John Wayne GACY Jr.
A.K.A.: "The Killer Clown"
Classification: Serial killer
Number of victims: 33
Date of murders: 1972 - 1978
Date of arrest: December 21, 1978
Date of birth: March 17, 1942
Victims profile: Boys and young men
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Illinois on May 10, 1994
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk
The "Killer Clown" - People v. John Wayne Gacy, 79C-69 et seq.
The 33 indictments of John Wayne Gacy document the State of Illinois case against one of the most prolific and notorious murderers in United States history.
Gacy, a construction contractor, lived in a quiet suburb northwest of Chicago. He made himself well known in his community for his political work and his help to charitable causes. He often appeared at children's performances dressed as a clown. But the friendly clown had another life.
The law caught up with Gacy late in 1978. The mother of a young man who disappeared after applying to Gacy for a job notified the police. A search warrant allowed police to search Gacy's home.
Warrant pages 1, 2, 3.
Authorities eventually discovered the remains of 27 corpses underneath the house, plus 2 more under the garage and driveway. Eventually Gacy told police he had thrown 4 other corpses into the DesPlaines River.
Gacy was indicted for 33 murders.
Indictment 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
He was found guilty in March of 1980.
Verdit pages 1.
Judge Louis B. Garippo sentenced him to death.
Execution pages 1, 2, 3, 4.
The Circuit Court ruling was appealed. The Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed the death sentence of execution by lethal injection.
Supreme Court pages 1.
On May 10, 1994, the sentence was carried out.
Clerk's Memorandum 1.
John Wayne Gacy was convicted of 33 murders of mostly teenage boys. He was sentenced to death for 12 of those murders (12 proved to have been committed after Illinois had passed post-Furman death penalty), and to natural life in prison for the others. The bodies of most of the victims were unearthed in the crawl space under Gacy's middle class home in the Chicago suburbs.
Evidence showed that the defendant led a double life, engaging in charitable and political activities at the same time he was committing a series of sadistic torture murders. He enticed many young men to his home for homosexual liaisons, tying or handcuffing his partners then strangling or choking them. Gacy was a successful contractor, was active in the community, and often dressed up as a clown for parties.
On December 11, 1978, a 15-year-old Des Plaines high school sophomore, Robert Piest, disappeared shortly after leaving work at a pharmacy where Gacy had recently completed a remodeling job.
Police put Gacy under surveillance, and when it was learned that two teenage employees of Gacy, Gregory Godzik and John Butkovich, also had recently disappeared, the police obtained a search warrant for Gacy's home. A roll of film belonging to Piest was seized in the ensuing search.
A second search warrant was executed and three lime-covered bodies were found in the crawl space. Gacy pointed officers to the precise locations of certain bodies in the crawl space and stated that he had lured the victims to his home, either expressly for sex or through the promise of employment, and then strangled them. A total of 29 bodies were recovered on the property and 4 more were discovered in a nearby river.
Gacy recanted his confession and did not testify at trial, where he asserted an insanity defense unsuccessfully.
People v. Gacy, 468 N.E.2d 1171 (Ill. 1984) (Direct Appeal).
People v. Gacy, 530 N.E.2d 1340 (Ill. 1988) (PCR).
Gacy v. Welborn, 994 F.2d 305 (7th Cir. 1993) (Habeas).
Gacy v. Page, 24 F.3d 887 (7th Cir. 1994) (Habeas/Stay).
A dozen deep fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe chicken from KFC, a pound of fresh strawberries and French fries.
"Kiss my ass".
John Wayne GacySerial Killers Archives by David LohrJohn Wayne Gacy was born on March 17, 1942, in Chicago Illinois. According to the book Killer Clown, by Terry Sullivan and Peter Maiken, Gacy seemed to have a regular childhood with the exception of his turbulent relationship with his father, John Wayne Gacy Sr. The authors describe the father as an unpleasant, abusive alcoholic prone to physically and verbally assaulting his children. They describe Gacy as deeply loving his father and wanting desperately to gain his approval and attention, but failing to win him over. (Gacy Sr. died on Christmas Day 1965.)
After attending four high schools during his senior year and never graduating, Gacy dropped out of school and left Chicago for Las Vegas. While there, he worked part time as a janitor for Palm Mortuary. Unhappy in Vegas, he returned to Chicago a few months later.
During the early 1960’s, Gacy enrolled in a business college and developed a talent for salesmanship. A born salesman, he could talk his way in and out of practically any situation. Upon graduating, he went to work as a management trainee at Nunn Bush Shoe Co in downtown Chicago. He excelled in his position and within weeks was transferred to Springfield, Ill., to manage a men’s clothing outlet for the company, where he remained employed for nearly a year.
Shortly after his promotion, Gacy married into a wealthy family and relocated with his new bride to Waterloo, Iowa. In 1966, at the request of his father-in-law, Gacy took over management of the family’s chicken restaurant. Gacy quickly became a well-known and liked member of the community, according to later accounts in the Waterloo Courier.
However, all was not well with Gacy. The future serial killer would be arrested for the first time in 1968. The felony charge, attempting to coerce a male employee into homosexual acts, came as a big surprise to those who thought they knew this likable father of two infants, especially his wife of two years. Gacy pled guilty to sodomy and was sentenced to 10 years in Iowa’s State Men’s Reformatory in Anamosa. His wife filed for divorce following the sentencing. Angered, Gacy informed her he did not want to see his children again and would henceforth consider her and the two kids dead. After serving 18 months, Gacy was paroled in 1971 and moved back to Chicago. He went to work as a construction contractor and then started his own construction business. That July he remarried a recently divorced women he had met through mutual friends and, with financial assistance from his mother, moved into a house in Des Plaines, with financial help from his mother. In February 1971, Gacy again ran into trouble with the law. He was charged with the attempted rape of a young man. The charges were dropped when the victim failed to appear in court for the hearing.
Gacy had a talent for business. According to the Des Plaines Journal, he was known by local merchants as a sharp businessman, who would often undercut his business rivals' contracts by hiring on a number of high-school age employees to cut his costs. His business grew.
Gacy spent part of his leisure time hosting elaborate street parties for friends and neighbors, dressing as a clown, and entertaining children at local hospitals. He also immersed himself in organizations such as the Jaycees and the local Democratic party. As a Democratic precinct captain he once had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalyn Carter.
Gacy’s second wife divorced him in March of 1976. According to accounts in Harlan Mendenhall’s book, Fall of the House of Gacy, Gacy's second wife felt she could no longer cope with the marriage due to her husband's unpredictable moods and bizarre obsession with homosexual magazines. The couple did not have children.
On Dec. 12, 1978, the police again focused their attention on John Wayne Gacy. Robert Piest, a teenage stock boy at a local Des Plaines pharmacy, had come up missing. Gacy was the last person seen with the boy prior to his disappearance. When investigators ran a background check on Gacy, they were surprised to discover that he had previously served time for committing sodomy on a teenage boy. With this incriminating information, investigators were able to obtain a warrant to search Gacy’s house. During the execution of the warrant, investigators entered a crawl space located beneath the home. A rancid odor was quickly noticed. The smell was believed to be faulty sewage lines and was quickly dismissed. Without any noticeable incriminating evidence, investigators returned to headquarters to run tests on the evidence they seized.
During a review of the items confiscated from Gacy’s house, investigators soon realized that they had unknowingly seized a piece of critical evidence. One of the rings found at Gacy’s house belonged to another teenager who had disappeared a year earlier. With this new information, investigators began to realize the possible enormity of the case that was unfolding before them. Following the discovery of their new information, it was not long before investigators were able to obtain a second search warrant for Gacy’s home.
On Dec. 22, 1978, Gacy, realizing that his dark secrets were about to be exposed, confessed to police, telling them that he had murdered approximately 33 young men over the past seven years. He also drew them a detailed map to the locations of 28 shallow graves under his house and garage.
Further he admitted to dumping five others into the Des Plaines River. Gacy told detectives, "There are four Johns." He later explained that there was John the contractor, John the clown, and John the politician. The fourth person went by the name of Jack Hanley. Jack was the killer and did all the evil things.
Gacy’s murder trial began Feb. 6, 1980, in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. During the five-week trial the prosecution and the defense called more than 100 witnesses to testify. The defense strategy was to establish that Gacy was insane and out of control at the time of the killings. To bolster this claim the defense put on the stand psychiatrists who had interviewed Gacy prior to trial. After the closing arguments, the jury deliberated for only two hours before finding Gacy guilty of murdering 33 people.
On March 13, 1980, Gacy was sentenced to die. Gacy was transported to Menard Correctional Center in Illinois. He would remain there for just over 14 years until he was transported to the Statesville Penitentiary near Joliet for execution.
On May 9, 1994, Gacy sat down for his last meal: fried chicken, French fries, Coke and strawberry shortcake. Prison officials later described his demeanor as "chatty . . . talking up a storm." In a phone interview shortly before his execution, he told a Knight-Tribune reporter, "There's been 11 hardback books on me, 31 paperbacks, two screenplays, one movie, one off-Broadway play, five songs, and over 5,000 articles. What can I say about it?" But of course, he quickly protested, "I have no ego for any of this garbage."
Just after midnight on May 10, 1994, Gacy was executed by lethal injection. For his last words, Gacy snarled, ''Kiss my ass.''
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994) 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".
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, the second of three children, to John Wayne Gacy, Sr. (June 20, 1900 – December 25, 1965), a machinist, and Marion Elaine Robinson (May 4, 1908 – December 14, 1989). Cook County marriage records provide his mother's name as Marion E. Robertson.
He was of Polish and Danish heritage. He had a troubled relationship with his father, an alcoholic who abused him and called him a "sissy". He was close to his sisters and mother, who affectionately called him "Johnny".
When Gacy was 11, he was struck on the forehead by a swing. The resulting head trauma formed a blood clot in his brain that went unnoticed until he was 16, when he began to suffer blackouts. He was prescribed medication to dissolve the clot.
After attending four high schools, Gacy dropped out before completing his senior year and left his family, heading west. After running out of money in Las Vegas, Nevada, he worked long enough to earn money to travel back home to Chicago. Without returning to high school, he enrolled in and eventually graduated from Northwestern Business College.
A management trainee position with the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company followed shortly after graduation, and in 1964, Gacy was transferred to Springfield, Illinois. There he met coworker Marlynn Myers, and they married in September 1964. He became active in local Springfield organizations, joining the Jaycees and rising to vice-president of the Springfield chapter by 1965.
Marlynn's parents, who had purchased a group of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchises, offered Gacy a job as manager of a Waterloo, Iowa KFC, and the Gacys moved there from Springfield.
Imprisonment, divorce, parole
The Gacys settled in Waterloo and had two children, a son and a daughter. Gacy worked hard at his KFC franchise but still found time to again join the Jaycees. Rumors of Gacy's homosexuality began to spread but did not stop him from being named "outstanding vice-president" of the Waterloo Jaycees in 1967. However, there was a seamier side of Jaycee life in Waterloo, one that involved prostitution, pornography, and drugs, in which Gacy was deeply involved. Gacy was cheating on his wife regularly. At the same time, Gacy opened a "club" in his basement for the young boys of Waterloo, where he allowed them to drink alcohol and made sexual advances towards them.
Gacy's middle class idyll in Waterloo came crashing down in March 1968 when two Waterloo boys, aged 16 and 15, accused him of sexually assaulting them. Gacy professed his innocence and it appeared he might beat the charges, but in August of that year he hired another Waterloo youth to beat up one of his accusers. The youth was caught and confessed all, and Gacy was arrested. Before the year was out, he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to 10 years in the Iowa State Penitentiary.
