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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Killer Clown

John Wayne Gacy (March 17, 1942 - May 10, 1994) also known as The Killer Clown, 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." He was also in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest sentence imposed on a mass murderer; he was given 21 consecutive life sentences and 12 death sentences.

Early life

Born John Wayne Gacy, Jr. at the Edgewater Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, he was raised a Catholic in a suburb of Chicago. He had a troubled relationship with his father, John Gacy Sr. (Illinois, June 20, 1900-December 25, 1969), a physically abusive alcoholic who often called his son a "sissy." He was close to his mother, Marion Elaine Robinson (Racine, Wisconsin, May 4, 1908 – Cabot, Arkansas, December 1989).

After graduating from high school, Gacy worked briefly in Las Vegas before returning to Illinois. He attended a business college and started a moderately successful career as a shoe salesman in Springfield, Illinois, where he became a prominent member of the Jaycees. Gacy married in 1964. The same year, he had his first known homosexual encounter while his wife was in labour with their son, Michael. Years later, Gacy would deny that he was gay, stating that he was in fact bisexual.

He moved to Waterloo, Iowa, where he managed a KFC restaurant belonging to his wife's family.

Gacy's marriage fell apart after he was convicted of child molestation in December 1968 and was sent to prison. He was paroled in 1970 after serving 18 months of a 10-year sentence. During his incarceration, Gacy's father died from liver cirrhosis on Christmas Day 1969. After Gacy was released, he moved back to Illinois. He successfully hid this criminal record until police began investigating him for his later murders.

In 1971, 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. He became active in the local Democratic Party, first volunteering to clean the party offices. He eventually earned the title of precinct captain. In this capacity, he met and was photographed with future-First Lady Rosalynn Carter. During the search of Gacy's house after his arrest, this photo caused a major embarrassment to the U.S. Secret Service, as the photo depicted Gacy wearing an "S" lapel pin, which meant the Secret Service had given him a high-level security clearance.


Gacy's wife divorced him in March 1976; the killings began in earnest the following month. Darrell Sampson disappeared on April 6, 1976. In 1977, David Daniel would state that Gacy offered him a ride at the bus depot, but Daniel refused. He further states that Gacy was very insistent, asking him seven times, offering marijuana as a lure. Daniel is one of only two known survivors alive to describe Gacy's approach, the other being Jeffrey Ringall.

No suspicion fell on Gacy until December 12, 1978, when he was investigated following the disappearance of 15-year-old Robert Piest, who was last seen with Gacy. A search of his house, by Des Plaines detective Joseph Kozenczak, revealed a number of incriminating items related to other disappearances.

On December 22, 1978, Gacy went to his lawyers and confessed to 33 murders and indicated the location of 31 bodies to police — they were buried under his house and on his property. The two others he said were thrown into the nearby Des Plaines River. Gacy would often stick clothing in their mouths to muffle their screams. After 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. He picked up at least one of his victims at the bus station. 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. Nine of the victims were so badly decomposed that they were never identified. The bodies were uncovered from December 1978 until April 1979, when the last known victim was found downstream in the Des Plaines river.

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