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The following paper is on the life of John Wayne Gacy, one of the most famous serial killers of all time. The sources were cited through a book on John Wayne Gacy’s biography, a documentary on his life as well as the years where he committed the crimes. An article by a former police officer who oversaw bringing Gacy finally in and a textbook where his crimes are defined through law and how someone like Gacy was criminally charged for his doings. John Wayne Gacy as a child was abused physically and mentally by his father. It is believed that the reason for all his crimes was because of the abuse. His father used to sexually abuse him which John in life later did to his victims as well. John came from nothing in his broken home and made a name for himself as he grew older as a successful white-collar worker. Hopping from successful job to successful job, receiving promotions often. John was also married quite a few times and divorced for various reasons. Alcohol, dishonesty, and unfaithfulness. Ultimately, he told his final wife that he was indeed gay, and that sparked this monster. Throughout his work years, he was intrigued by the thought of the younger crowd instead of the older more experienced workers. He was convincing to most because he felt that the younger workers were more energetic and would have a longer working career in the companies that he was managing. John had ulterior motives, which later down the line makes sense. He would have his young workers over for special occasions and lured them in by making the occasion seem like business-related meetings, before knocking young men unconscious, raping them, and the majority except for a few escaped deaths. John Wayne Gacy was convicted of 33 murders in the first degree along with sexual assaulting/raping the young men. Most of John’s victims were underage, in today’s world, we call that statutory rape. He received a nickname that people would be more than likely to recognize more than his actual name, ‘The Killer Clown.’ The few victims who escaped their almost certain deaths remember vividly that John used to dress up like a clown and torture his victims before raping and murdering them. John committed his crimes between 1972 to 1976. We’re getting away with things was much easier than what they are today.

A Born Killer

John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 17, 1942. (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). John was one of three, and as a child was extremely overweight and clumsy. He was a bright intelligent young man who was family-oriented and close with his sisters and mother but had a difficult relationship with his alcoholic father, who was often physically abusive towards his wife and children (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). Gacy had a relatively happy childhood, although he did go through a few traumatic experiences. At age nine, he was sexually molested by a friend of his father; at 11 he was struck in the head by a swing, leaving a blood clot that caused him to suffer blackouts throughout the rest of his childhood (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). Shortly after, he failed to graduate high school due to his health and troubled home life. He decided to move to Las Vegas where he got a job at a funeral parlor as a janitor, only lasting three months. He decided to return home to Chicago and enroll in a business school. After graduating, he found employment with Nunn-Bush Shoe Company and eventually was so thrilled with his work that he was transferred to Springfield, Illinois as a management trainer. While in Springfield, Gacy became involved in several community organizations, most notably, the Jaycees, even eventually becoming the first vice president (Ellis & Meyer, 1999).

The Start

In 1964 he married a co-worker by the name of Marylynn Myers and in that same year had his first homosexual experience. According to Gacy, one of his coworkers boozed him and sexually assaulted him. Gacy stayed in Springfield until 1966, his father-in-law then offered him the chance to run various Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants that he had owned in Waterloo, Iowa. Soon enough Gacy and his wife had moved to Iowa, where she had given birth to a son, Michael Gacy in 1967 and a daughter Christine in 1968. Marylynn was a stay-at-home mom as John was operating the father-in-law’s restaurants and still worked with the Jaycees (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). Things seemed good for the Gacy’s, but this was just the beginning. Rumors around town that John had been gay, but those who worked closely with him denied the claims. Shortly after, in May of 1968, they had reason to rethink the assessment when John was arrested for sexual assault on a 15-year-old named Donald Voorhees (Ellis & Meyer, 1999) Voorhees almost didn’t show up to court because Gacy had hired another teenager to beat up Voorhees. Once matters finally came to court, Gacy pled guilty to a charge of Sodomy and received a 10-year sentence (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). Marylynn Myers then divorced John Gacy and gained full custody of their children (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). John would never see his children again.

