and spooky crawl space.
I will now tell you what John Wayne Gacy told me.
In the course of Gacy's confessions I called the FBI, and asked the
media to help, I even begged a local Illionois psychiatrist with whom
Gacy had spoken to to help me, no one said they were interested!
Incredibly, a tracker at the FBI's Quantico Behavorial Sciences Unit
told me that the FBI had interviewed Gacy and that he'd given them all
they could get out of him and so they would not be interested in
anything I had! And I had called the FBI on three diferent occassions
and the results were always the same: the bureau had already interviewed
him, I was just wasting my time! First off I made Gacy a promise: I knew
he couldn't tell me anything "direct." He'd made it clear to me a man
appealing a death sentence can never talk unless he wants to lose and be
put to death. So I made Gacy an offer: could we talk thru someone he
trusted who was there with him? Yes, came the answer, his "bodyguard"
would be our go-between, I was to not report any of the details until 10
years after his death had passed and I was to ask everything to his
bodyguard and then Gacy himself would answer them thru him.
Gacy had a real love/hate relationship with his father whom one day he'd
tell his prison buddies, "My dad's the greatest dad in the whole world I
really love my dad!" and then 3 days later he would say, "That S.O.B. I
should have killed him a long time ago." Gacy was the ultimate
narcissist, telling me he drank his own sperm in prison, and that he had
so many orders for paintings he'd done that he hired other inmates to
paint them for him!
Once when I got the flu Gacy seemd unconcerned and went right on into
describing how to pick up teenage boys by using ruses and finding out
what vices they liked. I realized to my great horror that he was
describing how he'd picked up his victims and I pounded my fists into my
wall in agony and despair after that conversation.
Gacy revealed how he'd put a garbage bag over a victims head and had sex
with the victim, while tightening a rope he had wraped around his
victim's neck. Gacy said he didn't have an orgasm until he'd tightend
the rope so much that the victim had expired!
Gacy also revealed he'd had a blueprint for serial murder from about the
time he was 12! And, he said, he'd used that blueprint not only for
where he'd put the bodies but also for an insanity defense should he
ever be caught! I will withold more details of his unique and horrifying
blueprint but I can reveal now for the first time that John Wayne Gacy
had developed the fantasy to kill by age 12 and already had a blueprint
for murder by then too! It seems as if only an early intervention by a
through, competent psychatrist would have stopped his murderous thoughts
at such an early age.
994 F.2d 305
George Welborn, Warden, Menard Correctional Center,
Androland W. Burris, Attorney General of
Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued March 4, 1993.
Decided April 12, 1993.
Rehearing and Rehearing En BancDenied May 7, 1993
EASTERBROOK, MANION, and KANNE,
Wayne Gacy is a
serial killer. Between 1972 and 1978 he enticed
many young men to his home near Chicago for
homosexual liaisons. At least 33 never left.
Gacy tied up or
handcuffed his partners, then strangled or
choked them. Twenty-eight of the bodies were
dumped into the crawl space under the
Gacy residence; one was
entombed under the driveway; the rest were
thrown into the Des Plaines River.
Gacy, who operated a
construction business, had his workers dig
trenches and throw lime into the crawl space.
Gacy's wife complained
about an "awful stench." But the slaughter
continued until the disappearance of 15 year old
Robert Piest on December 11, 1978. Piest
vanished after telling his mother that he was
going to see a building contractor about a
summer job. The presence of
Gacy's truck outside the place where
Piest was to meet his potential employer led to
Gacy's arrest within
of so many skeletons, several with rags stuffed
in the victims' mouths, created a national
sensation. Gacy regaled
the police with stories about his exploits,
which he attributed to "Jack," an alternative
personality. A jury convicted
Gacy in March 1980 of 33 counts of murder,
rejecting his defense of insanity. The same jury
sentenced Gacy to death
for 12 of these killings, the only 12 that the
prosecution could prove had been committed after
Illinois enacted its
post-Furman death penalty statute. The Supreme
Court of Illinois
affirmed. People v.
Gacy, 103 Ill.2d 1, 82
Ill.Dec. 391, 468 N.E.2d 1171 (1984), cert.
denied, 470 U.S. 1037, 105 S.Ct. 1410, 84 L.Ed.2d
799 (1985). That court also rejected a
collateral attack, 125 Ill.2d 117, 125 Ill.Dec.
770, 530 N.E.2d 1340 (1988), cert. denied, 490
U.S. 1085, 109 S.Ct. 2111, 104 L.Ed.2d 671
(1989). A United States
district court has decided that
Gacy is not entitled to
collateral relief. 1992 WL 211018, 1992 U.S.Dist.
LEXIS 12498 (N.D.Ill.), motion to suspend
judgment denied, 1992 WL 358851, 1992 U.S.Dist.
LEXIS 18073. Opinions in this case already
exceed 200 pages. We spare readers further
recapitulation and turn directly to the four
arguments Gacy has
culled from more than 100 raised at one or
another stage of this litigation, now 14 1/2
years old. Gacy has in
this sense already escaped the 12 judgments of
execution, for judge and jury cannot decide
whether a murderer will die, but only how soon.
Illinois commits the
capital sentencing decision to the jury. If the
jury convicts a defendant of a capital offense,
there is a sentencing proceeding. At this
proceeding the prosecution bears the burden of
establishing the existence of defined
aggravating circumstances. If the jury
unanimously decides that there is at least one
aggravating circumstance, the defendant becomes
eligible for a death sentence. Section 9-1(g) of
the Illinois statute (Ill.Rev.Stat.
ch. 38 p 9-1(g) (1979), now 720 Ill.Comp.Stat. §
5/9-1(g)) spells out what happens next:
If the jury determines
unanimously that there are no mitigating factors
sufficient to preclude the imposition of the
death sentence, the court shall sentence the
defendant to death.
