THE CLOWN THAT KILLED
THE HORRIFYING LEGACY OF JOHN WAYNE GACY &
THE SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS OF HIS CRIMES

To everyone who met him, John Wayne Gacy seemed a likable and affable man. He was widely respected in the community, charming and easy to get along with. He was a good Catholic and sharp businessman who, when not running his construction company was active in the Jaycees and was also a Democratic Party precinct captain, when he had his photo taken with then First Lady, Rosalynn Carter. He also spent much of his free time hosting elaborate street parties for his friends and neighbors, serving in community groups and entertaining children as "Pogo the Clown". He was a generous, hard working, friendly, devoted family man, everyone knew that -- but that was the side of John Wayne Gacy that he allowed people to see.

Underneath the smiling mask of the clown was the face of depraved fiend.


John Wayne Gacy was a born on St. Patrick’s Day 1942 at Edgewater Hospital in Chicago. Johnny was the second of three children. His older sister Joanne had preceded him by two years and two years after his birth came that of sister Karen.



John Wayne Gacy -- An outwardly normal man whose depravity spun out of control (UPI)

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The Gacy children were raised as Catholics and all three attended Catholic schools where they lived on the north side. Growing up, Gacy was a quiet boy who worked odd jobs for spending money, like newspaper routes and bagging groceries, and busied himself with Boy Scout activities. He was never a particularly popular boy but he was well-liked by his teachers, co-workers and friends from school and the Boy Scouts. He seemed to have a normal childhood, except for his relationship with his father and a series of health problems that he developed.

When Gacy was 11, he was playing on a swing set and was hit in the head with one of the swings. The accident caused a blood clot in his brain that was not discovered until he was 16. Between the time of the accident and the diagnosis, Gacy suffered from blackouts that were caused by the clot. They were finally treated with medication. At 17, he was also diagnosed with a heart ailment that he was hospitalized for several times during his life. He complained frequently about it over the years but no one could ever find a cause for the pain that he claimed to be suffering. In his late teens, he began to experience problems with his father, although his relationship with his mother and sisters remained strong. His father was an alcoholic who physically abused his wife and berated his children.

His family problems extended out into his schoolwork and after attending four high schools during his senior year and never graduating, Gacy dropped out and left home for Las Vegas. He worked part time as a janitor in a funeral home and saved his money to buy a ticket back to Chicago. Lonely and depressed, he spent three months trying to get the money together. His mother and sisters were thrilled to see him when he returned.

After his return, Gacy enrolled in business college and eventually graduated. While in school, he gained a real talent for salesmanship and he put these talents to work in a job with the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company. He excelled as a management trainee and he was soon transferred to a men’s clothing outlet in Springfield, Illinois. Soon after his move, Gacy’s health took a turn for the worse. He gained a great deal of weight and began to suffer more from his mysterious heart ailment. He was hospitalized and soon after getting out, was back in the hospital again, this time with back problems.

While living in Springfield, Gacy became involved in several organizations that served the community, including the Jaycees, to which Gacy devoted most of his efforts and was eventually a vice-president and named "Man of the Year". Many who knew Gacy considered him to be ambitious and working to make a name for himself in the community. In September 1964, Gacy met and married a co-worker named Marlynn Myers, whose parents owned a number of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Iowa. Gacy’s new father-in-law offered him a position with the company and soon the newlyweds were moving to Iowa. Life seemed to hold great promise for Gacy and there was no foreshadowing of the horrific events to come.

Gacy began learning the restaurant business from the ground up, working 12 to 14 hours each day. He was enthusiastic and eager to learn and hoped to take over the franchises one day. When not working, he was active with the Waterloo, Iowa Jaycees. He worked tirelessly performing volunteer work and he made many friends. Marlynn gave birth to a son shortly after they moved to Iowa and not long after, added a daughter to the happy family. They seemed to have the picture perfect life -- a loving and healthy family, a good job, a house in the suburbs -- and it seemed almost too good to be true. And it was…