Post Prison

In prison, surprisingly he was considered a leader and model inmate. His good behavior led him to release only 18 months into his 10-year sentence. He immediately returned to Chicago to visit his mother and father. His father had passed while he was imprisoned, and John was full of regret because they could never settle their differences. Gacy at this time was unemployed, divorced, and didn’t have much to his name. He stayed in his hometown of Chicago got a job as a chef and bought a house with his mother’s assistance right outside of Chicago. (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). In 1972, Gacy remarried Carole Hoff, who was recently divorced and a mother of two. Gacy then quit his job as a chef and became a contractor. This was undoubtedly Gacy’s peak, his contracting business would see him gross $200,000 a year (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). Although the majority of Gacy’s employees were teenage boys, he was loved in his neighborhood, throwing frequent dinner parties and barbecues. He also was active in his local community. An active member of the Democratic party and director of Chicago’s annual Polish Constitution Day Parade (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). Unfortunately, the activity that would connect him to his nickname ‘The Killer Clown’ comes from his involvement in the ‘Jolly Joker’ clown club whose members performed at fundraisers as well as entertaining hospitalized children. He named his character ‘Pogo the Clown’ (Ellis & Meyer, 1999). In 1975, Gacy had admitted to his wife that he was gay, divorcing a year later.

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Killing Spree

He committed his first murder in 1972. Gacy claimed it was accidental. 15-year-old Timothy McCoy who was headed to Omaha, Nebraska by bus was spotted by Gacy as he was driving by the bus station. Gacy offered the young man a place to stay and promised McCoy he would drive him to the bus station first thing in the morning. McCoy was murdered that next morning, he entered Gacy’s bedroom holding a knife, and Gacy thinking the boy wanted to kill him in his defense stabbed McCoy to death. Gacy later realized that McCoy was preparing breakfast as a thank-you for Gacy’s hospitality and generosity (Keller, 2012) Timothy McCoy would be the first of many to be buried in John Wayne Gacy’s unanimous crawl space under his house. Later admitting it to the courts that ‘I realized death was the ultimate thrill’ (Keller, 2012, 137). Also claimed he experienced an orgasm while stabbing McCoy. The Killer clown would continue the deep dark path after that. Gacy began to attack employees who worked for him. There was a close call with 15-year-old Anthony Antonucci, Gacy handcuffed him, and Antonucci got free and wrestled Gacy to the ground, luckily for him, he was a high school wrestler. Antonucci escaped but continued to be an employee of Gacy’s even after the incident. Most of Gacy’s victims were employees of his luring them in with believable antics by inviting the young men over to talk about pay or other work-related things. Most of his victims would be put to death the same way, raped and then gagged or strangled to keep them quiet. Gacy was raping and slaughtering an average of 2 young men a month (Keller, 2012). Almost all the young men were buried in his crawlspace below his house. As things continued and more employees disappeared, Gacy would use the believable excuse that he would pay them and send them on their way for work-related purposes. (Keller, 2012). One employee 17-year-old Gregory Godzik, went missing in December of 1976 after only being an employee of Gacy’s for 3 weeks. Before being murdered Godzik told his parents that Gacy needed help ‘digging trenches’ for a drain in his crawlspace. Godzik’s parents had contacted Gacy asking for their son’s whereabouts but were told that their son planned on running away from home (Keller, 2012). Strangely enough in 1977, a young Robert Donnelly was abducted at gunpoint, where Gacy took him home, raped, and tortured him. Donnelly begged Gacy to kill him. Gacy attempted to drown him but quickly revived him after Donnelly became unconscious, as he was being shoved headfirst into a bathtub repeatedly (Keller, 2012, 141). Oddly enough Gacy let Donnelly go free and even drove him back to the sight where he was abducted. Donnelly eventually reported the case and Gacy was questioned by police, but Gacy said everything was consensual. The police believed him, and no charges were filed. After burying a near 30 victims in the crawl space of his basement, Gacy was running out of the room. His last 4 victims would be thrown into the Des Plaines River (Keller, 2012).