Unless the jury unanimously
finds that there are no mitigating factors
sufficient to preclude the imposition of the
death sentence the court shall sentence the
defendant to a term of imprisonment under
Chapter V of the
Unified Code of Corrections.
paragraph means that a single juror's belief
that the defendant has demonstrated the
existence of a single mitigating factor
precludes the death sentence. Such a rule
surprises some judges, who are accustomed to
telling jurors that decisions must be unanimous.
For example, in Kubat v.
Thieret, 867 F.2d 351 (7th Cir.1989), the judge
instructed the jury: "If, after your
deliberations, you unanimously conclude that
there is a sufficient mitigating factor or
factors to preclude imposition of the death
sentence, you should sign the form which so
indicates." The court did not tell the jury that
a single juror could block capital punishment,
and we held the instruction violated the
Constitution. 867 F.2d at 371-74. Cf. Mills
v. Maryland, 486 U.S.
367, 108 S.Ct. 1860, 100 L.Ed.2d 384 (1988);
McKoy v. North
Carolina, 494 U.S. 433, 110 S.Ct. 1227, 108 L.Ed.2d
369 (1990). When the jury knows about its full
options, however, the Illinois
system comports with all constitutional
requirements. Silagy v.
Peters, 905 F.2d 986, 997-1001 (7th Cir.1990);
Williams v. Chrans, 945
F.2d 926, 935-38 (7th Cir.1991).
* At the close
of Gacy's penalty
proceeding, Judge Garippo instructed the jury:
If, after your deliberations,
you unanimously determine that there are no
mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the
imposition of the death sentence on the
Defendant, you should sign the verdict form
directing a sentence of death. If, after your
deliberations, you are not unanimous in
concluding that there are no mitigating factors
sufficient to preclude imposition of the death
sentence, you must sign the verdict form
directing a sentence of imprisonment.
As Judge Grady,
who denied Gacy's
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, remarked:
"This written instruction is completely accurate."
The jurors had this instruction, like the others
in the three-page charge, during their
deliberations. Unfortunately, Judge Garippo did
not read the instruction to the jury as written--or
at least the court reporter did not take down
the same words that appear in the written
instructions. The transcript has it that the
second sentence of this instruction was
delivered as: "If, after your deliberations, you
unanimously conclude there are mitigating
factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of
the death penalty, you must sign the verdict
form directing a sentence of imprisonment." This
sentence, Gacy submits,
carries the same defect as the instruction in
Kubat and vitiates the death sentences.
Gacy's jury was told
that if it is unanimous in finding a mitigating
circumstance, it must return a verdict of
imprisonment. The oral version of the
instruction is accurate, as far as it goes. But
the instruction did not give the jury the whole
truth, because it did not tell the jurors what
to do in the event of disagreement. Mills and
McKoy, the closest decisions from the Supreme
Court, dealt with instructions telling the jury
that only unanimous agreement, on a particular
mitigating factor, would permit the jury to
return a verdict of imprisonment. Such an
instruction creates a risk that even though
every juror believes that there is some
mitigating factor, the jurors' inability to
agree on a particular factor would lead to the
defendant's execution. No such problem infects
the oral instruction to Gacy's
jury. Kubat dealt with a related question: what
if the jury is ignorant of the power of a single
juror to block the death penalty under
state law? Both oral
and written instructions in Kubat's case dealt
only with unanimous verdicts, and a reasonable
jury might well have thought that it was
supposed to continue deliberating until it
reached agreement--just as it had done at the
guilt phase of the trial.
Grady, we conclude that reasonable jurors would
not have been under the misapprehension that
they had to reach unanimous agreement. Judge
Garippo opened the sentencing phase of
Gacy's trial by
describing to the jurors the findings they would
need to make. The judge said, among other things:
If you cannot unanimously
agree that there are no sufficient mitigating
factors to preclude the imposition of the death
penalty, you will sign that verdict so
indicating, and the Court will sentence the
Defendant to imprisonment.
instructions came close on the heels of the
preliminary set, for the jury did not receive
fresh evidence; instead the lawyers presented
arguments based on the evidence at the five-week
trial. Defense counsel emphasized during these
arguments that unanimity was unnecessary:
[T]he only way that you can
impose the death penalty on Mr.
Gacy, and His Honor
will instruct you, it is a unanimous decision,
all 12 of you have to agree to give Mr.
Gacy the death penalty.
If there is just one of you who feels that he
was acting under an emotional disturbance, or if
there is just one of you who feels it would not
be the right thing to do, if there is one of you
who feels that he should be studied for any
reason at all, if there is one of you, then you
must sentence him or direct the court to
sentence him to a term of imprisonment.
an accurate statement of
Illinois law, was presented without
objection from the prosecutor. For his part, the
prosecutor did not urge the jury to seek
unanimity on mitigating factors.
What we have,
in sum, is a slip of the judicial tongue. No one
noticed at the time; defense counsel did not
object to the misreading of the written
instruction. The complete, and completely
accurate, instructions were available to the
jurors during their deliberations. The text was
short; vital information did not drown in a sea
of words. If the jurors wondered about the
consequences of disagreement, they had correct
answers at their elbows. Within two hours, the
jurors brought back death verdicts on all 12
counts. This is too little time to reach
unanimous agreement on aggravating factors and
beat down even a single holdout on mitigating
factors. So the question at hand probably did
not arise in the jury's deliberations; they must
have been in agreement from the outset. These
circumstances "rule out [any] substantial
possibility that the jury may have rested its
verdict on the 'improper' ground". Mills, 486
U.S. at 377, 108 S.Ct. at 1867. "Jurors do not
sit in solitary isolation booths parsing
instructions for subtle shades of meaning in the
same way lawyers might. Differences among them
in interpretation of instructions may be
thrashed out in the deliberative process, with
commonsense understanding of the instructions in
the light of all that has taken place at the
trial likely to prevail over technical
hairsplitting." Boyde v.