Rumors were starting to spread around town, and among Jaycees members, about Gacy’s sexual preferences. No one could help but notice that young boys always seemed to be in his presence. Stories spread that he had made passes at some of the young men who worked in the restaurants but those close to him refused to believe it -- until the rumors became truth. In May 1968, a grand jury in Black Hawk County indicted Gacy for committing an act of sodomy with a teenaged boy named Mark Miller. The boy told the courts that Gacy had tricked him into being tied up while visiting Gacy’s home and he had violently raped him. Gacy denied the charges but did say that Miller willingly had sex with him in order to earn extra money. Four months later, more charges were filed against Gacy. This time, he was charged with hiring an 18 year-old boy named Dwight Andersson to beat up Mark Miller. Andersson informed the officers who arrested him for the assault that Gacy had hired him to attack the other boy.

A judge ordered Gacy to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to see if he was mentally competent to stand trial. He was found to be competent but psychiatrists stated that he was an antisocial personality who would likely not benefit from any known medical treatment. Soon after the report was submitted, Gacy entered a guilty plea to the sodomy charge. He received ten years at the Iowa State Reformatory, the maximum time for the offence, and entered prison for the first time at the age of 26. Shortly after he went to prison, his wife divorced him on the grounds that he had violated their wedding vows.

Gacy adhered to all of the rules in prison and stayed out of trouble. Described as a model prisoner, he was paroled after only 18 months. On June 18, 1970, he left his cell and made his way back to Chicago. He moved in with his mother and obtained work as a chef in a city restaurant, settling into the position and trying to get his life back on track after serving time.

Gacy lived with his mother for four months and then decided to move out on his own. She helped him to obtain a new house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue in the Norwood Park Township. Gacy owned one-half of the house and his mother and sisters owned the other. He was very happy with his new, two-bedroom ranch house. It was located in a clean, quiet neighborhood and he quickly went about making friends with his neighbors, Edward and Lilla Grexa, who had lived in the neighborhood since it had been built. Within seven months of moving in next door, Gacy was spending Christmas with the Grexa’s. They became close friends and often gathered for drinks and card games. The Grexa’s had no idea of Gacy’s criminal past -- or his most recent run-in with the law.

Just a month before the Grexa’s had invited Gacy over for Christmas dinner, he had been charged with disorderly conduct for forcing a young boy, whom he had picked up at the bus station, to perform sexual acts on him. He managed to slip through the system when the charges against him were dropped, thanks to the fact that his accuser never showed up in court.

In June 1972, Gacy married Carole Hoff, a newly divorced mother of two daughters. Gacy romanced her when most vulnerable and she fell for his charm and generosity. She knew about his time in prison but believed that he had changed his life for the better. Carole and her daughters soon settled into Gacy’s home and forged a close relationship with the Grexa’s. The older couple was often invited over to the Gacy’s house for elaborate parties and cook-outs. However, they were often bothered by the horrible stench that often wafted throughout the house. Lillie Grexa was convinced that an animal had died beneath the floorboards of the place and she urged Gacy to do something about it. He blamed the odor on a moisture buildup in the crawlspace under the house though -- refusing to reveal the true, and much more sinister, cause for the smell. He would keep this secret for years to come.

In 1974, Gacy started a contracting business called Painting, Decorating and Maintenance or PDM Contractors, Inc. He hired a number of teenaged boys to work for him, explaining to friends that hiring young men would keep his payroll costs low. In truth, Gacy’s desires were starting to get out of control and he was having trouble hiding his true nature from those closest to him, especially his wife.

By 1975, Carole and Gacy had drifted apart. Their sex life had ended and Gacy’s moods became more and more unpredictable, ranging from jovial to an uncontrollable rage that would have him throwing furniture. He had become an insomniac and his lack of sleep seemed to make his mood swings even worse. And if his personality changes were not enough, his choice of reading material worried her even more. Carole had started to find magazines with naked men and boys in them around the house and when confronted, Gacy casually admitted they were his. He even confessed that he preferred young men to women. Naturally, this was the last straw for Carole and she soon filed for divorce. It became final on March 2, 1976.