Gacy's imprisonment was rapidly followed by his wife's petition for divorce, which was final in 1969. He never saw his children again. During his incarceration, Gacy's father died from cirrhosis, on Christmas Day 1969. He was paroled in 1970, after serving 18 months. After Gacy was released, he moved back to Illinois to live with his mother. He successfully hid this criminal record until police began investigating him for his later murders.
Businessman and political activist
Gacy moved in with his mother and got a job as a chef in a Chicago restaurant. In 1971, with his mother's financial assistance, 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. The house had a four-foot deep crawl space under the floor.
On February 12, 1971, Gacy was charged with disorderly conduct; a teenaged boy claimed that Gacy picked him up and tried to force him into sex. The complaint was dropped when the boy did not appear in court. The Iowa Board of Parole did not learn of this, and Gacy was discharged from parole in October 1971.
On June 22, 1972, Gacy was arrested again and charged with battery after another young man said that Gacy flashed a sheriff's badge, lured him into Gacy's car, and forced him into sex. Again charges were dropped.
In June 1972, Gacy married Carole Hoff, an acquaintance from his teenage years. Hoff and her two daughters moved into the Summerdale Avenue house. In 1975, Gacy started his own business, PDM Contractors, a construction company. At the same time, his marriage began to deteriorate. The Gacys' sex life came to a halt, and John Gacy would go out late and stay out all night. Carole Gacy found wallets with IDs from young men lying around. John Gacy began bringing gay pornography into the house. The Gacys divorced in March 1976.
Gacy became active in the local Democratic Party, first volunteering to clean the party offices. In 1975 and 1976, he served on the Norwood Park Township street lighting committee. He eventually earned the title of precinct captain. In this capacity, he met and was photographed with First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who was in town for the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade, held on May 6, 1978.
Gacy was directing the parade that year, for the third year in a row. Carter posed for pictures with Gacy and autographed the photo "To John Gacy. Best Wishes. Rosalynn Carter". In the picture, Gacy is wearing an "S" pin, indicating a person who has received special clearance by the United States Secret Service. During the search of Gacy's house after his arrest, this photo caused a major embarrassment to the Secret Service.
In July 1975, one of Gacy's employees, John Butkovich, disappeared. Butkovich had recently left Gacy's employ after an argument over back pay Butkovich was owed. Butkovich's parents urged police to check out Gacy, but nothing came of it and the young man's disappearance went unsolved.
In December 1976, another Gacy employee, Gregory Godzik, disappeared, and his parents asked police to investigate Gacy, one of the last people known to have spoken to the boy. In neither case did the police pursue Gacy nor did they discover his criminal record.
In January 1977, John Szyc, an acquaintance of Butkovich, Godzik and Gacy, disappeared. Later that year, another of Gacy's employees was arrested for stealing gasoline from a station; the car he was driving had belonged to Szyc. Gacy said that Szyc had sold the car to him before leaving town, and the police failed to pursue the matter further.
Gacy then started getting tired of digging holes in his crawlspace, he wanted space that was available at all times. He hired one of his employees David Cram to make more space. Cram also stayed in the spare bedroom in his boss' house. One night, Cram came home from work and found Gacy drunk and in his clown costume. They had a few drinks and then Gacy tricked Cram into the handcuffs. Gacy then started growling and began spinning Cram around the room screaming "I'm going to rape you". Cram pushed Gacy down and some how grabbed the key and escaped to his room.
Not all of Gacy's victims died. In March 1978, Gacy lured Jeffrey Rignall into his car. Gacy chloroformed the young man, took him back to the house on Summerdale, raped and tortured him, and dumped him in Lincoln Park. Police drew a blank, but Rignall remembered, through the chloroform haze of that night, a black Oldsmobile, the Kennedy Expressway, and some side streets. He staked out the exit on the Expressway until he saw the black Oldsmobile, which he followed to 8213 West Summerdale. Police issued a warrant, and arrested Gacy on July 15. He was facing trial on a battery charge for the Rignall incident when he was arrested in December for the other murders. In December 1977, a 19-year-old man complained that Gacy had kidnapped him at gunpoint and forced him into sex. Yet again, Chicago police took no action.
Robert Piest, a 15-year-old boy, disappeared on December 11, 1978 from the Des Plaines pharmacy where he worked after school. Just before he vanished, Piest told a co-worker he was going to a house down the street to talk to "some contractor" about a job. Gacy had been at the pharmacy that night discussing a remodeling job with the owner. Gacy denied talking to Piest when Des Plaines police called him the next day, but the Des Plaines police did what Chicago police failed to do and checked Gacy's record, discovering that he had done time for sodomy.
A search of Gacy's house on December 13 turned up some suspicious items: a 1975 high school class ring, drivers' licenses for other people, handcuffs, a two-by-four with holes drilled in the ends, a syringe, clothing too small for Gacy, and a photo receipt from the pharmacy where Piest worked. Detectives noticed an offensive odor coming from the crawlspace beneath the house.
Further investigation revealed Godzik's disappearance. The high school ring was traced to Szyc. From Gacy's second wife, they learned of Butkovich.
On December 21, 1978, one of Gacy's employees told the police that Gacy had confessed to more than 30 murders. Shortly thereafter, Gacy was arrested for marijuana possession. Police took out a second warrant, went back to the house on Summerdale, and found human bones in the crawlspace.
After being informed that he would now face murder charges, Gacy confessed to some 25-30 murders, telling investigators that most were buried in the crawlspace and on his property, and that he threw the last five bodies, after the crawlspace was full, off the I-55 bridge and into the Des Plaines River, including that of Piest. Gacy drew police a diagram of his crawlspace to show where the bodies were buried.
Gacy told the police that he would pick up male teenage runaways or male prostitutes off the streets, and take them back to his house with either promising them money for sex, or just grab them by force. He picked up at least one of his victims at the bus station. Once they got back to his house, he would handcuff them or tie them up in another way. Gacy would often stick clothing in their mouths to muffle their screams. After this, 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.
The police had already gone back to the house to search for more remains, mostly under the crawlspace. For the next four months, more and more human remains emerged from the house, as reporters, TV news crews, and astonished onlookers watched. Twenty-nine bodies were found in Gacy's crawlspace and on his property between December 1978 and March 1979.
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. Eight of the victims were so badly decomposed that they were never identified. Robert Piest's body was discovered on the banks of the Des Plaines River on April 9.
Trial and execution
On February 6, 1980, Gacy's trial began in Chicago. During the trial, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. However, this plea was rejected outright; Gacy's lawyer, Sam Amirante, said that Gacy had moments of temporary insanity at the time of each individual murder, but regained his sanity before and after to lure and dispose of victims.
While on trial, Gacy joked that the only thing he was guilty of was "running a cemetery without a license." At one point in the trial, Gacy's defense also tried to claim that all 33 murders were accidental deaths as part of erotic asphyxia, but the Cook County Coroner countered this assertion with evidence that Gacy's claim was impossible. Gacy had also made an earlier confession to police, and was unable to have this evidence suppressed. He was found guilty on March 13 and sentenced to death.
On May 10, 1994, Gacy was executed at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, by lethal injection. His last meal consisted of a dozen deep fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe chicken from KFC, a pound of fresh strawberries and French fries. His execution was a minor media sensation, and large crowds of people gathered for "execution parties" outside the penitentiary, with numerous arrests for public intoxication, open container violations, and disorderly conduct. Vendors sold Gacy-related T-shirts and other merchandise, and the crowd cheered at the moment when Gacy was pronounced dead.
According to reports, Gacy did not express remorse. His last words to his lawyer in his cell were to the effect that killing him would not bring anyone back, and it is reported his last words were "kiss my ass," which he said to a correctional officer while he was being sent to the execution chamber.
Before the execution began, the lethal chemicals unexpectedly solidified, clogging the IV tube that led into Gacy's arm, and prevented any further passage. Blinds covering the window through which witnesses observed the execution were drawn, and the execution team replaced the clogged tube with a new one. Ten minutes later, the blinds were reopened and the execution resumed. It took 18 minutes to complete.
Anesthesiologists blamed the problem on the inexperience of prison officials who were conducting the execution, saying that proper procedures taught in "IV 101" would have prevented the error. This apparently led to Illinois' adoption of a different method of lethal injection. On this subject, the chief prosecutor at Gacy's trial, William Kunkle, said "He still got a much easier death than any of his victims."
After his execution, Gacy's brain was removed. It is currently in the possession of Dr. Helen Morrison, who interviewed Gacy and other serial killers in an attempt to isolate common personality traits of violent sociopaths; however, an examination of Gacy's brain after his execution by the forensic psychiatrist hired by his lawyers revealed no abnormalities.
Known Gacy victims, with date of disappearance.
Timothy McCoy, 18, January 3, 1972
John Butkovitch, 17, July 21, 1975
Darrell Sampson, 18, April 6, 1976
Randall Reffett, 15, May 14, 1976
Sam Stapleton, 14, May 14, 1976
Michael Bonnin, 17, June 3, 1976
William Carroll, 16, June 13, 1976
Rick Johnston, 17, August 6, 1976
Kenneth Parker, 16, October 25, 1976
Michael Marino, 14, October 25, 1976
Gregory Godzik, 17, December 12, 1976
John Szyc, 19, January 20, 1977
Jon Prestidge, 20, March 15, 1977
Matthew Bowman, 19, July 5, 1977
Robert Gilroy, 18, September 15, 1977
John Mowery, 19, September 25, 1977
Russell Nelson, 21, October 17, 1977
Robert Winch, 16, November 10, 1977
Tommy Boling, 20, November 18, 1977
David Talsma, 19, December 9, 1977
William Kindred, 19, February 16, 1978
Timothy O'Rourke, 20, June 1978
Frank Landingin, 19, November 4, 1978
James Mazzara, 21, November 24, 1978
Robert Piest, 15, December 11, 1978
Eight of Gacy's victims are still unidentified. It is also believed that there may have been other victims never identified or found who were buried at other locations.
The ninth unidentified victim, case file, 959UMIL was identified in June 2007 as Timothy McCoy from Nebraska. McCoy was Gacy's first known and identified victim.
Brian Dennehy starred as Gacy in the television film To Catch a Killer, aired in
1992. The feature film Gacy, starring Mark Holton as John Gacy, was released
Gacy as an artist
During his 14 years on death row, Gacy took up oil painting, his favorite subject being portraits of clowns. He said he used his clown act as an alter ego, once sardonically saying that "A clown can get away with murder". His paintings included pictures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and his fellow serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein. They are among the most famous examples of serial killer art.
Many of Gacy's paintings were sold at auction after his execution. Nineteen were put up for sale, prices ranging from $195, for an acrylic painting of a bird, to $9500 for a depiction of dwarfs playing baseball against the Chicago Cubs. Some bought Gacy's paintings to destroy them. A bonfire in Naperville, Illinois in June 1994 was attended by 300 people, including family members of nine victims who watched 25 of the paintings burn.
The privately owned National Museum of Crime & Punishment exhibits two Gacy paintings including “Baseball Hall of Fame”, signed by 46 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame including Duke Snider, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, and Roy Campanella. President Richard Nixon also signed the work. All signers were unaware that Gacy was the artist.
John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
By Rachael Bell and Marilyn Bardsley
It is no surprise that John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was admired and liked by most who had known him. He was a sharp businessman who had spent his time, when not building up his contracting company, hosting elaborate street parties for friends and neighbors, dressing as a clown and entertaining children at local hospitals and immersing himself in organizations such as the Jaycees, working to make his community a better place to live.
People who knew Gacy thought of him as a generous, friendly and hard-working man, devoted to his family and community. However, there was another side to Gacy that few had ever witnessed...