California, 494 U.S. 370, 380-81, 110 S.Ct.
1190, 1198, 108 L.Ed.2d 316 (1990).
assessment supposes that the written instruction
is satisfactory. Although we have twice (in
Silagy and Williams ) rejected constitutional
challenges to this instruction, a district court,
relying on research by the late Hans Zeisel, has
concluded that jurors do not understand such
instructions, which therefore violate the
Constitution. Free v.
Peters, 806 F.Supp. 705 (N.D.Ill.1992). The
district judge, concluding that Silagy and
Williams depend on mistaken beliefs, has refused
to carry out the holdings of those cases. Id. at
731. If we conclude (as we have) that the
validity of his sentence depends on the written
submits, we should remand so that he may present
to Judge Grady the same evidence that persuaded
Judge Aspen in Free.
Gacy filed a post-judgment
motion in the district court asking for such a
hearing. The district court denied this motion,
and Illinois asks us to
treat the subject as waived. It would have been
within the district court's discretion to treat
the argument as untimely. Instead the court
wrote that, because Free would govern the
outcome of this case, Gacy
could raise the question in a new collateral
attack, which would abide the outcome of Free.
After McCleskey v. Zant,
--- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 1454, 113 L.Ed.2d 517
(1991), however, prisoners cannot wage a series
of collateral attacks, adding new issues each
time. There will be only one federal
adjudication of Gacy's
claims. Those not made now are lost.
Gacy has been attacking
the jury instructions from the beginning, and it
is best to consider all of the contentions he
presses on us.
Gacy's case on ice
while another panel of this court considers the
appeal of Free would be inappropriate.
Implementation of Gacy's
sentences has been stayed by federal litigation
since 1989, and we have been told to resolve
capital appeals expeditiously. In re Blodgett,
--- U.S. ----, ----, 112 S.Ct. 674, 676, 116
L.Ed.2d 669 (1992). The district judge in Free
has asked a magistrate judge to inquire into
claims that the defendant misled the court about
the provenance of the study. All other
proceedings in Free have ground to a halt, and
we cannot tell how long it may be before the
appeal in that case will be resolved (or even
which side will turn out to be the appellant).
Both Gacy and the
Illinois are entitled
to decision without indefinite delay.1
Zeisel conducted a survey of persons reporting
to a courthouse as potential jurors. He gave
them the facts of a case and a set of
instructions based on the 1987
Illinois Pattern Instructions for capital
cases. (These instructions are similar, though
not identical, to those given to
Gacy's jury.) Then he
asked a series of questions designed to test the
subjects' comprehension of the instructions. The
questions most pertinent to
Gacy's argument follow:
Question 4. A juror decides
that the fact that Mr. Woods was only 25 years
of age when he committed the murder is a
mitigating factor sufficient to preclude the
death penalty. However the other eleven jurors
disagree and insist that his age is not a
mitigating factor. The one juror believes that
she cannot consider a mitigating factor unless
the entire jury agrees upon it and votes for the
death penalty. She votes for the death penalty.
Has that juror followed the judge's instructions?
One quarter of
the subjects answered "yes", leading Prof.
Zeisel to conclude that as much as a third of
the pool of jurors would not understand a
critical feature of the instructions. Prof.
Zeisel computed a confidence interval of 8.7%,
leading to the calculation 25.0% ± 8.7% = 16.3%
Question 5. A juror decides
that the fact that Mr. Woods was good to his
family is a mitigating factor sufficient to
preclude the death penalty. However, the other
eleven jurors disagree. The other jurors insist
that no juror should consider the defendant's
good relations with his family as a mitigating
factor unless they all agree it is a mitigating
factor. The one juror accepts this approach and
votes for the death penalty. Has the juror
followed the judge's instructions?
question, 36.5% answered "yes", leading to the
computation 36.5% ± 9.6% = 26.9% 46.1% wrong
answers. See 806 F.Supp. at 767.
Gacy contends that
these error rates demonstrate that the written
instruction is confusing and thus could not have
corrected the misimpression created by the oral
instruction. The district court in Free
concluded that the study as a whole "refut[es]
the underlying judicial assumptions driving the
decisions in Silagy and Williams [and shows] a
reasonable likelihood that [the] jury (1)
believed that only the statutory mitigating
factors, or factors comparable to them, could
preclude the imposition of the death penalty,
and (2) was confused about (i) which side, if
any, had a burden of persuasion, and (ii) the
nature of that burden." 806 F.Supp. at 731. The
court's approach would require new penalty
proceedings in almost all
Illinois capital cases--although Free
rejected the argument that the answers to
Questions 4 and 5 show that there is an
independent constitutional flaw in the unanimity
instruction. Id. at 720-22.
As it did in
Free, the state
contends that the reported data are inaccurate.
Illinois points out
that although the jury instructions were read to
the panel, the questions were administered in
writing. Perhaps, then, the subjects grasped the
instructions but misunderstood (or could not
read) the questions. The questions are not free
from ambiguity. For example, might a subject
understand Question 5 as inquiring whether a
juror legitimately may be persuaded by other
jurors' arguments? Questions 4 and 5 also
involve mitigating factors that were not on the
list recited in the instruction. Some subjects
may have understood these questions as asking
whether a particular factor is appropriate,
rather than whether the instructions require
unanimity. Finally, the state
reminds us that Prof. Zeisel was a zealous
opponent of capital punishment and that the
study was conducted under the auspices of the
MacArthur Justice Center, an organization
devoted to the defense of capital litigation,
which may have influenced the findings no matter
how careful the principal investigator sought to
If we believed
that the validity or soundness of Prof. Zeisel's
work were controlling, we would give
Gacy the hearing he
requests. We conclude, however, that even taken
for all it could be worth, Prof. Zeisel's study
does not assist Gacy.
to follow two opinions of this circuit, claiming
the support of "empirical evidence refuting the
underlying judicial assumptions driving" our
cases. 806 F.Supp. at 731. Although Prof.