Gacy dismissed his marital problems and refused to let them hamper his need for recognition and success. To most people, Gacy was still the outgoing and hardworking man that he always had been. So many people had experienced divorces that no one thought a thing about it. Gacy made up for any lingering questions about him with his natural talent for persuading others to his ideas and thoughts and he always came up with creative ways to get himself noticed. It was not long before he gained the attention of Robert F. Matwick, the Democratic township committeeman for Norwood Park. As a free service to the committeeman, Gacy volunteered himself and his employees to clean up and repair Democratic Party headquarters. Unaware of the contractor’s past and impressed by his sense of duty and dedication to the community, Matwick nominated Gacy to the street lighting commission. In 1975, Gacy became the secretary treasurer but his political career was short-lived -- no matter how he thought he was hiding it, rumors again began to circulate about Gacy’s interest in young boys.

One of the rumors stemmed from an actual incident that took place during the time that Gacy was working on the Democratic headquarters. One of the teenagers who worked on the project was 16 year-old Tony Antonucci. According to the boy, Gacy made sexual advances toward him but backed off when Antonucci threatened to hit him with a chair. Gacy recovered his composure and made a joke out of it. Several weeks later, while visiting Gacy’s home, Gacy again approached Antonucci. He tricked the young man into a pair of handcuffs and then tried to undress him. Antonucci had made sure that he was loosely cuffed though and when he slipped free, he wrestled Gacy to the ground and cuffed the older man instead. He eventually let him go when Gacy promised not to bother him again. That was the last time that Gacy ever made advances toward Antonucci and the boy remained working for the contracting company for almost a year after the incident. Tony Antonucci would not realize how lucky he had been that day. Others would not fare as well.

Johnny Butkovich, 17, began doing remodeling work for Gacy’s company in an effort to raise money for his racing car. He enjoyed the position, it paid well, and he maintained a good working relationship with Gacy until one pay period when Gacy refused to pay Johnny for two weeks of work. This was something that Gacy often did in order to save money. Angered that Gacy had withheld his pay, Johnny went over to his employer’s house with two friends to collect what was rightfully his. When he confronted him, Gacy refused to pay and a loud argument erupted. Finally, he realized there was little that he could do and Johnny and his friends left. Butkovich dropped off his friends at home and drove off -- never to be seen again.

Michael Bonnin, 17, enjoyed working with his hands, especially carpentry and woodworking, and often had several different projects going at the same time. In June 1976, he had almost completed restoring an antique jukebox -- but the job was never finished. When on his way to catch a train to meet his stepfather’s brother, he vanished.

Billy Carroll, 16, was a long time troublemaker who had first been in trouble with the authorities at the age of 9. Two years later, he was caught with a gun and he spent most of his life on the streets of Chicago, making money by arranging meetings between teenaged boys and adult men for a commission. Although he came from a very different background that Michael Bonnin and Johnny Butkovich, they all three had one thing in common -- John Wayne Gacy. Like the others Carroll also disappeared suddenly. He left home on June 13, 1976 and was never seen alive again.

Gregory Godzik, 17, started working for PDM Contractors in order to finance parts for his 1966 Pontiac. He considered it an eyesore but it was a consuming hobby for him. The work that he did for Gacy paid well and he liked it a lot. On December 12, 1976, Gregory dropped his date, a girl he had had a crush on for awhile, at her house and drove off towards home. The following day, the police found Gregory’s Pontiac but the boy was missing.

On January 20, 1977, John Szyc, 19, also vanished. He had driven off in his 1971 Plymouth Satellite and was never seen alive again. Interestingly, a short time after Szyc disappeared, another teenager was picked up by police in a 1971 Plymouth Satellite while trying to leave a gas station without paying. The boy said that the man he lived with could explain the situation -- John Wayne Gacy. He told the officers that John Szyc had sold him the car some time earlier. The police never checked the title, which had been signed 18 days after John’s disappearance. Szyc had not worked for PDM Contractors but he was acquainted with Gregory Godzik, Johnny Butkovich and fatally, John Wayne Gacy.

On September 15, 1977, Robert Gilroy, 18, also disappeared. Gilroy was an avid outdoorsman and on that date, was supposed to catch a bus to meet friends for horseback riding. When he never showed up, his father, a Chicago police sergeant, immediately began searching for the boy. A full scale investigation was launched but Robert was nowhere to be found.

