John Wayne Gacy

By Joe Agostino

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy, who was also known as the Killer Clown, was a serial killer from Chicago that killed approximately 33-34 teenage boys throughout 1972 to 1978.

Early Life


John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 17, 1942. He had two sisters, who he was very close to and also a mother who he was very close to. However he had a difficult relationship with his father, who was an alcoholic and abusive to his wife and children. Throughout his whole childhood, Gacy tried to make his father proud, but was unsuccessful each time he tried. One of his earliest childhood memory was his father beating him up with a leather belt for accidentally pulling apart a car engine which his father had assembled.


Gacy's adolescence was very alike to his childhood, he was regularly beaten up by his abusive father. However this time his mother tried to protect him, which only made things worse as his father would call him 'sissy','mama's boy' and would usually say 'he's probably going to grow up queer'.When he was a teenager, he was molested by a family friend, who would take him for rides in his truck, but he never told his father about this as he was afraid his father would blame him. In school he was overweight and nonathletic. He had to avoid doing any sport due to a heart problem he had. During high school he would suffer black outs, and he also suffered a burst of appendix, which he had to go to hospital regularly which led to a dramatic decline in his school studies.

Community Volunteering

Pogo The Clown

Gacy had done various community services during the 1970s and earned credibility throughout his entire neighbourhood and beyond. He even had his picture take with the wife of the president during that time, Rosalynn Carter. He had done fund raisers, hosted annual parties, and most importantly, Pogo The Clown. Pogo The Clown was a fictional character that he made up to help hospitalised children. This was why he got his nick name as the Killer Clown. With all these factors, no one could ever imagine that he was a serial killer, but this was all part of a bigger plan.


This is an outline of the IDENTIFIED teenagers he killed:

January 2, 1972

Gacy's first killing occurred in January 2, 1972. Gacy picked up a 15 year old boy named Timothy Jack McCoy from the bus station in Chicago. The boy was travelling from Michigan to Omaha and Gacy offered a tour around Chicago. Then Gacy drove McCoy back to his home but with the promise that he could stay the night and driven back to the bus station on time to catch his bus. The boy accepted and when Gacy woke up the next morning he found McCoy with a knife in his hand. Gacy immediatly tackled him down and stabbed McCoy several times in the chest. He later went into the kitchen and found a table set up, with scrambled eggs and sliced bacon on the table that McCoy had specially made for both of them. He buried McCoy's body in the crawl space of his house and poured concrete on top of his body with McCoy's name engraved on it. In a police interview, Gacy said that he experienced sexual orgasm while killing the boy and admitted that "killing was the ultimate thrill" (Gacy 1978).

July 29, 1975

John Butkovich. Aged 17.

April 6, 1976

Darrell Sampson was Gacy's fourth victim which occurred in April 6, 1976. Gacy lured 18-year old Darrell Sampson to his house because Sampson worked for Gacy and pretended that Sampson wage was going to increase. Gacy strangled him and he was buried in the crawl space of his house.

May 14, 1976

Samuel Stapelton. Aged 14.

May 14, 1976

Randall Reffett. Aged 15.

June 3, 1976

Michael Bonnin. Aged 17.

June 13, 1976

William Carroll. Aged 16.

August 6, 1976

Rick Johnston. Aged 17.

October 24, 1976

Kenneth Parker. Aged 16.

October 6, 1976

William Bundy. Aged 19.

December 12, 1976

Gregory Godzik. Aged 17.

January 20, 1977

John Syzc. Aged 19.

March 15, 1977

Jon Prestidge. Aged 20.

July 5, 1977

Matthew Bowman. Aged 19.

September 15, 1977

Gacy lured an 18 year old boy named Robert Gilroy. Gacy had brought Gilroy to his home and Gacy had suffocated him. Gilroy was buried in the crawl space of Gacy's home.

September 25, 1977

John Mowery. Aged 19.

October 17, 1977

Russell Nelson. Aged 21.

November 10, 1977

Robert Winch. Aged 16.

November 18, 1977

Tommy Boling. Aged 20.

December 9, 1977

David Talsma. Aged 20.

February 16, 1978

William Kindred. Aged 19.

June 16-23, 1978

Timothy O'Rourke. Aged 20.

November 4, 1978

Frank Landingin. Aged 19.

November 24, 1978

James Mazzara. Aged 21.

Conviction And Arrest

December 11, 1978

On December 11, 1978 Gacy visited the Des Plaines pharmacy to buy some medication when he met 15 year old Robert Piest. Gacy offered him a job in his company and lured him to Gacy's home. Just before this happened, Piest went to his mother and explained that Gacy had a job offer for him. Gacy had raped and killed Piest and when Piest didn't come home, his mother started to worry. She informed the police and the police went to the pharmacy. When the owner of the pharmacy explained that Gacy had been in the pharmacy on the day Piest disappeared they immediately interrogated Gacy. Gacy had denied knowing who Robert Piest was even though they found strands of Robert Piest hair in Gacy's car. This was used as primary evidence for Gacy's case. When they found out that Gacy had a criminal record, they immediately got a warrant for his house and found some suspicious items in it. The police found a 1975 high school ring with initials J.A.S engraved on it, different drivers licence, handcuffs, a 4-wheel drive with holes on it, books on homosexuality, a syringe, clothing too small for Gacy, a 6mm Brevettata pistol, a photo receipt from the Des Plaines pharmacy and most importantly the smell of a rotting corpse. The police trailed the smell to the crawl space of Gacy's house and they found a horrific discovery. 27 rotting corpse had been laying there for years. As soon as they discovered this they interrogated Gacy and after hours of interrogation Gacy confessed everything and he was instantly arrested. The whole neighbourhood were completely dumbfounded as they realised that the most loving, caring and respected person in the neighbourhood was a serial killer.