It was May 22, 1978, and Jeffrey Ringall had recently returned from a winter vacation in Florida to his home in Chicago. He decided to reacquaint himself with the city by visiting New Town, a popular area of Chicago where many popular bars and discos could be found. While walking through the area, his path was blocked by a black Oldsmobile. The heavy-set driver leaned out from the window and complimented Ringall on his unseasonable tan. He continued to make small talk and then asked if Ringall wanted to share a joint with him while they rode around town.
Ringall was delighted to escape the cold and share a marijuana cigarette with the stranger. He hopped in the car and began to smoke with his friendly new acquaintance. Before they were half way through with the joint, the man grabbed Ringall and quickly shoved a rag over his face doused with chloroform. Ringall lost consciousness and only briefly reawakened a couple of times during the car ride.
During his wakeful periods Ringall watched in a daze as street signs passed, trying to make sense of what was happening to him. Yet before he was able to understand where he was and what was happening, the stranger again covered his face with the chloroform-soaked rag and he passed out. Once when he was awake, Ringall remembered being in a house and seeing the heavy-set man naked before him. Ringall also remembered seeing on the floor a number of varying sized dildos that the stranger pointed out to him and remarked on how he was going to use them on his unwilling prisoner. That evening Ringall was viciously raped, tortured and drugged by the sadistic stranger.
Later the next morning, Ringall awoke from one of his blackouts fully clothed and under a statue in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. He was surprised to be alive after the trauma that was inflicted on his body. He made his way to his girlfriend's and later to the hospital where he stayed for six days.
During his hospital stay, Ringall reported the incident to the police who were sceptical about finding his rapist, given the little information that Ringall could provide. Along with skin lacerations, burns and permanent liver damage caused from the chloroform, Ringall suffered severe emotional trauma.
Yet, he was fortunate to be alive. Ringall was one of the few victims of John Wayne Gacy, Jr. to have survived. During a three-year-period, Gacy went on to viciously torture, rape and murder more than thirty other young men, who would later be discovered under the floorboards of his home and in the local river.
The Beginning Chicago's Irish inhabitants and Mr. and Mrs. John Wayne Gacy marked the day with celebration. It was St. Patrick’s Day and Marion Elaine Robinson Gacy and John Wayne Gacy, Sr. welcomed their first son into the world at Edgewater Hospital in 1942. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was the second of three children. His older sister Joanne was born two years before him and two years later came his youngest sister Karen. All of the Gacy children were raised Catholic and all three attended Catholic schools where they lived on the northern side of Chicago.
The neighborhood in which Gacy grew up was middle class and it was not uncommon for young boys to take on part-time jobs after school. Gacy was no exception and he busied himself after school with a series of part-time positions and Boy Scout activities. The young Gacy had newspaper routes and worked in a grocery store as a bag-boy and stock clerk.
Although he was not a particularly popular kid in school, he was liked by his teachers and co-workers and had made friends at school and in his Boy Scout troop. He always remained active with other children and thoroughly enjoyed outdoor scouting activities. Gacy seemed to have a very normal childhood with the exception of his relationship with his father and a series of accidents that affected him.
When Gacy was eleven years old he was playing by a swing set when he was hit in the head by one of the swings. The accident caused a blood clot in the brain. However, the blood clot was not discovered until he was sixteen. From the age of eleven to sixteen he suffered a series of blackouts caused by the clot, yet the blackouts ceased when he was given medication to dissolve the blockage in the brain.
At the age of seventeen, Gacy was diagnosed with a non-specific heart ailment. He was hospitalized on several occasions for his problem throughout his life but they were not able to find an exact cause for the pain he was suffering. However, although he complained frequently about his heart (especially after his arrest), he never suffered any serious heart attack.
During Gacy’s late teens, he suffered some turmoil with his father, although relations with his mother and sisters were very strong. John Wayne Gacy, Sr. was an abusive alcoholic who physically abused his wife and verbally assaulted his children. Although John Sr. was an unpleasant individual, young Gacy deeply loved his father and wanted desperately to gain his devotion and attention. Unfortunately, he was never able to get very close to his father before he died, something which he regretted his entire life. After attending four high schools in his senior year and never graduating, Gacy dropped out of school and left home for Las Vegas. While in Vegas, he worked part time as a janitor in a funeral parlor performing odd jobs. He was not happy in Vegas because he couldn't get a decent job.
He tried desperately to earn enough money to get back home. However, it was difficult because there were few jobs available for those who did not have a high school diploma. It took him three months to earn enough money for a ticket back to Chicago where his two sisters and mother joyfully awaited his arrival.
Soon after Gacy returned from Las Vegas in the early 1960’s, he enrolled himself into a business college and eventually graduated. While at business college, he perfected his talent in salesmanship: Gacy was a born salesman who could talk his way in and out of almost anything.
He put his talents to work when he was hired at his first job out of business school at the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company. He excelled in his position as a management trainee and it was not too long after his start with the company that he was transferred to manage a men’s clothing outlet in Springfield, Illinois.
It was during this time that Gacy’s health again took a turn for the worse. He had gained a great deal of weight and he began to suffer more problems with his heart condition. Soon after his hospitalization for his heart, he was hospitalized again for a spinal injury. His weight, heart and back problems would plague Gacy for the rest of his life, yet that would not stop him from his work or other activities.
While in Springfield, Gacy became involved in several organizations that served the community: the Chi Rho Club where he was membership chairman, the Catholic Inter-Club Council where Gacy was a member of the board, The Federal Civil Defense for Illinois, the Chicago Civil Defense where Gacy was a commanding captain, the Holy Name Society where he was named an officer and the Jaycees where Gacy devoted most of his time to and eventually became first vice-president and "Man of the Year." It was obvious that Gacy took his involvement in community organizations very seriously and he devoted most of his free time to them. Many who knew Gacy at this time considered him to be very ambitious and eager to make a name for himself in the community. He worked so hard that on one occasion he was hospitalized for nervous exhaustion. However, once again he refused to let his health problems stand in the way of life and happiness.
In September 1964, Gacy met and married a co-worker named Marlynn Myers whose parents owned a string of Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurant franchises in Waterloo, Iowa. Fred W. Myers, Gacy’s new father-in-law, offered him a position with one of his franchises. Soon after that Gacy and his new wife moved to Iowa. Life seemed to hold a lot of promise for Gacy at this time in his life.
Gacy began working for his father-in-law, learning the business from the ground up. On average he worked for twelve hours a day, yet it was not uncommon for him to work fourteen or more hours a day. He was enthusiastic and eager to learn, with hopes of one day taking over the string of fast food restaurants.
When Gacy was not working, he was active in the Waterloo, Iowa, Jaycees. Gacy worked tirelessly performing volunteer work for his community through the Jaycees. It was there that he made most of his friends and spent most of his time. In Clifford L. Linedecker’s book, The Man Who Killed Boys, he quoted Charlie Hill, a Jaycee volunteer who knew well: "He wanted to be very successful and he wanted to be recognized by his peers.... [Gacy] was always working on some project and he was devoted to the Jaycees. The club was his whole life."
However, Gacy managed to find some time with his wife when not working for his father-in-law or doing volunteer work. Marlynn gave birth to a boy shortly after their move to Iowa and soon after the birth of their son, they celebrated the birth of a daughter.
The Gacys had every reason to be happy during the first few years in Iowa. They had a nice house in the suburbs and a loving and healthy family. Marlynn enjoyed looking after the children and John was happy in work and with the Jaycees. He was even working on a campaign for the presidency of the Jaycees. Everything seemed almost too good to be true, and indeed it was.
Everything seemed to be looking good for John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Yet, his lucky streak would not last too much longer. Rumors were spreading around town and amongst Jaycee members regarding Gacy’s sexual preference. It seemed that young boys were always in Gacy’s presence.
Everyone heard the stories that Gacy was homosexual and made passes at the young boys who worked for him at the fast food franchises. Yet, people close to him refused to believe in the gossip, until May of 1968 when rumors became truths.
In the spring of 1968, Gacy was indicted by a grand jury in Black Hawk County for allegedly committing the act of sodomy with a teenage boy named Mark Miller. Miller told the courts that Gacy had tricked him into being tied up while visiting Gacy’s home a year earlier, and had violently raped him. Gacy denied all the charges against him and told a conflicting story, stating that Miller willingly had sexual relations with him in order to earn extra money. Gacy further insisted that Jaycee members opposed to him becoming president of the local chapter organization were setting him up.
However, Miller’s were not the only charges that Gacy would have to face. Four months later Gacy was charged with hiring an eighteen-year-old boy to beat up Mark Miller. Gacy offered Dwight Andersson ten dollars plus three hundred more dollars to pay off his car loan if he carried out the beating.
Andersson lured Miller to his car and drove him to a wooded area where he sprayed mace in his eyes and began to beat him. Miller fought back and broke Andersson’s nose and managed to break away and run to safety. Soon after Miller called the police, Andersson was picked up and taken into police custody where he gave Gacy’s name as the man who hired him to perform the beating.
A judge ordered Gacy to undergo psychiatric evaluation at several mental health facilities to find if he were mentally competent to stand trial. Upon evaluation, Gacy was found to be mentally competent. However, he was considered to be an antisocial personality who would probably not benefit from any known medical treatment. Soon after health authorities submitted the report, Gacy pleaded guilty to the charge of sodomy.
When the judge finally handed down the sentence, Gacy received ten years at the Iowa State Reformatory for men, the maximum time for such an offence. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was twenty-six years old when he entered prison for the first time. Shortly after Gacy entered prison, his wife divorced him on the grounds that Gacy violated their marriage vows.
While in prison Gacy adhered to all the rules and stayed far from trouble. He was a model prisoner, realizing that there was a high possibility of an early parole if he remained non-violent and well behaved. Eighteen months later, Gacy’s hopes came true, his parole was approved. On June 18, 1970, Gacy left the confines of the prison gates and made his way back to his place of birth in Chicago. New Beginnings
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. immediately began to put his life back on track again after moving back to Chicago. He knew he could not afford to let the past disrupt his future if he could help it. The only thing that seemed to have weighed Gacy down was the death of his father while Gacy was in prison. Gacy went through difficult periods of depression after his release from prison because he regretted never saying goodbye to his father.
He felt cheated that he never had a chance to improve his relationship with John W. Gacy, Sr., a man whom he loved dearly despite of his abusive behavior. However, although deeply saddened by unresolved conflicts with his father, Gacy refused to let it ruin his future. Gacy moved in with his mother and obtained work as a chef in a Chicago restaurant. A job that he enjoyed and worked at with enthusiasm.
After four months of living with his mother, Gacy decided it was time he lived on his own. His mother had been impressed with how her son had readjusted to life outside the prison walls and she helped him obtain a house of his own immediately outside Chicago’s city limits.
Gacy owned one-half of his new house located at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue in the Norwood Park Township and his mother and sisters owned the remaining half of the home. Gacy was very happy with his new two-bedroom 1950’s ranch style house that was located in a nice, clean, family oriented neighborhood. He was quick to make friends with his new neighbors, Edward and Lillie Grexa, who had lived in the neighborhood since the time it had been first built.
After only seven months of living in his new home, he was spending Christmas evening with the Grexas, whom he had invited over for dinner with his mother. The neighbors became fast friends and often gathered together for drinks or a game of poker in the comfort of their homes. The Grexas had no idea of Gacy’s criminal past or his most recent run in with the law. A little more than a month after the Grexas had visited for Christmas dinner at Gacy’s home, he had been charged with disorderly conduct. The charges stated that Gacy had forced a young boy, whom he had picked up at a bus terminal, to commit sexual acts upon him. Gacy had been officially discharged from his parole for only a few months before he was already breaking the law again. However, Gacy slipped through the system when all charges against him were dropped, due to the no-show of his young accuser at the court proceedings. Gacy was a free man once again.