More than a year later, another young man named Robert Piest would vanish as well. The investigation into his disappearance would lead not only to the discovery of his body but the bodies of Butkovich, Bonnin, Carroll, Szyc, Gilroy and 27 other young men who suffered similar fates. These discoveries would horrify not only Chicago, but all of America.

Before Robert disappeared though, a weird event would occur that would later turn out to be a chilling prediction of events to come -- or rather a stunning revelation of events that had already occurred. At a pre-Christmas party that was held on December 2, 1978, a well-known local psychic known as Florece (Florence Branson) had been hired to provide cards readings for the guests. The party was held at the home of a contractor associate of Gacy’s and Gacy was one of the many in attendance.

The evening was almost over when it came time for Gacy to have his fortune told. Up until this point, the party and the readings had been going well and everyone was having a great time, including the psychic, and then Gacy approached her for his reading. As soon as he spoke to her, Florece later reported that she sensed something was very wrong with the man. She also said that she became physically ill when she laid out his cards. She was unable to discern any details but knew there was an evil hiding below the surface of this man. She bluffed her way through the reading, much too frightened to say anything to Gacy.

At the end of the evening, she felt compelled to speak to the hostess about her horrific impressions of Gacy. She told what she had sensed and added that she was afraid of him and that Gacy was "perverted and violent."

The hostess refused to hear such things as "John" had been a family friend for several years. Florece didn’t argue with her but was not surprised several weeks later when the story of Gacy and his murderous crime spree made the papers.

Gacy’s web of secrets began to unravel with the vanishing of a young boy named Robert Piest. Robert, 15, disappeared mysteriously just outside the doors of the pharmacy where he worked. His mother, who had come to pick him up after his shift, was waiting outside for him when he vanished. He had told her that he would be back in just a minute because he was going to talk to a contractor who had offered him a job -- but he never returned. She began to get worried but as more time passed, her worry turned to terror. She searched the pharmacy and looked outside but Robert was nowhere to be seen. Finally, three hours after his disappearance, the Des Plaines police were notified. Lieutenant Joseph Kozenczak led the investigation.

The first lead to follow was the most obvious one and officers quickly obtained the name of the contractor who had offered Robert the job. Kozenczak went straight to Gacy’s home and when the Gacy came to the door, he told him about the missing boy. He also asked him to accompany him to the police station for some questions. Gacy refused. He explained that there had been a recent death in his family and that he had to attend to some telephone calls but he agreed to come down later. Several hours later, Gacy arrived and gave a statement to the police. He said that he knew nothing about the disappearance and was allowed to leave with no further questioning.

Something about Gacy did not sit right with Kozenczak though and he decided to do a background check on him. He was stunned when he discovered that Gacy had earlier done time for sodomy with a teenaged boy. He quickly obtained a search warrant for Gacy’s house and on December 13, 1978, a legion of police officers entered the house on Summerdale Avenue. Gacy was not at home at the time.

Items found during the search would lead to the discovery of Gacy’s dark side. Some of them items included a box containing two drivers licenses and several rings, including one that was engraved with Maine West High School class of 1975 and the initials J.A.S.; a box containing marijuana and pills like amyl nitrate; a stained section of rug; a number of books with homosexual and child pornography themes; a pair of handcuffs; police badges; sexual devices; a hypodermic needle and small brown bottle; clothing that was too small for Gacy; nylon rope; and other items. The police also confiscated three automobiles that belonged to Gacy, including a 1978 Chevrolet truck with a snow plow attached and the name "PDM Contractors" on the side, a van with "PDM Contractors" also painted on the side and a 1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88. In the trunk of the car were pieces of hair that were later matched to Robert Piest.

As the investigation continued, the police entered the crawl space under Gacy’s home. They were discouraged by the rancid odor but believed it to be sewage. The earth in the crawl space had been sprinkled with lime but appeared to be untouched. They left the narrow space and returned to police headquarters to run tests on the evidence they had obtained.