The Turning Point

Jeffrey Rignall, a 26-year-old male, was lured in by Gacy offering him a joint. Gacy then began his antics in the vehicle, by smothering Rignall with a chloroform-soaked rag, he was then brought back to Gacy’s house, raped, and tortured. Rignall somehow escaped the same night, learning that he eventually had permanent liver damage due to the chloroform (Keller, 2012). Rignall reported it to the police but when failed to do anything Rignall took matters into his hands. Staking out at an exit where he knew Gacy drove through every day. Rignall tailed him all the way home and then informed the police of Gacy’s home at 8213 West Summerdale (Keller, 2012). Gacy was arrested and eventually arrested for the assault on Rignall, but while waiting for his trial he committed his last few murders. John Wayne Gacy was contracted to do a remodeling job at a local pharmacy in 1978, this would be his last act of business. He spotted pharmacy employee Robert Priest. Gacy offered him work and later Piest disappeared. His mother knew of his last whereabouts and was told he was being interviewed by a contractor. His family filed a missing person report with the local police (Keller, 2012). The local police became curious and started checking Gacy’s background and to their surprise, he had an outstanding battery charge back in Chicago (Valente, 2018). The police then searched Gacy’s house, finding class rings, driver’s licenses, handcuffs, and many articles of clothing that were too small for Gacy (Valente, 2018). Police still felt they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him but began surveillance. Gacy was aware of the surveillance and would even joke with the officers following him by inviting them out for meals and drinks on multiple occasions (Keller, 2012). Gacy eventually alluded to the pressure by drinking heavily and being unkept, unshaven, and bleary-eyed (Keller, 2012, 146). Gacy eventually went to his lawyers, trying to file charges against the police to end the surveillance. After being questioned by his lawyers he confessed to Robert Piest’s murder. ‘This boy is dead. He’s in the river.’ (Valente, 2018, 20). After that, Gacy admitted to lawyers that he had killed many people. His lawyers, knowing he was heavily intoxicated made him an appointment immediately with a psychiatrist. Gacy never attended the appointment. On the same day of visiting his lawyers, he then visited a local gas station, handed the attendant a bag of marijuana, and said ‘I killed 30 people, give or take a few. These guys are going to kill me.’ (Valente, 2018, 22). The attendant immediately reported it to the police, and the police went after him as soon as they could, thinking the confession to the gas station attendant would ultimately lead to Gacy committing suicide. The police found Gacy and arrested him for possession of marijuana. Ultimately, the police obtained a search warrant and immediately commented on the smell of decomposition (Keller, 2012). They eventually found bodies and flesh all around the crawl space of the basement. In custody, Gacy admitted to all crimes. Eventually, 29 bodies were recovered in the basement and 4 in the local river (Valente, 2018). 5 weeks after all the bodies were recovered, Gacy went on trial, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to death on February 6, 1980. He stayed on death row for 14 years before being executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994 (Valente, 2018).


In our first textbook used in class, ‘Sexual Victimization Then and Now’ all of John Wayne Gacy’s crimes can all be described and defined. As per the NCVS, the definition of rape changed thoroughly throughout the years but had a significant meaning for both males on females, male on male, and female on females finally in the mid-1990s. It is defined as ‘penetration, no matter how slight of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim’ (Richards & Marcum, 2015, 11). In Gacy’s crimes, there was never any consent from any of the victims. John’s victims were all underage. Which would classify that in today’s world as statutory rape. Defined as ‘Based on the age of the individuals involved in the sexual act. If at least one of the individuals falls below a state’s determined age of consent, the sexual act is defined as a crime regardless of the intentions of the sexual acts.’ (Richards & Marcum, 2015, 103). Well before the rape and statutory rape, Gacy was known for sexual harassment in the workplace but worked his way around getting or figured out by using his power as a leader to most who worked under him. Sexual harassment in the textbook is defined as ‘behavior must be a sexual, such as sexual coercion to retain employment, spreading rumors about a person’s alleged sexual activities on social media sites, or derogatory remarks and attitudes related to one’s sex. Secondly, the aspect of behavior is that it must be unwanted or unwelcome. In addition, to hold an employer or a school responsible, the victim must demonstrate that such behaviors diminished the victim’s ability to continue his or her employment or education due to the environment due to the organization’s ineffective response to the harassment’ (Richards & Marcum, 2015, 52). Lastly, John intentionally murdered everyone he could in the first degree. First-degree murder is defined as “A calculated act of slaying committed with malice aforethought, often requiring aggravated circumstances such as extreme brutality.” (Murder, 2019). Gacy was known for knocking his victims unconscious, tying them to a chair, raping them, and murdering them.


It seems to all stem back to John’s childhood that made him this way. He was physically and mentally abused by his father. His father was notorious for sexually assaulting his sister, mother, and John and with minimal friends throughout his adolescent years, it set John up on a recipe for disaster. His anti-social self as a minor reminds me of the social control theory. Where family, friends, education, and many more things that related to Johns’s future actions were justifiable in his mind. In the 1960s and 1970s, he was a closet gay which would have no doubt been frowned upon. John bottled up all his feelings until he ultimately exploded, and it turned him into a living monster, and arguably one of the most famous serial killers to ever exist.

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