On June 1, 1972 Gacy married Carole Hoff, a newly divorced mother of two daughters. Gacy had romanced the woman who was in a state of emotional vulnerability and she immediately fell for him. She was attracted to Gacy’s charm and generosity and she believed he would be a good provider for her and her children. She was aware of Gacy’s prison experience, yet she trusted that he had changed his life around for the better. Carole and her daughters quickly settled into their new home with Gacy.
The couple maintained a close relationship with their neighbors and the Grexas were always invited over to Gacy’s house for elaborate parties and barbecues. As flattered as they were to receive such invitations by their young neighbors, they were always bothered by a horrible stench that prevailed through the house. Lillie Grexa was sure a rat had died beneath the floorboards of Gacy’s house and she urged him to solve his problem.
However, Gacy blamed the horrible stench on the moisture build-up in the crawl space under his house. Yet, it wasn’t a problem with moisture beneath the house. Gacy knew the real and more sinister cause for the stench and he kept the truth from everyone for years.
Although many friends, family members and neighbors complained about the strange smells coming from Gacy’s house, it certainly didn’t stop them from attending his theme parties. Gacy threw two memorable barbecue parties in which he invited all those close to him. On one occasion more than three hundred guests showed up to attend one of Gacy’s parties. The two that were attended by the most people were a luau theme party and a Western theme party. Both were huge successes. Gacy thrived on the attention he received from people who had either been to or heard of the parties. He liked to feel important.
In 1974, Gacy decided he wanted to go into business for himself. He began a contracting business named Painting, Decorating, and Maintenance or PDM Contractors, Incorporated. He hired young teenage boys to work for him. He told friends that he hired such young men to keep the costs low. However, that was not Gacy’s only reason for hiring teenage boys: Gacy intended to seduce his young employees. His homosexual desires and urge to inflict harm were slowly becoming more apparent to those around him, especially his wife.
Carole and John had drifted apart by 1975. Their sex life had come to a halt and Gacy’s moods became more unpredictable. He would be in a good mood one moment and the next moment he would be flying into an uncontrollable rage and throwing furniture. He was an insomniac and his lack of sleep seemed to have only exacerbated his other problems.
Gacy was rarely home in the evenings and when he was, he was either fixing something with the outside of the house or working in the garage. However, there was one thing that Carole was extremely worried about. It was not only that Gacy showed no sexual interest in her that hurt Carole, but also what pained her even more was when she began to find magazines with naked men and boys in her house. She knew that Gacy was reading them and he acted nonchalantly about his new choice of reading material. In fact, Gacy had told Carole that he preferred boys to women. Naturally, Carole was distressed and she soon filed for divorce. The couple’s divorce became final on March 2, 1976.
Although Gacy was having marital problems, he refused to let it hold him back from realizing his dream of success. Being a man who thrived on and delighted in recognition and attention, Gacy turned his sights to the world of politics. It was in politics that Gacy hoped to make his mark in the world. He had high aspirations and hoped to one day run for public office.
Gacy realized that he had to get his name out and make himself known by participating in volunteer projects and community activities. He also knew that if he were to succeed in politics he had to win over the people. Gacy had a natural talent when it came to persuading others and he creatively came up with a way to gain the recognition he sought.
It was not long before Gacy caught the attention of Robert F. Matwick, the Democratic township committeeman for Norwood Park. As a free service to the community, Gacy and his employees volunteered to clean-up Democratic Party headquarters. Gacy further impressed Matwick when the contractor dressed up as "Pogo the Clown" and entertained children at parties and hospitals.
Unaware of Gacy’s past and impressed by his sense of duty and dedication towards the community, Matwick nominated Gacy to the street lighting commission. In 1975, Gacy became the secretary treasurer. It seemed as if Gacy’s dreams of success were beginning to come true; however his career in politics would be short-lived. Troubles started to brew when rumors began to circulate about Gacy having homosexual interest in teenage boys. One of the rumors stemmed from an actual incident that took place during the time Gacy was involved with cleaning the Democratic Party headquarters. One of the teenagers who worked with Gacy on that particular project was sixteen-year-old Tony Antonucci. According to the boy, Gacy made sexual advances towards him, yet backed off when Antonucci threatened to hit him with a chair. Gacy joked about the situation and left him alone for a month.
The following month while visiting Gacy’s home, Gacy again approached Antonucci. Gacy tried to trick the young man into handcuffs and believing he was securely cuffed he began to undress the boy.
However, Antonucci had made sure that one of his hands was loosely cuffed and he was able to free himself and wrestle Gacy to the ground. Once he had Gacy on the ground he handcuffed him, but eventually let him go after Gacy promised he would never again try touching him. Gacy never made sexual advances towards Antonucci again and the boy remained working for Gacy for almost a year, following the incident.
Missing Seventeen-year-old Johnny Butkovich was like most young men who enjoyed cars and he took great pride in his 1968 Dodge on which he was continually working. He particularly loved to race his car, a hobby that cost quite a bit for a young man of seventeen. In order to pay for new parts to sustain his hobby, he knew he had to get a job. Johnny began doing remodeling work for Gacy at PDM Contractors -- a position that he enjoyed and that paid well. He and Gacy had a good working relationship, which made the long hours pass by more quickly. However, their working relationship ended abruptly when Gacy refused to pay Johnny for two weeks of work -- something Gacy did often to his employees in order to save money for himself.
Angered that Gacy had withheld his pay, Johnny went over to his boss's house with two friends to collect what he believed was rightfully his. When Johnny confronted him about his pay check, Gacy refused to pay him and a large argument erupted. Johnny threatened that he was going to tell authorities that he was not deducting taxes from earnings. Gacy was enraged and screamed at him. Finally, Johnny and his friends realized that there was little they could do and they eventually left Gacy’s house. Johnny dropped off his friends at their house and drove away, never to be seen alive again.
Michael Bonnin, also seventeen, was not too different from Johnny in that he enjoyed working with his hands. He especially liked doing wood working and carpentry and he was often busy with several projects at a time. In June of 1976, he had almost completed work on restoring an old jukebox, yet he never had a chance to finish the job he had begun. While on route to catch a train to meet his stepfather’s brother, he disappeared.
Billy Carroll, Jr. was the kind of boy who seemed to be always getting into trouble ever since his parents could remember. At the age of nine he was in a juvenile home for stealing a purse and at age eleven he was caught with a gun. Billy was mischievous and spent most of his time on the streets in Uptown, Chicago. At the age of sixteen, Billy was making money by arranging meetings between teenage homosexual boys and adult clientele for a commission. Although Billy came from a very different background than Michael Bonnin and Johnny Butkovich, they all had one thing in common -- John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Just like Johnny and Michael, Billy also disappeared suddenly. On June 13, 1976, Billy left his home and was never seen alive again.
Gregory Godzik loved his job with PDM Contractors and he didn’t mind doing the odd jobs that his boss required of him, such as cleaning work. The money from his job also allowed for him to buy parts for his 1966 Pontiac car, a time-consuming hobby. He was proud of his car and, although it was a bit of an eye sore, it served its purpose.
On December 12, 1976, Gregory dropped his date off at her house, a girl he had had a crush on for some while, and drove off towards his home. The following day police found Gregory’s Pontiac, but Gregory was missing. He was seventeen years old.
On January 20, 1977, nineteen-year-old John Szyc also disappeared much like the other young men before him. He had driven off in his 1971 Plymouth Satellite and was never seen alive again. Interestingly, a short while after the young man vanished, another teenager was picked up by police in a 1971 Plymouth Satellite while trying to leave a gas station without paying.
The youth said that the man he lived with could explain the situation. The man was Gacy, who explained to police that Szyc had earlier sold him the car. Police never checked the car title which had been signed eighteen days after Szyc’s disappearance with a signature that was not his own. In Linedecker's The Man Who Killed Boys, the author points out that Szyc had known not only Gregory Godzik and Johnny Butkovich but had also, "been an acquaintance of John Gacy, although he hadn’t worked for PDM Contractors." Robert Gilroy was an outdoorsman, avid camper and horse lover. On September 15, 1977, eighteen-year-old Gilroy was supposed to catch a bus with friends to go horseback riding but he never showed up. His father, who was a Chicago police sergeant, immediately began searching for Robert when he heard that his son was missing. Although a full-scale investigation was mounted for his son, Robert was nowhere to be found.
More than a year later another young man named Robert Piest would vanish mysteriously. The investigation into his disappearance would lead to not only the discovery of his body but the bodies of Butkovich, Bonnin, Carroll, Szyc, Gilroy and twenty-seven other young men who had suffered similar fates. It would be a discovery that would rock the foundations of Chicago and shock all of America.
Robert Piest was only fifteen when he disappeared from just outside the pharmacy where he had worked just minutes earlier. His mother, who had come to pick him up from work, had been waiting inside the pharmacy for Robert, who had said he’d be right back after talking with a contractor who had offered him a job.
Yet, Robert never returned. His mother began to worry as time passed. Eventually her worry turned to dread. She searched the pharmacy area outside and inside and still Robert was nowhere to be found. Three hours after Robert's disappearance, the Des Plaines Police Department was notified. Lieutenant Joseph Kozenczak led the investigation.
Soon after learning the name of the contractor who had offered the job to Piest, Lt. Kozenczak knocked at the man’s door. When Gacy answered, the lieutenant told him about the missing boy and asked Gacy to go with him to the police station for questioning. Gacy said he was unable to leave his home at the moment because there was a recent death in the family and he had to attend to some phone calls. Gacy showed up at the police station hours later and gave his statement to police. Gacy said he knew nothing about the boy's disappearance and left the station after further questioning.
Lt. Kozenczak decided to run a background check on Gacy the next day and was surprised to find that Gacy had served time for committing sodomy on a teenager years earlier. Soon after Lt. Kozenczak’s discovery, he obtained a search warrant for Gacy’s house. It was there that he believed they would find Robert Piest.
On December 13, 1978, police entered John Wayne Gacy, Jr.’s house on Summerdale Avenue. Gacy was not at his home during the investigation. Inspector Kautz was in charge of taking inventory of any recovered evidence that might be found at the house.
Some of the items on his list that were confiscated from Gacy’s home were: A jewelry box containing two driver’s licenses and several rings including one which had engraved on it the name Maine West High School class of 1975 and the initials J.A.S; A box containing marijuana and rolling papers; Seven erotic movies made in Sweden; Pills including amyl nitrite and Valium; A switchblade knife; A stained section of rug; Color photographs of pharmacies and drug stores; An address book; A scale; Books such as, Tight Teenagers, The Rights of Gay People, Bike Boy, Pederasty, Sex Between Men and Boys, Twenty-One Abnormal Sex Cases, The American Bi-Centennial Gay Guide, Heads & Tails and The Great Swallow; A pair of handcuffs with keys; A three-foot-long two-by-four wooden plank with two holes drilled in each end; A six mm. Italian pistol with possible gun caps; Police badges; An eighteen-inch rubber dildo was also found in the attic beneath insulation; A hypodermic syringe and needle and a small brown bottle; Clothing that was much too small for Gacy; A receipt for a roll of film with a serial number on it, from Nisson Pharmacy; Nylon rope.
Three automobiles belonging to Gacy were also confiscated, including a 1978 Chevrolet pickup truck with snow plow attached that had the name "PDM Contractors" written on its side, a 1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and a van with "PDM Contractors" also written on its side. Within the trunk of the car were pieces of hair that were later matched to Rob Piest’s hair. Further into the investigation, police entered the crawl space located beneath Gacy’s home. The first thing that struck investigators was a rancid odor that they believed to be sewage. The earth in the crawl space was sprinkled with lime but seemed to have been untouched. Police found nothing else during their first search and eventually returned back to headquarters to run tests on some of the evidence and research the case more.
