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Born on March 17, 1942 to a blue-collar family in Chicago, John Gacy’s childhood was rough. John and his siblings grew up with an alcoholic father who did not hesitate to beat his children with a razor strap anytime he thought they misbehaved. He would often physically assault his wife too.

According to Karen Gacy, sister of John Gacy, the siblings eventually learned to withstand the abuse. John was alienated at school, partly because he suffered from congenital heart condition that made him unable to play with other kids. Later on he discovered that he was attracted to men, and endured inner turmoil over it.

At the high points of his life, John Gacy was a successful self-made building contractor and active figure in political organization. He would also perform as Pogo the Clown at charitable events and children’s parties. Underneath the sociable character, however, there was one of the most prolific serial killers in the United States, the Killer Clown.

John Gacy was convicted of the murder and r*pe of 33 victims. He took the life of his first victim in 1972, and would carry out a rampage of more murders until his arrest in 1978.

The discovery of his crimes shocked the suburban Chicago community where he lived and was actually known as a rather respectable member of the society.

It was later discovered that he sometimes dressed as “Pogo the Clown” when he killed his victims, hence the moniker. These are some shocking stories about him.

10 At Least 33 Lives He Took

The term “serial killings” is defined as a series of three or more killings with enough common characteristics to suggest reasonable possibility that the same actor or actors committed the crimes. By that definition, John Gacy was a serial killer 11 times over. A murder is one of the most heinous crimes a person could possibly commit, but it wasn’t enough for John Gacy as he also tortured his victims.

The identified victims and their age when they were reported missing:

– Timothy McCoy (16) – Kenneth Parker (16) – Russell Nelson (21)

– John Butkovitch (17) – Michael Marino (14) – Robert Winch (16)

– Darrell Sampson (18) – William Bundy (19) – Tommy Boling (20)

– Randall Reffett (15) – Gregory Godzik (17) – David Talsma (19)

– Samuel Stapleton (14) – John Szyc (19) – William Kindred (19)

– Michael Bonnin (17) – Jon Prestidge (20) – Timothy O’Rourke (20)

– William Carroll (16) – Matthew Bowman (19) – Frank Landingin (19)

– James Byron Haakenson (16) – Robert Gilroy (18) – James Mazzara (20)

– Rick Johnston (17) – John Mowery (19) – Robert Piest (15)

Not every victim of John Gacy’s crimes has been identified.



9 All Victims Were Male

A series of three or more killings with common characteristics is categorized as serial murder. Most serial killers will target specific type of people who have certain physical characteristics, professions, or interests.

The demographic can be very narrow, meaning the killer can find targets quite easily such as nurses with dark hair, middle-aged male elementary school teachers, taxi drivers who always wear hats, hitchhiking couples, and so on; these are just examples and do not necessarily reflect real serial murder cases.

For John Gacy, the victims were all teenage boys and young men. Among the identified victims, the oldest was Russel Nelson (21) while the youngest were Samuel Stapleton and Michael Marino – both were 14. S*xuality is not always a motivating factor for every serial killer, but it most likely was in John Gacy’s killing spree.

As it turned out, not only did John like having s*x with young men, but also enjoyed torturing, raping, and murdering them. Despite having been married to women twice, apparently John Gacy was under heavy turmoil over his own s*xuality.

8 Most Of The Victims’ Remains Were Found In Crawl Space

Some serial killers would make fun of the investigation of their crimes by giving clues about the next or past murders to the police or newspaper.

The Zodiac Killer for example often sent anonymous letters to the authorities containing a confession of previous crimes but without providing any hint about his own whereabouts. He did not say where he hid his victims’ bodies simply because he made no attempt to do so, unlike John Gacy.

Most of his victims’ remains were hidden in his suburban home, more specifically in the crawl space. Of all the successfully identified victims, 21 of them were found in the crawl space; four victims were found in the Des Plaines River, and the remaining two were found in garage and dining room.

But all his attempts to hide his victims were not sloppy as it took the authorities about six years before they could find the bodies. Despite his tricks, the police eventually figured out the hiding spots after meticulous surveillance and investigations.

7 John Gacy “Enjoyed” His First Murder

People have their own preferences on just about everything, including s*xual experience. That being said, there are usually common grounds on what people consider “normal” s*xual activities. For John Gacy, his preferences could not be any further from typical.

While experimentation is often necessary for people to figure out the exact kind of s*xual activity they like the most, chances are the experimentation does not involve any crime let along a murder. John Gacy found his s*xual preference in the weirdest way possible; he had an orgasm when he killed his first victim in 1972.

Whether or not John Gacy actually did plan his first murder, he claimed that he felt totally drained and had mind-numbing orgasm as he killed the 16 year old boy.

John later added in a confession that he found the ultimate thrill in death after he had committed his first murder. Some s*xual experiences and preferences can be quite strange for most people, but you know things have gone too far when your excitements require an act of killing a person.