Zeisel's work may persuade us to reexamine
Silagy and Williams, it does not permit district
courts to disregard those decisions. Rodriguez
de Quijas v. Shearson/American
Express, Inc., 490 U.S. 477, 484, 109 S.Ct.
1917, 1921, 104 L.Ed.2d 526 (1989); Thurston
Motor Lines, Inc. v.
Jordan K. Rand, Ltd., 460 U.S. 533, 103 S.Ct.
1343, 75 L.Ed.2d 260 (1983); United
v. Burke, 781 F.2d
1234, 1239 n. 2 (7th Cir.1985). Ours is a
hierarchical judiciary, and judges of inferior
courts must carry out decisions they believe
mistaken. Hutto v.
Davis, 454 U.S. 370, 375, 102 S.Ct. 703, 706, 70
L.Ed.2d 556 (1982). A district judge who thinks
that new evidence or better argument "refutes"
one of our decisions should report his
conclusions while applying the existing law of
the circuit. Panels of three appellate judges
establish rules for the approximately 100
judicial officers of this circuit, and for the
approximately 22 million persons living within
its boundaries. Some of these decisions are
bound to be erroneous, or at least to depart
from those the many other judges who are not on
a given panel would have reached.
Illinois litigated and
won Silagy and Williams; it need not re-litigate
them prisoner by prisoner, district judge by
district judge. Cf. Steven G. Calabresi & Gary
Lawson, Equity and Hierarchy: Reflections on the
Harris Execution, 102 Yale L.J. 255, 273-79
Now that the
question is here, we must decide whether Prof.
Zeisel's work justifies overruling two carefully
thought out opinions. Silagy and Williams were
expressed as decisions on questions of law, not
as predictions about the findings of future
survey research. Legal developments since 1991
do not call those opinions into question. To the
contrary, the Supreme Court has reiterated that
the choice between judge and jury in sentencing,
and the allocation of burdens of production and
persuasion after the prosecutor establishes
aggravating circumstances, are questions of
state rather than
constitutional law. E.g., Delo
v. Lashley, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct.
1222, 122 L.Ed.2d 620 (1993).
At all events
these cases are immune from overruling on
collateral attack. Teague v.
Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d
334 (1989), holds that federal courts may not
apply rules of constitutional law devised or
altered after the conclusion of the prisoner's
direct appeals. Silagy and Williams show that
when Gacy's direct
appeal ended in 1984 no constitutional problem
was apparent in the sentencing instructions.
Discarding two recent decisions of this circuit
necessarily would establish a "new rule" for
purposes of Teague. None of the exceptions to
Teague is available to Gacy.
Overruling Silagy and Williams would not place
any conduct beyond the power of law to proscribe
or establish a new category of fundamental
constitutional norms. 489 U.S. at 307, 109 S.Ct.
In an effort
to explain why he should be allowed to raise new
arguments in federal court despite not having
presented comparable contentions in
Gacy (like Free) points
to the novelty of Prof. Zeisel's research.
Arguments based on his work were unavailable at
the time of Gacy's
direct appeal, and hence, Gacy
contends, he has "cause" for not presenting the
claim to the state
This follows the path of Reed
v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1, 104 S.Ct. 2901, 82
L.Ed.2d 1 (1984), which held that prisoners have
"cause" for not presenting arguments so novel or
so inconsistent with established law as to be "unavailable."
After Teague, however, this stratagem to avoid
Wainwright v. Sykes,
433 U.S. 72, 97 S.Ct. 2497, 53 L.Ed.2d 594
(1977), does nothing except plead the petitioner
out of court. Any claim sufficiently novel that
it was unavailable during the
state proceedings must be a "new rule"
under Teague. Prihoda v.
McCaughtry, 910 F.2d 1379, 1385-86 (7th
Cir.1990). See also Joseph L. Hoffman, The
Supreme Court's New Vision of Federal Habeas
Corpus for State
Prisoners, 1989 Sup.Ct.Rev. 165, 183. Cf. Sawyer
v. Whitley, --- U.S.
----, 112 S.Ct. 2514, 120 L.Ed.2d 269 (1992) (defendant
who is "eligible" for capital punishment, as
Gacy is, may not use
the "actual innocence" exception to Sykes, and
presumably not the "actual innocence" exception
to Teague either). And calling the Zeisel study
"new evidence" does nothing to break the grip of
Teague and Sykes--not only because it is not new
evidence about Gacy's
guilt (as opposed to the factual underpinning of
a legal argument) but also because of cases such
as Keeney v.
Tamayo-Reyes, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 1715, 118
L.Ed.2d 318 (1992), and Herrera
v. Collins, --- U.S.
----, 113 S.Ct. 853, 122 L.Ed.2d 203 (1993).
to revisit Silagy and Williams we may possess,
we shall not exercise. The Zeisel study does
those cases no damage. To see why, consider the
question: Is an error rate of 25.0% ± 8.7% large
or small? Such a question has no answer. Large
or small, compared to what? Presumably compared
with some lesser error rate, reflecting greater
comprehension achieved by changing the
instructions to the jury. That is, actual levels
of comprehension must be compared with
achievable levels of comprehension, not with
ideal levels. Yet Prof. Zeisel did not test
jurors' comprehension of instructions worded
differently. Nothing in his work shows that some
other set of instructions would do better.3
To put this
differently, there are many potential reasons
why jurors might not grasp what a judge tells
them. Think of just a few: (1) The instructions
may be poorly drafted, with needlessly big and
technical words and ambiguous constructions; (2)
The instructions may convey rules of some
complexity, which cannot be mastered on first
exposure; (3) The instructions may use concepts
that are inherently complex; (4) Jurors may be
unable to grasp thoughts unfamiliar to them.