Gacy was again called to headquarters and was told about the evidence that had been removed from his house. Enraged, he immediately contacted his attorney, who also told him not to sign the Miranda waiver that was presented to him by detectives. The police had nothing to arrest him on and eventually had to release him after more questioning about the Piest disappearance. They placed him under 24-hour surveillance but this was the best they could do.

In the days that followed, friends were called into the station and were also questioned. The detectives were unable to get any information from Gacy’s friends that connected him to Robert Piest and all of them insisted that Gacy simply was not capable of murder. Gacy had told his friends earlier that the police were trying to charge him with murder but that he had nothing to do with it.

In the midst of the investigation, one of these same friends was asked by Gacy to stop by his house and to check on his dog, making sure that the animal had enough food and water. Gacy said that he didn’t want to go there because the police were harassing him and trying to pin the crime on him. The friend agreed, borrowed a house key from Gacy and went over to 8213 West Summerdale. Nervous about being seen going to Gacy’s house, even though at this point, he was sure that his friend had nothing to do with any criminal activities, he decided to go around to the back door instead.

He put the key into the door lock and just as he began to turn it, he heard what sounded like a group of people moaning and crying inside of the house. The groans were so chilling that he immediately closed the door, re-locked it and left. He hurried away from the house and when he returned to the site where Gacy was working, he lied to him and told him that everything in the house was fine, including his dog.

There is no way to know if the sounds the man heard in the house were natural or supernatural. It’s possible that one of Gacy’s victims was still alive and that his eerie cries sounded like a chorus of moans to the already unnerved friend, but this seems unlikely as by this time, Gacy had begun disposing of the bodies of his victims in locations outside of his home. It seems more likely that, if this account is true, that the friend may have actually heard the voices of victims whose deaths were yet to be avenged. Could the spirits of some of Gacy’s victims have lingered behind in the house -- or at least could some sort of supernatural energy have been pressed on the atmosphere of a place where such horrid things had occurred?

The investigation continued and the police became increasingly discouraged by their attempts to gather information from Gacy’s friends and acquaintances. Finally, frustrated by the lack of evidence connecting Gacy to the Piest disappearance, the police decided to book him on possession of marijuana.

While Gacy was being charged with possession, the police lab and investigators were coming up with critical evidence against Gacy from the items taken from his home. One of the rings found in Gacy’s house belonged to another teenager who had disappeared about a year earlier -- John Szyc. They also discovered that three former employees of Gacy’s had also disappeared. Furthermore, a receipt for a roll of film that was found in Gacy’s home had belonged to a co-worked of Robert Piest and he had given it to Robert on the day of the boy’s disappearance. With this new information, the investigators suddenly began to realize the enormity of the case that was starting to unfold.

Detectives and crime lab technicians returned to Gacy’s house again. With everything starting to crumble around him, Gacy finally confessed to the police that he had killed someone but that it had been in self defense. He said that he was frightened and had buried the body under his garage. He told the police where they could find the body and investigators marked the gravesite in the garage but did not immediately begin digging. They decided to search the crawl space first -- and minutes after starting to dig, they found the remains of the first corpse.

That evening, Dr. Robert Stein, the Cook County Medical Examiner, was called into help with the investigation. He began to organize the search by marking off areas of earth in sections, as would be done with an archaeological site. The excavation of a decomposing body has to be carried out in a meticulous manner in order to preserve the integrity of the evidence and so throughout the night and into the days that followed, the digging progressed under the medical examiner’s watchful eye.

On Friday, December 22, 1978, detectives confronted Gacy with the news that digging was being done under his house. With this, the monster finally broke down. He admitted to the police that he had killed at least 30 people and that most of their remains were buried beneath the house. The first murder took placed in January 1972 and the second in Jaunary 1974, about a year and a half after he was married. He explained that his lured his victims into being handcuffed and then he would sexually assault them. To muffle their screams, Gacy stuffed a sock or their underwear into their mouths and would often kill them by placing a rope or board against their throats as he raped them. He also admitted to sometimes keeping the corpses under his bed or in his attic for hours or days before burying them in the crawl space.