Gacy was called into the police department and told of the articles that they had confiscated. Gacy was enraged and immediately contacted his lawyer. When Gacy was presented with a Miranda waiver stating his rights and asked to sign it, he refused when instructed by his lawyer. Police had nothing to arrest him on and eventually had to release him after more questioning about the Piest boy's disappearance. Gacy was put under twenty-four hour surveillance.
During the days following the police search of Gacy’s house, some of his friends were called into the police station and interrogated. Gacy had told his friends earlier that police were trying to charge him with a murder but claimed he had nothing to do with such a thing.
From the interviews police gathered little information on any connection with Gacy to Robert Piest. Friends of Gacy could not believe he was capable of killing a teenage boy. Frustrated due to the lack of evidence that police had linking Gacy to Piest they decided to arrest Gacy on possession of marijuana and Valium. Unknown to police at the time, Gacy had recently confided in a friend and co-worker a day before his arrest that he had indeed killed. Gacy further confided in his friend that he killed about thirty people because they were bad and trying to blackmail him. Around the time Gacy was arrested, he was awaiting action on the Ringall case in which he had been charged with rape. Determined to find his rapist, Ringall had months earlier waited by one of the highway exits that he was able to remember during one of his wakeful episode in Gacy’s car, before being chloroformed again. Finally, after hours of waiting by the exit, he spotted the familiar car and followed it to Gacy’s house.
Upon learning Gacy’s name, he immediately filed charges of sexual assault. Finally, after intense investigation and lab work into some of the items confiscated by police from Gacy’s house, they came up with critical evidence against Gacy. One of the rings found at Gacy’s house belonged to another teenager who had disappeared a year earlier named John Szyc. They also discovered that three former employees of Gacy had also mysteriously disappeared.
Furthermore, the receipt for the roll of film that was found at Gacy’s home had belonged to a co-worker of Robert Piest who had given it to Robert the day of his disappearance. With the new information, investigators began to realize the enormity of the case that was unfolding before them.
It was not long before investigators were back searching Gacy’s house. Gacy had finally confessed to police that he did kill someone but said it had been in self-defense. He said that he had buried the body underneath his garage. Gacy told police where they could find the body and police marked the gravesite in the garage, but they did not immediately begin digging.
They first wanted to search the crawl space under Gacy’s house. It was not long before they discovered a suspicious mound of earth. Minutes after digging into the suspicious mound, investigators found the remains of a body. That evening, Dr. Robert Stein, Cook County Medical Examiner, was called in to help with the investigation. Upon his arrival at Gacy’s house, he immediately recognized a familiar odor --the distinctive smell of death. Stein began to organize the search for more bodies by marking off the areas of earth in sections, as if it were an archaeological site. He knew that the excavation of a decomposing body must be done with the utmost care to preserve its integrity and that of the gravesite. Throughout the night and into the days that followed the digging progressed under the watchful eye of Dr. Stein.
On Friday, December 22, 1978, Gacy finally confessed to police that he killed at least thirty people and buried most of the remains of the victims beneath the crawl space of his house. According to the book Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders by Sullivan and Maiken, Gacy said that, "his first killing took place in January, 1972, and the second in January, 1974, about a year and a half after his marriage."
He further confessed that he would lure his victims into being handcuffed and then he would sexually assault them. To muffle the screams of his victims, he would stuff a sock or underwear into their mouths and kill them by pulling a rope or board against their throats, as he raped them. Gacy admitted to sometimes keeping the dead bodies under his bed or in the attic for several hours before eventually burying them in the crawl space.
On the first day that the police began their digging, they found two bodies. One of the bodies was that of John Butkovich who was buried under the garage. The other body was the one found in the crawl space. As the days passed, the body count grew higher. Some of the victims were found with their underwear still lodged deep in their throats. Other victims were buried so close together that police believed they were probably killed or buried at the same time. Gacy did confirm to police that he had on several occasions killed more than one person in a day. However, the reason he gave for them being buried so close together was that he was running out of room and needed to conserve space.
On the 28th of December, police had removed a total of twenty-seven bodies from Gacy’s house. There was also another body found weeks earlier, yet it was not in the crawl space. The naked corpse of Frank Wayne "Dale" Landingin was found in the Des Plaines River.
At the time of the discovery police were not yet aware of Gacy’s horrible crimes and the case was still under investigation. But, investigators found Landingin’s driver’s license in Gacy’s home and connected him to the young mans murder. Landingin was not the only one of Gacy’s victims to be found in the river.
Also, on December 28th, police removed from the Des Plaines River the body of James "Mojo" Mazzara, who still had his underwear lodged in his throat. The coroner said that the underwear stuffed down the victim's throat had caused Mazzara to suffocate. Gacy told police that the reason he disposed of the bodies in the river was because he ran out of room in his crawl space and because he had been experiencing back problems from digging the graves. Mazzara was the twenty-ninth victim of Gacy’s to be found, yet it would not be the last.
By the end of February, police were still digging up Gacy’s property. They had already gutted the house and were unable to find anymore bodies in the crawl space. It had taken investigators longer than expected to resume the search due to bad winter storms that froze the ground and the long process of obtaining proper search warrants. However, they believed there were still more bodies to be found and they were right. While workmen were breaking up the concrete of Gacy’s patio, they came across another horrific discovery. They found the body of a man still in good condition preserved in the concrete. The man wore a pair of blue jeans shorts and a wedding ring. Gacy’s victims no longer included just young boys or suspected homosexuals, but now also married men. The following week another body was discovered.
The thirty-first body to be found linked to Gacy was in the Illinois River. Investigators were able to discover the identity of the young man by a "Tim Lee" tattoo on one of his arms. A friend of the victim's father had recognized the "Tim Lee" tattoo while reading a newspaper story about the discovery of a body in the river.
The victim's name was Timothy O’Rourke, who was said to be such a fan of Bruce Lee’s that he took the Kung Fu master's last name and added it to his own name in his tattoo. It is possible that Gacy had become aquatinted with the young man in one of the gay bars in New Town.
Yet, another body was found on Gacy’s property around the time O’Rourke was discovered and pulled from the river. The body was located beneath the recreation room of Gacy’s house. It would be the last body to be found on Gacy’s property. Soon after the discovery, the house was destroyed and reduced to rubble. Unfortunately, among the thirty-two bodies that were discovered that of Robert Piest was still unaccounted for. Piest was still missing.
Finally in April 1979, the remains of Robert Piest were discovered in the Illinois River. His body had supposedly been lodged somewhere along the river making it difficult to find his body. However, strong winds must have dislodged the corpse and carried it to the locks at Dresden Dam where it was eventually discovered. Autopsy reports on Piest determined that he had suffocated from paper towels being lodged down his throat. The family soon after filed a $85-million suit against Gacy for murder and the Iowa Board of Parole, the Department of Corrections and the Chicago Police Department for negligence.
Police investigators continued to match dental records and other clues to help identify the remaining victims who were found on Gacy’s property. All but nine of the victims were finally identified. Although the search for the dead had finally come to an end, Gacy’s trial was just beginning.
On Wednesday, February 6, 1980, John Wayne Gacy’s murder trial began in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, Illinois. Jury members, who consisted of five women and seven men, listened as prosecutor Bob Egan talked about Robert Piest’s life and his gruesome death and how Gacy was responsible for his murder thirty-two other young men. Egan told them about the investigation into Gacy, the discovery of bodies beneath his house and how Gacy’s actions were premeditated and rational.
In Sullivan and Maiken’s book, Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders, it is said that Egan’s statement," left a stunning impression on the jurors and the courtroom spectators, who were learning some of the details of Gacy’s killing for the first time." Egan’s opening statement was followed by one of Gacy’s defense lawyers, Robert Motta. He opposed Egan’s statement by claiming Gacy’s actions were indeed, irrational and impulsive, but asserting that he was insane and no longer in control of his conduct.
If had been found insane, Gacy would have become a ward of the state mental health system. Furthermore, there are no time limits on the incarceration of such a person and in many cases they are set free when they are deemed mentally stable enough to re-enter society. This is what Robert Motta believed was best for his client. Yet, an insanity plea is usually a very difficult one to prove. Although prosecutors were stung by Gacy’s insanity plea, it was something they had expected and were well prepared for. When the opening statements had concluded, the prosecution brought its first witness to the stand, Marko Butkovich, the father of Gacy’s victim John Butkovich. He was the first witness of many that included the family and friends of the murdered victims. Some of the witnesses broke down in tears on the bench, while others sadly recounted their last goodbyes to their loved ones.
Following the friends and family of the victims came the testimony of those who worked for Gacy who survived sexual and usually violent encounters with their boss. Some of his ex-employees told of his mood swings and how he would trick them into being handcuffed. Others told of how he constantly made passes at them while at work.
The testimony continued for the next several weeks, including that of friends and neighbors of Gacy, police officers involved in the investigation and arrest of Gacy, and psychologists who found Gacy sane during the killings. Before the state rested. it had called some sixty witnesses to the bench.
On February 24th, the defense began its proceedings and to the surprise of many in the courtroom, the first witness they had called was Jeffrey Ringall. It was expected that Ringall would testify in behalf of the prosecution. However, Ringall had previously mentioned his encounter with Gacy in a book and the prosecution believed that would damage their case if they took him on as a witness.
Therefore, the prosecution did not call him as a witness because they believed his testimony would better help their case during cross-examination. Gacy’s other defense lawyer, Amirante, asked Ringall if he thought Gacy was able to control himself. Ringall didn't believe so, considering the savagery of Gacy's attack. Testimony of Ringall did not last very long because he broke down while telling the court the details of his rape. Ringall was so stressed that he began to vomit and cry hysterically. He was eventually removed from the courtroom as Gacy sat by exhibiting no signs of emotion.
In an effort to prove Gacy’s insanity, Amirante and Motta called to the stand the friends and family of the accused killer. Gacy’s mother told of how her husband abused Gacy on several occasions, at one time whipping him with a leather strap. Gacy’s sister told a similar story of how she repeatedly witnessed he brother being verbally abused by their father.
Others who testified for the defense told of how Gacy was a good and generous man, who helped those in need and always had a smile on his face. Lillie Grexa took the stand and told of how wonderful a neighbor he was. However, Mrs. Grexa did say something that would prove damaging to Gacy’s case. She refused to say that he was crazy, instead she said she believed Gacy to be a "very brilliant man." That statement would conflict with the defense's story that he was unable to control his actions and was insane.
The defense then called Thomas Eliseo, a psychologist who interviewed Gacy before the trial. He found Gacy to be extremely intelligent, yet believed that he suffered from borderline schizophrenia. Other medical experts that testified on behalf of the defense gave similar testimony stating that Gacy was schizophrenic, suffered from multiple personality disorder or had antisocial behaviour.
They further stated that Gacy’s mental disorder impaired his ability to understand the magnitude of his criminal acts. In conclusion, they all found him to have been insane during the times he committed murder. After the testimony of the medical experts, the defense rested its case. Both sides emotionally argued their cases to the jury that sat before them. Each side recalled previous witnesses and experts who had testified. The prosecution reminded the jury of the heinous crimes committed by Gacy, talked of his manipulative behavior, his rape and torture of the victims and how his crimes were premeditated and planned.
The defense insisted that Gacy was insane and out of control at the time of the killings and pointed to the testimony given by experts during the trial. After the closing arguments and the testimony of over a hundred witnesses over a period of five weeks, the jury was left to make their decision.