(1) is at work, then the State
of Illinois is
responsible and may be called on to improve
things (although, as we explain below, the
Constitution has but a limited role to play even
here). Explanation (2), by contrast, attributes
misunderstanding to a mixture of
state law with the
constitutional obligations announced by the
Supreme Court. Cases beginning with Lockett
v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586,
98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978), have
established a set of increasingly reticulated
rules for capital sentencing, including shifting
burdens, unanimity on some issues but not on
others, and consideration of mitigating factors
that do not appear in state
statutes. Justices of the Supreme Court
occasionally complain that these rules are too
complex, e.g., Graham v.
Collins, --- U.S. ----, ---- - ----, 113 S.Ct.
892, 906-13, 122 L.Ed.2d 260 (1993) (Thomas, J.,
concurring); Walton v.
Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 656-74, 110 S.Ct. 3047,
3058-68, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990) (Scalia, J.,
concurring in part)--and the high reversal rate
in capital cases supports this perspective. Yet
if the Constitution requires this convoluted set
of rules, then the attendant confusion is a
regrettable cost rather than a reason why the
Constitution's own norms are, in application,
(3), the complexity of the concepts, also plays
a role. Burdens of proof and persuasion are hard
to explain (one reason why this court strongly
discourages efforts to define "reasonable doubt",
see United States
v. Glass, 846 F.2d 386
(7th Cir.1988)). Learned Hand confessed that,
after a lifetime in the law, he still did not
understand the shadings among burdens of
persuasion. United States
140 F.2d 592,
594 (2d Cir.1944). See also Flamm
v. Eberstadt, 814 F.2d
1169, 1173-74 (7th Cir.1987). That subjects
being peppered with questions about a complex
concept they have encountered for the first time
will not give answers satisfactory to lawyers is
no surprise. It cannot be that the Constitution,
which requires judges to tell juries to use
these elusive concepts, is self-destructive
because lay persons will experience difficulty
in answering questions about what they have been
told. Confusion and misunderstanding
attributable to the Constitution of the United
States does not yield a
violation of that document.
Then there is
explanation (4): Human shortcomings. Difficulty
in coping with abstract concepts (most jurors
spend their lives in the world of the concrete)
explains why we have lengthy arguments, why
judges give instructions orally as well as in
writing (and reinstruct juries that ask
questions), why juries deliberate. Jurors who "don't
get it" on first hearing may do better as the
process continues. Professor Zeisel himself
concluded as much. Harry Kalven, Jr., & Hans
Zeisel, The American Jury 149-62 (1966). See
also Reid Hastie, Steven D. Penrod & Nancy
Pennington, Inside the Jury 81 (1983) (concluding
that jurors collectively remember 90% of the
evidence and 80% of the instructions). In sum,
it is inadmissible to use inaccurate answers
attributable to explanations (2), (3), and (4)
as reasons to condemn a jury instruction. The
Constitution establishes a system of jury trials,
which necessarily tolerates the shortcomings of
that institution. Pointing to one of these
shortcomings, no matter how vivid, does nothing
to undercut the Constitution's own method.4
Zeisel did not try to isolate the effect of the
choices. For all we can tell, the best
conceivable exposition would have reduced the
misunderstanding rate on Question 4 from 25% to
24%, with comparably paltry changes on other
questions. The study thus does not justify
chastising the state,
as opposed to the Supreme Court or the
institution of the jury or the failings of the
If the study
enabled us to lay some responsibility at the
state's doorstep, this
still would not permit a federal court to take a
blue pencil to a state's
jury instructions. For as long as the United
States has been a
nation, judges have been using legalese in
instructing juries, with an inevitable adverse
effect on the jury's comprehension. We do not
think that traditional forms of jury instruction
are now, and always have been, unconstitutional
because of this.
element of the jury system, no less vital today
than two centuries ago, is insulation from
questions about how juries actually decide.
Jurors who volunteered that they did not
understand their instructions would not be
permitted to address the court, and a defendant
could not upset a verdict against him even if
all of the jurors signed affidavits describing
chaotic and uninformed deliberations. E.g.,
McDonald v. Pless, 238
U.S. 264, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915);
Hyde v. United
States, 225 U.S. 347,
381-84, 32 S.Ct. 793, 807-09, 56 L.Ed. 1114
(1912); United States
v. Schwartz, 787 F.2d
257, 261-62 (7th Cir.1986); Fed.R.Evid. 606(b).
Instead of inquiring what juries actually
understood, and how they really reasoned, courts
invoke a "presumption" that jurors understand
and follow their instructions. As Rule 606(b)
shows, this is not a bursting bubble, applicable
only in the absence of better evidence. It is a
rule of law--a description of the premises
underlying the jury system, rather than a
proposition about jurors' abilities and
states of mind. See
Parker v. Randolph, 442
U.S. 62, 73, 99 S.Ct. 2132, 2139, 60 L.Ed.2d 713
(1979) (plurality opinion) ("A critical
assumption underlying [the] system [of trial by
jury] is that juries will follow the
instructions given them by the trial judge. Were
this not so, it would be pointless for a trial
court to instruct a jury, and even more
pointless for an appellate court to reverse a
criminal conviction because the jury was
improperly instructed."); Jackson
v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368,
382 n. 10, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 1783 n. 10, 12 L.Ed.2d
908 (1964); Opper v.
United States, 348 U.S.