6 Strangulation Was His Preferable Method Of Killing

As previously discussed, serial killers often target victims based on certain physical traits. In addition to choosing the victims, they also often have preferable methods of killing. The weapons of choice and how serial killers use them were all parts of the identifying factors that investigators will always examine down to the tiniest details.

Even if two serial killers use the same type of weapon – such as handgun – they may aim at different parts of the victim’s body; one perhaps aims the chest, and another does the abdomen area. John Gacy also had his own preferable method of killing: strangulation.

As opposed to inflicting a lethal blow to the head or shooting the victim, John Gacy killed most of his victims by either strangulation or asphyxiation with a makeshift garrote. His victims were typically fooled into donning handcuffs, convincing them that it was part of a magic trick.

He would then r*ped and tortured his victims before brutally ending their lives. Among all his victims, one died of multiple stab wounds, six died of ligature strangulation, and 13 died of asphyxiation. The cause of death in other victims could not be determined, but all were ruled as homicides.

5 History Of S*xual Assault Before The Murders

It is wrong to say that all serial killers have (or had) experiences of adversities during childhood; saying that people who have difficult upbringing would grow up as a criminal is incorrect either. That being said, some serial killers actually did have rough childhood for various reasons for examples abusive parents, abandonment, financial hardship, alienation at school, and so on.

John Gacy suffered from both physical and psychological stress because of his abusive alcoholic father and the alienation he experienced at school. While he had not shown any sign of violent behavior until early adulthood, the adversities he endured during early years in life could be a factor that triggered his tendency for brutality.

Before his arrest for murders, John Gacy was convicted of sodomy on December 3, 1968 and sentenced to ten years at Anamosa State Penitentiary.

After serving 18 months of his ten years sentence, he was granted parole and placed on probation for 12 months. In early February 1971, John Gacy was once again charged with s*xually assaulting a teenage boy. However, the victim did not show up in court, and therefore the charge was dropped. Words of his arrest never reached his parole officer.

4 Multiple Murders In One Day

A serial killer is often depicted in many stories as a person in the middle of a killing spree. When it comes to John Gacy, the term “killing spree” means exactly that.

It was nothing unusual for John Gacy to commit two murders in the same month, for examples in May, June, and October of 1976; September and November of 1977; and November of 1978. In each of those months, he killed two people.

In October of 1976, the disappearance of his two victims were only two days apart. On May 14, 1976, John Gacy committed two murders. Both his victims – just on that day – were teenage boys named Randall Reffett and Samuel Stapleton, aged 15 and 14 years respectively.

Randall Reffet disappeared while walking home from Senn High School, and just hours later Samuel Stapleton vanished as he walked home from his sister’s apartment. They were found buried in the same grave in his home crawl space.

3 John Gacy Inspired The “Amber Alert”

One of John Gacy’s defense attorneys at the 1980 trial, Sam Amirante, wrote the procedures that were later incorporated into the Missing Child Recovery Act of 1984 by the Illinois General Assembly.

The attorney stated that one of his major inspirations for the legislation was the long 72-hour waiting period before police could initiate a search for a missing person, especially a child and adolescence, at the time of the Gacy murders.

The legislation removed the 72-hour waiting period first in Illinois, but then other states across the country also adopted the same sensibility. A national network aimed at locating missing children gradually became a more prominent organization, and would develop into Child Abduction Emergency. Today the national network is more commonly known as the Amber Alert.

An important note: John Gacy did not directly contribute in any way to the legislation. It was one of his defense attorneys who crafted the legislation, motivated by the murders committed by John Gacy.

2 21 Life Sentences And 12 Death Penalties

While serving his time at Anamosa State Penitentiary, John Gacy was a model prisoner. Within just months of his arrival, he managed to secure the position of head cook.

He was also involved in multiple construction projects in prison, including as supervisor in the installation project of miniature golf course in the recreation yard inside the penitentiary.

He was once again brought to trial on February 6, 1980. This time the charges were not only s*xual assaults, but also 33 murders. He was found guilty of all murder charges, as well as (in reference to Robert Piest) of s*xual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child.

He was sentenced to 12 death penalties and 21 life sentences. He was on a death row for 14 years at Menard Correctional Center. John Gacy was isolated in prison cell and he spent much of his time painting. Many of his artworks have been displayed at exhibitions and some were sold for individual prices between $200 and $20,000.

1 Death By Lethal Injection

In some states across the country, capital punishment is a controversial subject. Any discussion about such penalty for offenders almost always turns into political debate. Some people consider death penalty due justice for those who are sentenced, while others think it is an inhuman way to punish people; one of the strongest arguments is that death penalty makes the law no better than the criminals sentenced to death.

Regardless of the differing opinions, John Wayne Gacy was among 12 convicted criminals who were sentenced to death and actually executed in Illinois, United States.

John Gacy was allowed to order his last meal for which he asked for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, French fries, a dozen of fried shrimp, fresh strawberries, and a Diet Coke.

In the hours into his execution, a crowd of around 1,000 people gathered outside the correctional facility (Stateville Correctional Center). He was pronounced death at 12:58 a.m. on May 10, 1994. His brain was later removed and his body was cremated.

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