It took only two hours of deliberation before the jury came back with its verdict. The courtroom was filled with silence and everyone within stood at attention when the jury marched in with its verdict.
The silence was broken when the court clerk read, "We, the jury, find the defendant, John Wayne Gacy, guilty..." Gacy was found guilty in the deaths of thirty-three young men and as Sullivan said, he had the "singular notoriety of having been convicted of more murders than anyone else in American history." Gacy received the death penalty and was sent to Menard Correctional Center where, after years of appeals, he eventually was killed by lethal injection.
This feature story is primarily drawn from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, plus the following books:
- Cahill, Tim, Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer (1986).
- Linedecker, Clifford L., Man Who Killed Boys (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1994).
- Mendenhall, Harlan, Fall of the House of Gacy (Mass Market Paperbacks, 1998).
- Sullivan, Terry and Peter T. Maiken, Killer Clown (Mass Market Paperback, 1997)
JOHNNY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE! (Four Visits to Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy)
By Charles Nemo.
Just after midnight on May 10, 1994, American serial killer (1) John Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection at the Stateville Prison in Joliet, Illinois. Published accounts indicate that Gacy went stoically to his death. (2) Although he generally denied responsibility for the gruesome murders of 29 young men buried in the crawl space of his home (and at least four more dumped into a nearby river) just outside Chicago, he did make revealing comments during various audio and video interviews that allow reasonable inference of more than passing knowledge of the young lads’ untimely demise.
I visited Gacy four times on Death Row at Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois in 1993 and 1994. I also received dozens of letters, postcards and collect calls from him. (3) These events turned out to be the end of my long journey into "the heart of darkness", that mid-life passage that all of us must make if we wish to evolve and mature, or at least come to understand how things really are and adjust to them.
It had begun almost 10 years earlier with the break-up of my long-term marriage and some severe career disappointments in the form of encounters with sociopathic clients and colleagues. (4) I survived those challenges and managed to preserve some small hope for the human race until my encounters with John Wayne Gacy and the criminal so-called "justice" system. Then I could no longer ignore the truly grim realities of life.
Let me tell you how I approached this article. I began with the dry historical information about Gacy’s life and alleged (5) crimes and the details of how I came to visit him in the first place in order to get in the mood for more brutal thinking. Then I wrote my conclusions. I had to hit the key lessons from the encounter. Lastly I filled in the blanks with my explanations of everything I felt I had learned. I’ve always worked that way, believing that if you can’t state your conclusions succinctly, then you really don’t understand the subject. I’ll leave it to my readers to judge both my approach and the substance of my work.
Four Trips to Hell
I had the opportunity in to visit Gacy on Death Row (6) four times during the last year of his life. I had had many sociopathic clients and colleagues, but I was interested in meeting a real "bad ass" in order to test my perceptive capabilities to the maximum. I was dating a so-called "Riot Grrrl" (an ardent female fan of heavy metal music, who often dressed in black clothes and combat boots) during that time who had come to regard Gacy as a father figure (7) during several years of letters and phone calls. She had the contact, and I had the cash, so we went together for the first two visits in 1993. (8)
We broke up in January, 1994, and I traveled with two other women for the last two visits in 1994. All the women were luridly good-looking and eager for action, which delighted Gacy and his inmate "bodyguard" (who always shared in the visits), as well as the redneck prison guards. (9)
The drill was the same each time. My companion(s) and I would fly to St. Louis on Saturday morning, shack up at the Embassy Suites on the waterfront and "party hearty" on Saturday night. A nightclub called Mississippi Nights across the street from the hotel always had good beer and decent bands, some of them well-known groups such as Gwar. I always drove a Cadillac, and after several hours at the club, we’d cruise the dark night on both sides of the Mississippi River.
We made a number of side trips to such places as heavily-black East St. Louis, where we saw running mobs in the streets, and dozens of hookers linked up along the curb outside seedy roadhouses (with apt names such as the Discreet Hotel) waiting for anyone stupid enough to pick them up for an AIDS-ridden grope.
The slaughterhouses just across the river from St. Louis were also a grim attraction. Anything dealing with death and urban decay was an object of fascination, but we were always safe from the real lessons inside our locked luxury car. We typically ended our Saturday-night fun with pizza and beer back at the hotel anywhere from 4 AM to 6 AM on Sunday morning. Sometimes there was hot, sweaty sex, and we’d fall asleep exhausted.
Rising on Sunday afternoon, we’d play some more and then drive two hours south to the gritty rural redneck town of Chester, Illinois. Its only claims to fame are a statue honoring the creator of the Popeye cartoon, a grim fortress for the criminally insane, and the Menard Correctional Center. Motels were terrible during the first two visits, but a new Best Western was completed in early 1994, and we were among its first guests in its finest room, priced at a reasonable sixty dollars and complete with a Jacuzzi hot tub.
There was nothing really remarkable about our stays in Chester, except that my Riot Grrrl companion nearly got me killed on the second trip when she got drunk and tried to provoke a fight in Chester’s lone biker bar, but I was able to talk both of us out of that. Cute little waitresses desperate for action and attention would ask why we were in town and perk right up when we told them. Women indeed love "bad boys", as I observed in an earlier footnote.
The Menard Correctional Center is a century-old brick maximum-security monstrosity on the banks of the Mississippi River. Menard serves as one of two Illinois death rows and is also a maximum-security prison for several hundred other felons.
We had to be there early Monday morning and could stay until 2:30 PM. Visitors pass through a guardhouse where they must remove all metal items and store them in lockers. Shoes are x-rayed and a quick patdown done before a guard accompanies the visitors through a half dozen gates and iron doors to a cafeteria. A guard watches closely while visitors buy food, cigarettes and snacks from vending machines.
The goodies are stacked on trays which visitors carry through another half dozen barriers to the death row visiting area, an air-conditioned series of small rooms furnished with metal tables and chairs on either side of a short corridor. There are no windows. An ominous sense of loss hits you like a fist in the gut when you pass through so many barriers and are told all the things you can’t do. (10) Even chewing gum is forbidden.
Altogether I met with Gacy for almost 20 hours, at least half of it being just the two of us in a room while the women met with Gacy’s unofficial "bodyguard" (another death row inmate) in another room across the hall. Unlike many prison meeting areas, there were no bars or windows between Gacy and his visitors, although he was always in handcuffs.
A camera in one ceiling corner allowed guards in a room on the other side of a barred gate to watch us. I never worried about Gacy doing anything dangerous, although he once made the comment (as he walked behind me and noticed me watching him very carefully) that he could have broken my neck before guards would have been able to get through the gate from their room down the hall where they watched the television monitors. (11)
Gacy always brought documents from his legal proceedings and explained them, together with the thick log book in which he had been tracking his daily activities and visitors since his incarceration in late 1978. He also brought small gifts such as prison-made cigarettes.
I particularly waited with eager anticipation for the paintings, which he had done for me at nominal cost. I eventually ended up with four (12) of my own, plus several (13) which I gave to women friends. Much of each meeting was taken up with mundane conversations about life and philosophy, and we always had lunch brought to us by guards -- a decent salad, bread and butter, milk, and overcooked meat or fish.
Gacy would always "pig out" on the snacks we brought; he had a real sweet tooth, and the snacks were things he didn’t get elsewhere. We’d stay until about 2 PM, have one of the guards take some Polaroid photos at a dollar apiece (one of each pose for us and one for Gacy), and then dash madly for the St. Louis airport for a late afternoon flight back home.
This gives you an idea of the structure of our trips. The last of the four trips was the most remarkable. We saw him on Monday a week before his execution and were his last visitors other than family and appellate attorneys. He’d called and written more frequently in the last few weeks and was plainly nervous, but still full of the old braggadocio. (14)
He talked vaguely about an unnamed donor who was going to give him half a million dollars to fund another round of appeals. It all sounded possible, but I when I saw him in person I knew he was just blowing smoke. Ever the con artist, he almost had me convinced, but his unhealthy, beet red complexion and copious sweating even in air conditioning gave it all away. It was and always had been bullshit.
He was going down and damn well knew it. He knew I knew it too. I almost felt sorry for him, but the looming image in my mind of his lifetime of lies wouldn’t allow it. I listened quietly, shook his clammy hand when it was time to leave, and said that it had been interesting to know him. I said I wished him well, but both he and I sensed the insincerity of everything. He called later in the week for a short chat, cocky as always but definitely edgy, and then once more the weekend before his execution to say good-bye, but luckily I wasn’t home to take the call.
Gacy’s Life (15)
In the few years before his December, 1978 arrest, John Wayne Gacy killed at least 33 boys and young men and buried most of them in the crawl space under his home near Chicago, Illinois. Gacy, a building contractor, lured them to his home with prospects of employment and sex, and then tortured them before killing them. He had an abusive father, but there was little else in his background to portend such infamy. (16)
Born on March 17, 1942, he claimed his father was alcoholic and frequently beat both him and his mother. John had an effeminate side and could never seem to earn his father’s approval regardless of the efforts he made. He dropped out of high school in his senior year and left home for a short time, working in a mortuary in Las Vegas. He returned home to attend a local business college and began selling shoes.
At the age of 22, he married a woman whose father owned a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Waterloo, Iowa. Gacy became a successful manager of his father-in-law’s business and a socially-active citizen. He joined the local Jaycees (17) and held key offices and received numerous honors as a Jaycee.
In 1968 he began a tortuous ten-year downward journey of criminality that would culminate in his arrest as a serial killer. Although he claimed to have been framed, he was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to molesting a teenager employed in the restaurant he managed. His wife divorced him. Gacy was an exemplary prisoner and was paroled after only 18 months, returning to Chicago to become a cook and later to open a construction and remodeling business and become a small-time local politician.
His next arrest in 1971 involved a teenager’s accusation that Gacy had tried to force him to engage in sex, but the charge was dismissed when the youth failed to appear in court. He remarried but soon ceased sexual relations with his wife. Gacy had become active in community affairs as a Democratic precinct captain and as a clown ("Pogo" or "Patches") at children’s parties and hospitals.
He hosted large parties at his home for local dignitaries and neighbors. Gacy answered comments by his wife and others about the peculiar smell in the home by saying that there was a lot of dampness in the crawl space. In fact, he had employed teenagers in his business and had them dig trenches in the crawl space underneath his home.
Gacy had been sexually torturing to death some of the young men who worked for him and others that he picked up in downtown Chicago. He lured them by promising them money or employment. One of his favorite routines was to persuade them to participate in his "handcuff trick" in order to incapacitate them. He would then chloroform them and sodomize them. This was followed by his "rope trick" in which he would insert a rope around the victim’s neck, insert a stick in the loop, and twist it slowly like a tourniquet until the victim strangled to death. Gacy liked to read passages from the Bible while doing this.
He buried most of his sexual victims in shallow graves in the crawl space under the house, covered them with lime, and left them to decompose. One potential victim was lured into Gacy’s black Oldsmobile (complete with spotlight to look like an unmarked police car) on the pretense of police questioning, handcuffed, abused sexually and then released for unknown reasons. Enraged by liver damage caused by the chloroform, the victim staked out freeway entrances until he spotted Gacy’s car and then demanded action by authorities. Authorities declined to prosecute Gacy because of lack of evidence.
Gacy’s undoing came in December, 1978 when he visited a pharmacy to do a remodeling estimate, and lured away a 15-year-old boy whose mother had dropped him off at the pharmacy to file a job application. Police learned that Gacy had been there just before the boy’s disappearance and began watching Gacy closely, especially after learning about his previous molestation conviction.
A detective asked to use the bathroom during a visit to Gacy’s home and smelled the telltale odor of decomposition when the furnace fan kicked on. A search warrant led promptly to the discovery of rotting corpses in the crawl space. Nationally televised news reports showed heavily-garbed police workers as they went about the grim task of collecting the remains.