Modus Operandi (MO)

Handcuff or Rope trick

Gacy would lure the teenage boys by offering them a job in his company. He then would do either two things:

The handcuff trick is Gacy encouraging the teenage boy to put handcuffs on as he pretended he was going to do a magic trick. The teenage boy would put the handcuff on and he would rape and strangle them. E.g He killed Darrell Sampson using this trick.

The rope trick is Gacy offering a lot of alcohol to the teenage boy until the boy is too drunk to know what is happening. Gacy would rape the teenager and then put a rope, which has a wooden plank in it, on their neck. This means that the rope would acts as a switch and he could control how much air the teenager would get. He would torture the teenager and eventually suffocate him. E.g He killed Robert Gilroy using this trick.

Gacy would put a cloth in the victims mouths so that no one could hear their scream, usually the cloth would be the victims own underwear. After Gacy kills the boy he would bury the body in the crawl space of his house or in the Illinois River.

John Wayne Gacy Rope Trick

Forensic Analysis

Forensic Anthropology

Forensic anthropology is the study of human bones to assist in a criminal case. This is the main forensic technique they used in Gacy's case to solve who Gacy's victims were.

How does it work?

Forensic anthropologists can find out the victims age, gender, weight, race, and also how the victim died. E.g the victim might of died by a blunt trauma to the skull, which usually ends up as the skull being crushed. In Gacy's case, forensic anthropologists needed to find out the what the victim looked like and how they got killed.

Most of the Gacy's victims were strangled or suffocated, forensic anthropologist found this out because the bone on most of the victims neck, which is the hyoid bone, were all cracked.

Forensic anthropologists found out the the age of the victims by the smoothness of their bones. Older people tend to have smoother bones than younger people.

They found out he gender of the victim by analysing the femur, males usually have a larger femur than women. They also have rounder edges, while females tend to have sharper edges. The females femur are more round than the male femur.

The victims height was determined by the length of the bones, anthropologists measure the length of the bone and determine the height.

The weight is determined by how worn out the bones are, if they are badly worn out the person was quite large.

Forensic anthropologists determined the race of the victim from the nose, white people usually have a triangle nose hole, black people usually have a square nose hole and asian people have diamond nose hole.

With all these factors, detectives are able to draw an accurate drawing of what the victim looked like, and therefore was a crucial part of the victim identification in Gacy's case.


Forensic anthropologists don't use any special equipment, however they do use equipment for a detailed report on bones. For example they use chemicals to illuminate the bones so that they can see the bones better. They also use microscopes to look at the details on the bone and it reassures whatever they are researching.

Limitations to forensic anthropology

Limitations to forensic anthropology include:

Identification- It is very hard to identify a victim from just its bones and it can be very embarrassing. For example the most famous case where forensic anthropology went wrong is when two men found bones in the New Mexico dessert. Forensic anthropologist stated that it was a missing 12-year old girl, but after they did another analysis they found out that it was just the remains of a bear.

Getting complete bones- Sometime forensic anthropologist can not find a full set of bones and therefore can not do a full analysis of the bones.

Clear bones- Some bones are really dirty and cannot be washed off with water, which disturbs the analysis.

Has forensic anthropology changed?

Forensic anthropology still has the same basic concept as 80 years ago, however it has changed a little with new technology, but all in all it has not changed.

Fate of John Wayne Gacy


The trial of John Wayne Gacy started in February 6, 1980 charged with 33 murders. He was trying to lessen the harshness of the sentence, which was death row, and get out of death row. Gacy was trying to convince to the judge that he was mental and suffers from emotional disorder. As the trials went on, the family of the victims were horrified of what they heard, they just broke down in tears as they thought of their loved ones. After 14 years of trial, on May 9, 1994 he got was charged with 33 murders and was sentenced to death. That afternoon he got a special picnic with his family in the jail courtyard, and he also went to church. Just before he had to be executed, he drew pictures of him as a 'Pogo The Clown' and was sold for millions of dollars. On the afternoon of May 9, 1994 John Wayne Gacy had to be moved to the execution chamber and received a lethal injection.
As the trials went on, the family of the victims were horrified of what they heard, they just broke down in tears as they thought of their loved ones. After 14 years of trial, on May 9, 1994 he got was charged with 33 murders and was sentenced to death. That afternoon he got a special picnic with his family in the jail courtyard, and he also went to church. Just before he had to be executed, he drew pictures of him as a 'Pogo The Clown' and was sold for millions of dollars. On the afternoon of May 9, 1994 John Wayne Gacy had to be moved to the execution chamber and received a lethal injection.

Documentary of John Wanye Gacy

House of Horrors (2012) Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy Documentary