84, 95, 75 S.Ct. 158, 165, 99 L.Ed. 101 (1954).
Cf. Sparf & Hansen v.
United States, 156 U.S.
51, 80, 15 S.Ct. 273, 284, 39 L.Ed. 343 (1895).
Cases doubting jurors' ability to put out of
their minds events vividly described in court
have not expressed equivalent doubts about
jurors' ability to follow instructions on the
law. Compare Bruton v.
United States, 391 U.S.
123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476 (1968), with
Richardson v. Marsh,
481 U.S. 200, 211, 107 S.Ct. 1702, 1709, 95 L.Ed.2d
176 (1987). See also, e.g., Francis
v. Franklin, 471 U.S.
307, 324-25 n. 9, 105 S.Ct. 1965, 1976 n. 9, 85
L.Ed.2d 344 (1985).
has challenged many premises of the jury system.
See generally Symposium, Is the Jury Competent?,
52 L. & Contemp. Prob. (Aut.1989); Symposium,
The Selection and Function of the Modern Jury,
40 American L.Rev. (Win.1991). Students of the
subject believe, for example, that jurors give
too much weight to eyewitness evidence and not
enough weight to other kinds. See Credibility
Assessment (Yuille ed. 1989); Elizabeth F.
Loftus, Eyewitness Testimony: Psychological
Research and Legal Thought, 3 Crime and Justice
105 (1981). Cf. Lea Brilmayer & Lewis Kornhauser,
Quantitative Methods and Legal Decisions, 46
U.Chi.L.Rev. 116, 135-48 (1978). Still, the
ability of jurors to sift good evidence from bad
is an axiom of the system, so courts not only
permit juries to decide these cases but also
bypass the sort of empirical findings that might
help jurors reach better decisions. See Krist
v. Eli Lilly & Co., 897
F.2d 293, 296-99 (7th Cir.1990); United
v. Hudson, 884 F.2d
1016, 1024 (7th Cir.1989). Juries have a hard
time distinguishing "junk science" from the real
thing, but aside from some tinkering with the
expert testimony admitted at trial, this
shortcoming has been tolerated. Compare Carroll
v. Otis Elevator Co.,
896 F.2d 210, 215-18 (7th Cir.1990) (concurring
opinion), with Christophersen
v. Allied-Signal Corp., 939 F.2d 1106
(5th Cir.1991) (in banc). Cf. Daubert
v. Merrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 951 F.2d 1128 (9th
Cir.1991), cert. granted, --- U.S. ----, 113
S.Ct. 320, 121 L.Ed.2d 240 (1992). Jurors reach
compromise verdicts, although they aren't
supposed to. Juries return inconsistent verdicts,
representing irrational behavior or disobedience
to their instructions. United
Powell, 469 U.S. 57, 105 S.Ct. 471, 83 L.Ed.2d
461 (1984). Juries act in ways no reasonable
person would act. This is the standard for
granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict in
a civil case, or acquittal after verdict in a
criminal case, or reducing an award of damages,
and there are plenty of occasions for these
post-verdict correctives. Yet for all of this,
courts do not discard the premises of the jury
system, postulates embedded in the Constitution
and thus, within our legal system, unassailable.
This shows up in a striking fact about the
Supreme Court's treatment of social science: of
the 92 cases between 1970 and 1988 addressing
issues of evidence and trial procedure, not one
relied on the extensive body of evidence about
jurors' conduct. J. Alexander Tanford, The
Limits of a Scientific Jurisprudence: The
Supreme Court and Psychology, 66 Ind.L.J. 137,
None of this
is to suggest that judges ought to be
indifferent to the way they write instructions.
Polysyllabic mystification reduces the quality
of justice. One of the
Illinois 1987 pattern instructions is a
quadruple negative: "If you do not unanimously
find from your consideration of all the evidence
that there are no mitigating factors sufficient
to preclude imposition of a death sentence, then
you should sign the verdict requiring the court
to impose a sentence other than death." Things
seem to have gone downhill since
Gacy's jury was charged
in 1981 (his jurors got the same information
with only three negatives). Modern pattern
instructions use simple words in short,
concrete, declaratory sentences. E.g., Federal
Judicial Center, Pattern Criminal Jury
Instructions (1987) (including an appendix of
suggestions for making instructions more
understandable). Would it not be better for all
concerned to give a charge such as: "If after
full discussion any one of you believes that a
mitigating factor makes death an excessive
punishment, then you must return a sentence of
imprisonment."? For reasons we have discussed,
even this "simplified" charge would leave many
jurors dumbfounded; the underlying ideas are not
at all simple, and words such as "mitigating"
and "excessive" are foreign to jurors' daily
As there are
no perfect trials, so there are no perfect
instructions. How best to convey the law to lay
persons sitting on juries is in the end a
question for state
legislatures and trial courts to resolve, and
not for the federal kibitzers in collateral
attacks many years later. The jury is a means to
resolve disputes, not a waystation by which the
controversy at trial is transported to a higher
level of generality as a social science dispute
about juries. Gacy's
jury was instructed within the wide bounds set
by the Constitution.
arguments require less discussion. Each received
extended treatment by Judge Grady, whose opinion
withstands all challenges.
comment in the media was especially intense in
Chicago, the court chose a jury in Rockford.
During the four days devoted to screening
potential jurors, the court put many questions
to candidates. The judge asked, for example,
whether the pretrial publicity made it
impossible to approach the subject with an open
mind, and whether Gacy's
homosexuality (and the sexual nature of the
crimes) would affect their judgment. The judge
declined, however, to ask members of the venire
exactly what they had read in the papers and
exactly what they thought about homosexuals.
Gacy contends that the
judge's refusal to ask the questions his lawyer
proposed deprived him of a fair trial.
Constitution does not require a judge to use the
defendant's preferred screening questions.