Gacy is alleged to have confessed his crimes during interrogation and even to have drawn a map of the bodies’ placement, but Gacy signed nothing. He was convicted of murder and all appeals denied. Execution at just after midnight on May 10, 1994 was greeted by a large, enthusiastic crowd outside the prison, tempered by a small number of death penalty protesters. Audio interviews recorded just after his arrest and aired after his death were extremely incriminating, and video interviews in the years just before his death showed him to be extremely callous.
Gacy the Man
Above all I was struck by the ordinariness of the man. He could be anybody -- your neighbor, co-worker or friend, or even your father (he had two children by two wives). He was somewhat short (5’8") and fat (well over 200 lb.) with oily skin and greasy, dishwater hair streaked with gray. He was jolly and likable -- perfect for the role he assumed in clown suit and makeup as Pogo or Patches for entertaining at children’s parties and visits to children’s hospital wards. His demeanor was good enough to get him voted Jaycees Man of the Year, and a minor role in Chicago politics that eventually led to his infamous photo shaking hands with the wife of President Jimmy Carter.
Yet he was a habitual liar. (18) He steadfastly denied any guilt during our early visits and was quite convincing in his many claims, always presenting himself as a victim of one kind or another. (19) He was extremely garrulous, though, and not nearly as intelligent as he liked others to believe (20), which led inevitably to his being caught in at least some of his lies. His average intelligence was reflected in his art, which was colorful but as two-dimensional as he was.
He was crude and brutal about his bisexuality and other matters, and enjoyed trying to shock people that he thought might disapprove of his preference for boys and young men to satisfy his sexual appetites. (21) His lack of sensitivity became particularly evident in a videotaped interview that I saw after his death in which he made the claim, "The only thing I’m guilty of is running an unlicensed cemetery" (referring to the 29 bodies buried in the crawl space under his home and in his yard).
These characteristics were not all immediately evident, and even after listening and watching carefully for hours, I never would have guessed he was a serial killer without being told.
In my younger years, untouched by the hard realities of life, I was in favor of capital punishment -- "an eye for an eye" and all that sort of thing. Four visits to John Wayne Gacy, coupled with extensive reading about so-called criminal "justice", have changed my views. Why?
1. It costs much less on average to house, feed and clothe a murderer for life than it does to go through the extended legal appeals. (22)
2. So why not just shortcut the appeals process? The answer is that many innocent people are sent to Death Row. (23)
3. America seems to be producing more and more serial murderers and other major felons. (24) Why not promise these people life in prison under reasonable conditions in return for a promise of continued co-operation as better tests for genetic and other defects are developed? Let’s study the criminal profile scientifically (25) and do what we can to prevent the development of serial killers, i.e., deal with the cause of the problem to save much misery later on.
4. Capital punishment just doesn’t prevent crime. Most murderers and serial killers in particular act in the heat of passion and/or honestly believe they won’t get caught. (26) The thought of execution doesn’t even enter their minds let alone worry them.
5. America claims to be a Christian nation. What happened to the forgiveness we preach to others? Is our religion just another of America’s many hypocrisies? (27)
There’s an old maxim about not judging a book by its cover. While usually applied as an admonition against drawing unfavorable conclusions too quickly, it has its dark flipside too. One need only note the appalling daily media reports to realize the folly of being too trusting. Perhaps any trust is too much, and parents groan as they destroy their young children’s innocence by cautioning them with tales of evil strangers. Ultimately we all become strangers to each other, and the social fabric of trust that binds us together first frays and then falls apart.
Gacy confirmed my lessons in the corporate world and life generally that real evil usually is not flamboyant; it does its very best to hide under a cover of respectability. (28) There are many actual and potential Gacy’s, and we must always be on guard against them. (29) We can’t like our neighbors if we can’t trust them; therefore, we have no reason to do them good, and ultimately only a reason to hurt them as our hardness deadens our sensitivity to pain.
This is the bitter, black legacy from John Wayne Gacy, and most of all from our leaders who created the conditions that that spawned Gacy and others like him. Our business, political, religious and military leaders have failed us abysmally. (30)
I no longer believe in anything but the inevitability of death and the need to have as much pleasure as possible beforehand, with the proviso that I absolutely will not take advantage of others along the way, and will help the truly helpless when I can. The latter proviso is at least a matter of expedience, since I have no desire to end up as Gacy did. It’s my own private moral standard, but it’s the best I can manage. I don’t know if Hell exists, but if it does then John Wayne Gacy surely must be there.
Fox, James Alan et al. Overkill -- Mass Murder & Serial Killing Exposed (1994). Plenum Press, 233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013-1578.
Gacy, John Wayne. A Question of Doubt (1991). Craig Bowley Consultants, P.O. Box 225, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0225. This 216-page tome is Gacy’s version of events. It was scheduled for publication in a limited edition of 500 copies at $250.00 each complete with deluxe binding, color photo of Gacy, and Gacy’s autograph, but I do not know if it was ever published. I obtained a proof copy from Gacy himself.
Hickey, Eric W. Serial Murderers and Their Victims (1991). Wadsworth Publishing Company, 10 Davis Drive, Belmont, CA 94002.
Holmes, Ronald M. et al. Serial Murder (1988). Sage Publications, Inc., 2111 West Hillcrest Drive, Newbury Park, CA 91320.
Kozenczak, Joseph et al. A Passing Acquaintance (1992). Carlton Press, Inc., New York, NY. $12.95. Kozenczak was the chief of police in Gacy’s home town of Des Plaines, Illinois and the man responsible for bringing Gacy to justice.
Lester, Harold. Serial Killers - The Insatiable Passion (1995). The Charles Press, P.O. Box 15715, Philadelphia, PA 19105.
Moore, W. John, "The Death Penalty’s Marathon Man". The National Journal, December 18, 1993, p. 51.
Ressler, Robert K. et al. Whoever Fights Monsters (1992). $22.95. St, Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Sparks, James Arthur. A Case Study on John Wayne Gacy (1996). The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. Thesis submitted for M.S. in Criminal Justice.
Staton, Rick, ed. More Letters to Mr. Gacy (1992). Myco Associates, P.O. Box 45888, Baton Rouge, IL 70895. $20.00. A sequel to They Call Him Mr. Gacy, this book captures photocopies of several hundred of the more interesting of thousands of letters to and from Gacy.
Sullivan, Terry. Killer Clown (1983). Windsor Publishing Group, 475 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016. $4.99. Gacy hated this book with a passion.
Taylor, Gary, "Fake Evidence Becomes Real Problem". National Law Journal, October 9, 1995, p. A1.
Wallis, Claudia, "Medicine for the Soul". Time, July 11, 1994. p. 64.
Wertz, Marianna, "How Many Innocents Have Been Executed in the United States?" The New Federalist, March 3, 1997, p. 11.
Wilkinson, Alec, "Conversations with a Killer". The New Yorker, April 18, 1994, p. 58.
1. A serial killer can be defined as someone who kills three or more people with a "cooling off period" between killings. One definition of the cooling off period is more than 30 days between the first and last killing. Lester, p. 16.
2. Cable News Network, May 10, 1994.
3. Gacy was a prolific writer, painter and raconteur. He claimed to have written more than 10,000 letters during his 14 years on Death Row, as well as completed more than 2,000 oil paintings, entertained hundreds of visitors, made thousands of phone calls, and fielded dozens of interviews.
4. The only differences between white-collar criminals and other kinds are that the former are richer and better educated. It’s been estimated that 3% of all U.S. adult males are sociopaths. Fox et al, p. 19. I’m convinced that a substantial number of these twisted people become key executives by virtue of their enormous drive for power and wealth. See footnote 16 for further definition of the term "sociopath".
5. Attorneys use the word "alleged" a lot even when the evidence of their clients’ guilt is overwhelming, which exposes attorneys to the ridicule and contempt of the general public, who have little use for the concept of "innocent until proven guilty". One only need watch the grotesque litany of endless American talk shows and sports broadcasts to understand that the American equivalents of Roman bread and circuses are welfare and mindless entertainment. Americans don’t care much about ideas or ideals -- we just want to see blood!
6. August and October, 1993, and February and May, 1994. In fact, Gacy told me when he called to say good-bye two days before his execution that we were his last outside visitors except for his family and lawyers.
7. It has truly amazed me to see the number of young (teens to late 20’s) Americans who have sought paternal approval and affection from John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez and other well-known sociopaths and psychopaths. Understandably, the criminals themselves groove on it totally. One of our four visits to Gacy was shared with a small, skinny man in his mid-20’s who had come all the way from California with his girlfriend to visit Gacy because the visitor had never had any relationship with his real father. Gacy had offered the young man advice and fatherly concern (and gotten a blow job from him in a visiting room with a broken camera as his girlfriend watched; we were visiting Gacy’s inmate "bodyguard" in another room down the hall at the time). The young man confided in me because I was dressed in black from head to toe, including a black linen shirt, slacks and boots, and he believed that I was a priest because of my dress -- in spite of my pierced ear and shoulder length hair! Gacy later told me the same story without being asked, so it was probably true, especially in view of the notoriously lax conditions in Illinois prisons (see footnote 14).
8. Gacy required that a biographical questionnaire be sent to him by every prospective visitor, and he had one of his own that he sent as an example. Gacy liked to write letters and make collect phone calls, and I received several dozen of each during the year that I knew him. He was always brusquely optimistic and chatty. At Christmas, 1993 he sent Christmas cards with a color photo of him as Pogo or Patches the Clown, roles he had assumed as an entertainer at children’s parties and in children’s hospital wards during the years before he was tagged as America’s most prolific serial killer. The letters and cards are now valuable collectors items, and there was a scandal in the months before his death as it became widely known that large sums of money were being sent to private accounts for his paintings, other collectibles and even a John Wayne Gacy $1.99/minute telephone "hot line". Ostensibly, the money was used for his legal defense fund, but Gacy’s defense team was provided at public expense.
9. It also delighted the women. Let me put it bluntly: "bad boys" make women wet! See, for example, Sheila Eisenberg’s Men Who Kill & the Women Who Love Them. Sure, there are some women such as fundamentalist Christians who want to castrate anything male, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
10. Anyone who thinks seriously of committing a crime, and not committing suicide if caught, should visit a real prison. I was thinking recently about Charles Manson who was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to death (later commuted to life in prison) for the Tate/LaBianca slayings shortly after I married my first wife. In the quarter of a century since then, I’ve had several wives and well over a hundred lovers, traveled and lived well, and generally done what I pleased. Charlie has rotted in a small cell, been the subject of several assassination attempts, and been deprived of almost everything the rest of us take for granted, even his guitar. Can any of us really conceive what that kind of misery must be like???
11. I thought of Robert Ressler’s spooky anecdote about his visit to infamous 6’9" 300 lb. California serial killer Edmund Kemper. Ressler reported that after conclusion of his interview, he rang for the guard, who did not come for a good 20 minutes because it was shift change time. Kemper commented that he could have screwed Ressler’s head off and placed it on the table to greet the guard. Ressler et al, p. 47.
12. He sold me a graphic rendition of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein (model for Robert Bloch’s Psycho) complete with realistic red paint splatters resembling blood, and a colorful Charles Manson portrait. Gacy gave me a Hitler caricature, and I bought a beautifully framed skull with bloody teeth (captioned "Dahmer Skull") on black matte background at an exhibition of serial killer art.
13. These included a one-of-a-kind depiction of Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, as well as several of the Pogo oils for which Gacy is best known, and a one-of-a-kind portrayal of cartoon character Fred Flintstone.