Meanwhile, the police discovered two bodies during the first day of digging. One of these was John Butkovich, who was found under the garage, and the other was in the crawl space. As the days passed, the body count grew higher. Some of the victims were found with their underwear still lodged in their throats and others were buried so close together that investigators believed they had been killed, or at least buried, at the same time.

By December 28, the police had removed a total of 27 bodies from Gacy’s house. Another body had also been found weeks earlier, not in the crawl space but in the Des Plaines River. The naked corpse of Frank Wayne "Dale" Landingin had been found in the water but at the time, the police were not yet aware of Gacy and his crimes. It would not be until his drivers license was found in Gacy’s house that he could be connected to the young man’s murder. And he would not be the only victim to be found in the river…

Also on December 28, the body of James Mazzara was removed from the Des Plaines River. His underwear was found stuffed down his throat, linking him to the other victims. Gacy told the police that he had started disposing of bodies in the river because he was running out of room in his crawl space and because all of the digging was bothering his chronic back problem. Mazzara was the 29th victim to be found -- but was still not the last.

Much to the horror of the neighbors, the police were still excavating Gacy’s property at the end of February. They had gutted the house but had found no more bodies in the crawl space. Bad winter weather had kept them from resuming the search but they believed there were still bodies to be found. While workmen began breaking up the concrete of Gacy’s patio, another horrific discovery was made. They found the body of a man, still in good condition, preserved in the concrete. The following week, another body was found.

The 31st victim to be linked to Gacy was found in the Illinois River. Investigators were able to learn his identity thanks to a tattoo on his arm, which friends of the victim’s father recognized while reading a newspaper article about the grim discovery. The victim’s name was Timothy O’Rourke and he was believed to have been acquainted with Gacy.

Around the time that O’Rourke was discovered and pulled from the river, another body was found on Gacy’s property, this time beneath his recreation room. It was the last body to be found on the property and soon after, the house was destroyed and reduced to rubble.

Although the death toll had now risen to 32, the body of Robert Piest was still missing. Tragically, his remains were discovered in the Illinois River in April 1979. The body had been lodged somewhere in the river but strong winds had worked it loose and carried it to the locks at Dresden Dam, where it was finally discovered. An autopsy report showed that Robert had been strangled by paper towels being shoved down his throat.

Police investigators worked hard to identify Gacy’s victims, using dental records and other clues, and eventually, all but nine of the young men were identified. A mass burial was held for these unknown victims on June 8, 1981. And while the investigation had ended, Gacy’s trial was just beginning.

John Wayne Gacy’s murder trial began on February 6, 1980 at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in downtown Chicago. Jury members, five women and seven men, listened closely as prosecutor Bob Egan outlined the case for them, detailing the short years of Robert Piest’s life, his gruesome death and how Gacy was also responsible for the murders of at least 32 other young men. He told them about the investigation that led to the horrible discoveries under Gacy’s house and also noted that Gacy’s actions had been carefully planned and were rational and premeditated. He knew that the defense would work to make Gacy appear insane and Egan needed to counter this as much as possible. When he finished, it was obvious that Egan’s statement had a chilling effect on the jury and on the courtroom spectators.

Egan’s opening statement was followed by one of Gacy’s defense lawyers, Robert Motta, who opposed Egan’s statement and insisted that Gacy’s actions had been completely irrational and impulsive. He had been insane and no longer in control of his actions. And while most would agree that only a madman would commit the acts that Gacy was being tried for, the legal definition of insanity is much harder to prove. Besides that, prosecutors wanted to make sure that Gacy was kept off the streets -- permanently if possible -- and only a "guilty" verdict would accomplish this. If Gacy was found to be insane, he would become a ward of the state mental health system with no time limits on the how long he might be incarcerated. In many cases, killers were freed when they were deemed mentally stable to re-enter to society, only to kill again. Prosecutors did not believe that this type of commitment was just punishment in Gacy’s case.