Mu'Min v. Virginia, ---
U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 1899, 114 L.Ed.2d 493
(1991). Before the trial began, court and
counsel compiled an index of what had appeared
in the media. The judge asked the jurors what
they watched and read. This information,
combined with the index, enabled
Gacy's lawyers to know
the allegations to which each juror had been
exposed. As Judge Garippo concluded, it could
have been counterproductive to require each
juror to repeat the details, because this could
have summoned up information that the juror
otherwise would have forgotten--and in the
process contaminated other members of the venire.
The index, the questioning, and drawing the
venire from Rockford were adequate to select an
Illinois, --- U.S.
----, 112 S.Ct. 2222, 119 L.Ed.2d 492 (1992),
Gacy contends that the
judge's questions about homosexuality were
inadequate. Judge Garippo asked general
questions, such as: "Now, does the fact that the
Defendant is charged with homosexual conduct
prevent you from being fair to either side?" and
"Could you put aside any feeling that you might
have regarding homosexuality in rendering your
verdict in this case?" These are inadequate,
Gacy submits, because
they invited bland "yes" or "no" answers and
thus hid any subtle signs of bias. The questions
his lawyer proposed, by contrast, called for
potential jurors to describe their feelings
about homosexuals. It may well be that the kind
of questions proposed by the defense would have
afforded greater entree into the jurors'
attitudes, but Morgan does not require them.
That case tells judges to ask about specific
areas of bias rather than asking a general
question such as "can you be fair and impartial?"
Judge Garippo did what Morgan requires. To do
more would have extended the jury-selection
process considerably and left many jurors
flustered and resentful, which in the end may
have worked against the defendant. Defendants'
safety lies in the size of the jury and in
cautions from the court, not in extra questions
posed in advance of trial. A long series of
probing questions can anesthetize or offend the
panel rather than enlighten judge and counsel.
Experienced judges accordingly prune the list,
omitting some that may look appropriate in
isolation. Judge Garippo did just that--and
proceeded to follow up with more pointed
questions when appropriate. Judge Grady's
opinion details several of these sequences,
which we need not repeat.
Judge Grady pointed out, general questions about
attitudes toward homosexuality were beside the
point. Gacy admitted
killing many persons. His defense was insanity.
Gacy's lawyer did not
ask the judge to propound questions along the
line of "Do you believe that homosexuals are
more likely than heterosexuals to be sane?" or
"Are you disposed to convict an insane person
whose murders were related to homosexuality,
although the law and the evidence require
acquittal?" Of course questions this blunt would
have been useless, but Gacy's
lawyer also did not propose ways to get at these
subjects indirectly. Which is not to fault his
lawyer: the subjects are not easy to broach.
Even in hindsight it is not clear what more
counsel, or the court, could have done. All that
we need hold is that the trial judge was
entitled to resist the invitation to turn voir
dire into a trial of jurors' attitudes about
Gacy presented his
defense of insanity through six expert witnesses:
four psychiatrists and two psychologists. Judge
Garippo declined to allow Gacy's
lawyers to use these witnesses to relay to the
jury verbatim statements Gacy
made to them, ruling that these were hearsay
when offered for the truth of the matter
asserted. Gacy did not
testify at trial, and the prosecutor used the
hearsay objections to prevent
Gacy from getting the more favorable
portions of his story before the jury indirectly.
The trial judge nonetheless permitted the expert
witnesses to recount the substance of what
Gacy had said. The
prosecutor did not hesitate to ask these six
witnesses, and the state's
own experts, about Gacy's
incriminating statements. These came in as
admissions of a party opponent.
Gacy contends that this
one-sided use of his words violated his rights
under the due process clause.
appeal, the Supreme Court of
Illinois concluded that
Gacy had defaulted this claim by failing
to make appropriate offers of proof. 82 Ill.Dec.
at 420-22, 468 N.E.2d at 1200-02. On collateral
review, however, that court addressed the merits
of Gacy's contentions.
In light of an intervening decision, People
v. Anderson, 113 Ill.2d
1, 12-13, 99 Ill.Dec. 104, 495 N.E.2d 485
(1986), overruling People v.
Hester, 39 Ill.2d 489, 237 N.E.2d 466 (1968), on
which Judge Garippo had relied, the Supreme
Court of Illinois held
that Gacy's psychiatric
experts should have been permitted to repeat his
exact words to the jury, the better to
illuminate their diagnoses. Nonetheless, the
court concluded, exclusion of this testimony was
harmless error in light of the fact that all six
witnesses fully explained the bases of their
diagnoses by paraphrasing what
Gacy had said to them. 125 Ill.Dec. at
775, 530 N.E.2d at 1345. The Supreme Court of
Illinois did not
reiterate the procedural holding from the first
case, which clears the way for
Gacy to argue the merits in federal court.
Ylst v. Nunnemaker, ---
U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 115 L.Ed.2d 706
(1991); Harris v. Reed,
489 U.S. 255, 109 S.Ct. 1038, 103 L.Ed.2d 308
(1989). After a painstaking review of the
evidence, Judge Grady concluded that all six
witnesses had presented the jury with full
assessments of Gacy's
condition and complete statements of their
reasons. Nothing material was withheld, so the
error was indeed harmless, just as the Supreme
Court of Illinois had
detracting in any way from the care Judge Grady
lavished on this issue, or the correctness of
his decision that any error was harmless, we
hold that there was no error at all--no
constitutional error, that is. Anderson was
based on state law.
Beyond explicit rules such as the privilege
against self-incrimination and the confrontation
clause, none of which applies here, the
Constitution has little to say about rules of
evidence. Estelle v.
McGuire, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 475, 116 L.Ed.2d
385 (1991). The hearsay rule and its exception
for admissions of a party opponent are venerable
doctrines; no serious constitutional challenge
can be raised to them.
would lie if a state
used its evidentiary rules to blot out a
substantial defense. See Chambers
v. Mississippi, 410
U.S. 284, 298-303, 93 S.Ct. 1038, 1047-50, 35
L.Ed.2d 297 (1973); Green v.
Georgia, 442 U.S. 95, 99 S.Ct. 2150, 60 L.Ed.2d
738 (1979). These cases hold that
states must permit
defendants to introduce reliable third-party
confessions when direct evidence is unavailable.
No court has extended them to require a
state to admit
defendants' own out of court words. A defendant
is available to himself as a witness. Nothing in
the Constitution gives an accused the privilege
of proffering, through hearsay, his self-serving
statements while denying the
state access to the rest of the story
that could be got at by cross-examination.
Gacy had a right to
offer expert evidence. Ake v.
Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68, 105 S.Ct. 1087, 84 L.Ed.2d
53 (1985). He did so, six times over. That these
witnesses had to beat around the bush in order
to avoid hearsay does not create a
At last we
reach the inevitable attack on trial counsel. It
is, as Judge Grady concluded, unpersuasive.
Gacy received a
skillful, vigorous defense by lawyers who were
prepared to the nines. Gacy's
lead counsel, Sam Amirante, is now a judge of
the court that conducted his trial.
appeal, Gacy's current
legal team has discarded all but two objections.
First comes the argument that Amirante raised
the insanity defense over Gacy's
objection, depriving him of the ability to
control decisions vital to the defense. Second,
Gacy insists that
Amirante's loyalties were compromised by his
pursuit of revenues from a book and other
publicity. The lure of lucre led him to induce
Gacy to confess, the
argument goes, the better to get an interesting
story--but with devastating effect on the
defense. Although such claims could in principle
raise problems, they fail for want of proof.
Let us start
with the latter claim. Amirante filed an
affidavit denying that he was pursuing profits
from publicity. No book by Amirante or any of
his associates appeared after the trial.
Although an investigator may have leaked some
tape recordings to Tim Cahill, author of Buried
Dreams (1985), Amirante denied authorizing or
knowing of this misconduct. A tape recording of
a conversation between Gacy
and Amirante 10 months before trial contains a
brief discussion of publication possibilities.
Amirante offered to refer Gacy
to another lawyer to pursue that possibility--exactly
the right thing to do, and the antithesis of a
conflict of interest. All that remains is one
paragraph in an order entered by the trial court
lawyers to continue their work at public expense
(Amirante had been retained privately at the
That, over the objection of
Defense Counsel, it is hereby ordered that
Attorneys Amirante and Motta reimburse Cook
County to the extent of fees received for
services rendered from any royalties received as
a result of book or movie rights hereafter
acquired, excluding any professionally oriented
works, lectures, treatises, or the like.
does not reveal who raised the subject of
royalties (the prosecutor, the judge, or defense
counsel), or the basis of the objection. For all
we know, only the judge had movies on his mind.
So Amirante asserted in his affidavit. In the
absence of any contrary evidence, this is a
As for the
contention that counsel barged ahead with an
unwanted insanity defense: again the evidence
gets in the way. Gacy
cooperated with extended interviews and tests by
six experts for the defense and another six for
the state, not the
behavior you would expect of a person who wanted
to stand on a plain denial of guilt. In mid-trial,
Gacy threatened to stop
cooperating with his attorneys, complaining: "I'm
not running the trial." When the judge asked
what the problem was, Gacy
continued: "I was against the insanity defense
from the beginning." This assertion, never heard
again during the trial,5
has become the foundation for the attack on
counsel. In an affidavit dated July 25, 1990,
Gacy at last furnished
a reason: "I couldn't believe that anyone could
go insane 33 different times and then run a
successful business, [and] if I didn't believe
it how could [Amirante] expect 12 jurors to
believe that". Good question--but how did
Gacy expect to persuade
the jury to disregard his confessions, plus the
damning evidence of the 28 skeletons under his
house, a 29th under his driveway, and 4 more
recovered from the river, not to mention the
testimony of witnesses who barely survived their
encounters with him? His current story, that he
was out of town on every occasion, is
unsupported by evidence and less plausible than
his insanity defense.
As Judge Grady
remarked, Gacy's only
real choice was between an insanity defense and
a guilty plea. It may be that
Gacy could have obliged Amirante to
desist from the insanity defense and conduct a
defense limited to guilt, trying (as Amirante
did not) to suppress the confessions and fob off
the significance of the human remains. We say "it
may be" because several of
Gacy's experts testified that he was not
competent to assist in his defense. Although
Judge Garippo rejected that position and ordered
Gacy to stand trial,
the duties of counsel representing a client of
borderline competence are not so clearly
established as the duties of counsel
representing a normal defendant. However that
may be, Gacy did not
tell Amirante to stop. A statement such as "I
was against the insanity defense from the
beginning" is some distance from "I directed
Amirante to drop that defense, and he refused."
Being "against" a defense at the outset is
consistent with yielding to the judgment of
those who know better. Even the affidavit of
1990 does not assert that Amirante refused to
carry out any direct instructions from his
client. There is consequently no material
dispute requiring an evidentiary hearing.
Because the decision in
Gacy's case may affect
many prisoners on Death Row in
Illinois, we have accepted amicus briefs
submitted by the MacArthur Justice Center and a
representative of Prof. Zeisel, by Bernard
Williams (of Williams v.
Chrans, still litigating despite McCleskey ),
and by Free himself. These briefs oddly do not
explain or defend either the legal or the
factual analysis in Free; instead they urge this
court to wait for Free to wend its way here.
There is, however, no principle that legal
issues must be resolved for the first time on
appeal in whatever case reached the district