After the opening statements, the prosecution bought their first witness to the stand, Marko Butkovich, the father of Gacy’s victim, Johnny Butkovich. He was the first witness on a list that included the family and friends of many of the other victims. Many of them broke down on the stand, recalling their loved ones or recounting their last goodbyes. This testimony was followed by those who worked for Gacy and who survived sexual or violent encounters with him. They spoke of his mood swings and how he tried to trick them into handcuffs, using magic tricks that he perfected as "Pogo the Clown". The testimony continued for several weeks and included friends and neighbors of Gacy (legitimately shocked at the various clues to his behavior they had missed over the years), police officers involved in the investigation and psychologists who examined Gacy and found him to be sane. Before the state rested, prosecutors had called some 60 witnesses to the stand.

The defense then took over, never trying to refute the evidence that established their client as a killer but rather to paint him as insane and unable to controls his actions. They called friends and family members of Gacy to the stand, including his mother, who testified that her husband would often beat Gacy with a leather strap. His sister told of how she saw Gacy being verbally assaulted by their father on many occasions. Others who testified for the defense told of how Gacy was a good and generous man, who helped those in need and who always had a smile and kind word for everyone. Lillie Grexa even took the stand and spoke of what a wonderful neighbor he was. However, she also said something that turned out to be damaging to the case. She refused to say that he was crazy and instead told the court that she believed him to be a "very brilliant man". One has to wonder if she knew that her statement would conflict with the defense theory that Gacy was insane and out of control.

The defense then called Thomas Eliseo, a psychologist who had conducted interviews with Gacy before the trial. He said that he found Gacy to be extremely intelligent but believed that he suffered from borderline schizophrenia. Other medical experts who testified gave similar testimony, reciting a litany of schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder and antisocial behavior. They also reported that Gacy’s mental disorder prevented him from understanding the magnitude of his crimes. In conclusion, each of the experts found him to be insane at the time of the murders and with the testimony of the medical experts, the defense rested its case.


Perhaps the most chilling image of Gacy of all…. (Chicago Tribune)

In their closing statements, both sides emotionally argued their side to the jury but it only took them two hours of deliberation to come back with a verdict -- "guilty". Gacy had been convicted of the deaths of 33 young men and had the notoriety of being convicted of more murders than anyone else in American history. Gacy received the death penalty and was sent to the Menard Correctional Center to await execution. After years of appeals, he was put to death by lethal injection on May 9, 1994. Finally, Gacy’s terrifying string of crimes could be relegated to memory -- or could it?

By the spring of 1979, Gacy’s home at 8213 West Summerdale had been reduced to ruin. Once the remains of the house were cleared away, it became a muddy, vacant lot and a continuing reminder to the neighborhood of the monster who had once been in their midst. All vestiges of the house, even the driveway and barbecue pit, were hauled away but still the onlookers came, macabre curiosity-seeking tourists who flocked to the once peaceful residential area. Neighbors hoped that with all traces of the house removed that the line of cars would finally stopped. The quiet would return, they believed, once the notoriety of the spot began to fade, warmer weather came and the grass began to grow back over the open scar where the house of John Wayne Gacy had once stood.

Unfortunately though, the grass did not return. Even more than 18 months after the house was destroyed, the land remained strangely barren. Some weeds had started to grow near the front sidewalk but the back of the lot, where the house had stood and where the bodies had been buried, remained completely empty of plant life, despite the fact that there was no logical reason for the soil to be bare.

Those searching for an explanation suggested that perhaps the lime that Gacy had dusted the bodies of his victims with had contaminated the soil in some way but police officers who were involved in the actual recovery of the bodies disputed this. They insisted that Gacy had never used enough lime to cause any damage to the lot. The shallow graves where the bodies lay had been carefully unearthed and then later, a backhoe had been brought in to dig down 8 to 10 feet to be sure that nothing was missed. The small amount of lime that had been used would not have survived this and even so, no lime had been used under the garage or in the backyard -- and yet no grass would grow there either.

It was as though the evil deeds that had occurred on the spot had left a supernatural mark on the site, not allowing the grass to grow or for the events to be forgotten. The mystery of the barren soil lasted for a few more years and then the lot was sold and a new house was built on the site. The new owners even went to the trouble of changing the physical address of the location so that the stigma would be removed. Fortunately for them, their efforts worked and once the construction was completed, the grass began to grow once again. The nightmare, it seemed, was finally over.




© Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.