14. "Hey, death row’s great -- death row’s a fucking blast. I get cable t.v., I get phone access any time I want, I get to paint, I get all these privileges and nobody fucks with me. On the other hand, the general population [of the prison], that’s for fools and animals. It’s a jungle out there, so you’re at the mercy of being killed at any moment for anything, and some people just have time to kill, they get petty." Letter from John Wayne Gacy. I had some doubt as to the veracity of this claim at the time, but the infamous Richard Speck video changed my mind. Speck, a Chicago mass murderer of eight nurses, died in prison of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 1990. Five years later a video made secretly while he was on death row was released. It showed Speck, with pockmarked face and hormonally-enlarged breasts, dressed in women’s panties and cavorting with a black inmate. The two snorted what appeared to be cocaine through a rolled $100 bill and engaged in various sex acts, all the while bragging about what a good time they had been having. Subsequent public outrage led to a significant crackdown on Illinois inmate freedom.
15. See the REFERENCES at the end of this article for a detailed bibliography.
16. Suprisingly to laymen, the term "sociopath" is usually applied to serial murderers like Gacy rather than a term such as "psychopath" that would indicate less responsibility for their actions. Sociopathy is an "antisocial character disorder" in which a person has a complete lack of empathy for others. "Yet they are otherwise rational, logical, appropriate, competent, even charming and persuasive." Holmes et al, p.66. Sociopaths do exactly what they want to do without conscience or respect for the rights of others. They can rise high in careers requiring ambition and drive, such as business, the military, government or even religion. See also footnotes 4 and 18.
17. In Gacy’s day, the Jaycees were a charitable and social group of young men in their 20’s and 30’s, typically ambitious, smooth-talking self-promoters climbing fast in the business world. They organized "smokers" at which they played cards, drank and smoked, watched porn videos, and planned their charitable activities. It’s been claimed that they’ve "cleaned up their act" following unfavorable publicity about their social activities.
18. Sociopaths often are intelligent and charming. A number of my clients and colleagues have been quite convincing in their folksy, "Hi! How are ya?" approaches. It may take years before one becomes aware of the evil underneath the pleasant mask, especially when it’s further cloaked in the rectitude of fundamentalist Christianity. In general, hypocrites and other crooks "wear" religions like shit "wears" stink!!!
19. Gacy had many plaintive woes that he described at great length to anyone who would listen. For example, he claimed to have a congenital "bottleneck" heart defect, but there is no such medical condition. He particularly liked to say, "I’m the 34th victim." It was a mark of his lack of imagination that he never changed his stories about such obvious fallacies as the "bottleneck" heart even after he had been exposed in various newspaper articles and books as a liar.
20. His claim of two college degrees was also a lie.
21. He liked to say, "I’m a pitcher, not a catcher." This meant that he took the dominant "top" role in his homosexual encounters.
22. "Millions Misspent, a 1992 report, said that Texas has spent three times more on each death penalty case than it spends to keep a convict in prison for 40 years." Moore, p. 51.
23. "With 313 executions in the United States between 1970 and the end of 1995, ... one Death Row inmate is released because of innocence for every five inmates executed." Wertz, p. 11. This fact, caused at least in part by badly contaminated evidence (such as the unreliable lab reports and Detective Mark Fuhrman’s perjury in the O.J. Simpson murder trial), is just the tip of the iceberg of the flawed American criminal "justice" system. See the detailed discussion of fake evidence in Taylor, p. A1.
24. Holmes et al, p. 21. Hickey, p. 131.
25. "According to a recent report in Science, researchers have found discrete locations in the brain of an intricate system that serves, among other things, as the human moral compass. ... It is quite possible that some of history’s greatest villains harbored an unseen wound...in the prefrontal cortex. Such may be the condition of all psychopaths. ... And now...scientists will know where to search for that hole. It is surely where they will look when studying the brain -- donated to science -- of serial killer John Wayne Gacy executed last May in Illinois. Suppose a...defect is found? Will it seem fair to have executed the man if he was physically incapable of moral judgment? ... If moral judgment can be broken, surely the next step is to fix it." Time, July 11, 1994, p. 64.
26. Holmes et al, p. 67.
27. See my article "Violence: the Sour Cherry in America’s Pie" in EsoTerra #6.
28. Real evil comes into the open only in unusual circumstances or when it finds safety in numbers, e.g., Pol Pot’s genocidal Communists in Cambodia. I have a theory that American fundamentalist Christians are about to show their real face of evil under the mask of patriotism and self-righteousness.
29. One recent study estimates that there are 350 serial killers in America with an average of 10-12 victims per killer. Holmes et al, pp. 20-21. I have seen other estimates ranging from 50 to several thousand active serial killers.
30. See footnote 27.
John Wayne Gacy Jr.Crass.comJohn Wayne Gacy Jr., born in Chicago in 1942, was beaten and called a "sissy" by his alcoholic father; and suffered a childhood head injury that caused him to have periodic blackouts for years. He was a restaurant manager in Iowa in 1968, when his arrest for sodomizing a young male employee and paying to have a witness beaten for testifying against him led to the breakup of his first marriage.
Remarried, he settled in a Chicago suburb and kept his homosexuality secret, narrowly avoiding a 1971 sodomy rape charge when the victim failed to show in court. Gacy was a community activist, a successful independent contractor, a leader in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and Jaycee-elected 'Man of the Year." He entertained hospitalized children as Pogo the Clown.
Gacy began to torture and kill in 1972. His victims, all male, ranged in age from nine to 27. Many were lured by promises of construction jobs, offered liquor and, once drunk, were tied to a chair and chloroformed. Each was violated, and those Gacy killed were usually buried in the crawlspace beneath his home.
In 1978 Gacy's wife left him, in 1977 one victim survived and reported Gacy to police, but they were slow to act and only charged him with a misdemeanor. In late 1978, the mother of a missing man told police her son had phoned to tell her he'd been offered a job by Gacy. investigators found 28 bodies in the crawlspace and five more corpses in a local river. Survivors then came forth to identify Gacy.
In 1988, Gacy was sentenced to 21 life imprisonments and 12 death sentences. Alternately denying his guilt and attributing his crimes to childhood atrocities, he paints clown portraits in jail.
Gacy Killed Dozens, and Maybe Was Good for More Than 33
By Terry H. Burns - Suburban Chicago News
Chicago -- Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was convicted of systematically murdering 33 young men and boys from the early to late 1970's. No one in this country ever has been convicted of killing so many people. Is it beyond reason to believe that America's most horrific killer might has murdered other? "I personally believe he killed a lot more than 33 people," said Joseph Kozenczak, a former Des Plaines police detective who headed the Gacy investigation. "I thin there are other victims out there, but we might never know," he added.
Part of the problem is that Gacy at first admitted to his role in the killings, but since has denied his part in all but one. The killing, Gacy told authorities, involved a boy he picked up at a bus station and murdered after the teen-ager come after him with a kitchen knife. That boy was one of 27 later found buried in the crawl space under Gacy's Norwood Park Township home near Des Plaines, IL. "I think there are missing kids out there, and no one has ever tried to link them to Gacy," said Terry Sullivan, one of several former Gacy prosecutors.
Even 14 years after the fact, Sullivan admits that the most frustrating aspects of the case are its "enormity" and "probably never knowing whether there were any more victims out there." "There's a real possibility there are," he added. Others are reluctant to link Gacy to other murders. "I don't think it would fit his pattern," said Steven Egger, professor of criminal justice at Sangamon State University and an expert on serial killers. "He started killing when he got to Chicago because he had a base and a comfort zone, his home," Egger said.
Although he insists that Gacy's killings were confined to the Chicago area, Egger admits that it's not "beyond the realm of possibility" that other victims exist. Other officials contend that more victims might exist because Gacy lived and worked in various cities across the country before settling down in the Chicago suburbs.
Gacy not only lived in Iowa -- where he served a prison sentence for sodomy -- but spent a brief time in Springfield and several East Coast cities. "Serial killers always travel a lot, and I can't see where Gacy would be the exception," Kozenczak added. Especially intriguing to prosecutors and investigators was a large United States map discovered in a room that Gacy used as an office in his suburban home.
The map was littered with colored pins showing the towns were Gacy had lived or worked through the years. "There were pins all over the place," recalled Robert Ressler, former head of the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and an expert on serial killers. Although Ressler said that, during his conversations with Gacy, the accused killer has denied any link between the map and other killings, "I think Gacy's good for more than 33."
Gacy meets death at midnight
Execution: Unless last-minute appeals succeed, the killer of 33 will meet a drug-induced death
By Terry H. Burns - Suburban Chicago News
Joliet -- Time is quickly running out for convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Instead of measuring his life in terms of weeks or years, the 52-year-old Gacy has only a matter of hours. Unless last-minute appeals forestall the inevitable, the former building contractor who killed 33 young men and boys has a date with the executioner.
In addition, the tile walls have been covered with reinforced steel plating "to prevent any escape," said Nic Howell, an Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman. Gacy will be watched around the clock by a correctional officer sitting at a desk directly across from his cell. From inside his cell, Gacy should be able to see a small enclosed courtyard that at one time was used as a basketball court by death row inmates. "It all depends on his attitude, but he will be allowed (into the courtyard) for some fresh air. We'll be as cooperative as we can," Howell said.
Gacy's last day - On his final day, Gacy will be allowed the customary visits from family and friends and, of course, his last meal. At about 9 p.m., any family or friends will be asked to leave, but Gacy can spend the next few hours with a minister "if that's what he chooses," Howell added.
At about 11 p.m., the final preparations begin, and Gacy will be offered a sedative, something Walker refused. Then, at exactly 12:01 a.m., the serial killer will be taken from his cell, strapped onto a gurney and given an intravenous saline solution in his arm. Ironically, one of the last things Gacy will see as he's wheeled into the death chamber is an exit sign hanging over the door. Once in the chamber, the saline tube is removed and replaced by an intravenous line running to the drug-filled syringes in the "delivery module" attached to the wall.
Although corrections officials contend that they "have a handle" on carrying out the procedure, Gacy's attorneys say the lethal-injection machine in prone to malfunction. As part of their appeal, attorney John Greenlees said state prison officials botched the 1990 Walker execution when an intravenous line carrying the deadly chemicals developed a kink. Instead of dying quickly and painlessly, "it appears highly likely that Mr. Walker was literally tortured to death," he said. Prison officials dispute that charge. "I was there, and 27 or 28 others were in the room, and nobody said boo about anything going wrong," Howell said. "Obviously, the system worked, because Charles (Walker) is no longer with us," he added.
The execution - As for Gacy, once his arms are cuffed at the wrists, and restraints fastened around his waist and upper chest, a white sheet will be placed over him to cover everything but his head. The two executioners -- chosen by corrections Director Howard Peters III -- stand behind a one-way mirror just above Gacy's head. From behind the glass, the execution team can see Gacy's feet, but not his face. At a few minutes after midnight, Warden Sal Godinez will give Gacy a chance to say any last words, and then signal the executioners to simultaneously push buttons on a small machine that starts the flow of lethal drugs. Although there are two executioners, the machine randomly selects the one who actually triggers the drugs.
Three drugs will be administered in 30-second to one-minute intervals -- sodium pentathol, an anesthetic; pancuronium bromide, to paralyze the respiratory system; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart. If all goes as planned, Gacy should be pronounced dead within 10 to 15 minutes.
The Wacky World of Murder
JOHN WAYNE GACY - BORN : March, 1942 - VICTIMS : 33
I'm sure that you all know what Gacy did, if not then here's a brief summary: Gacy was a hypocondriac - in childhood he was hit in the head with a swing, and had a blood-clot on the brain, once this was removed he seemed to just invent any illness so people would pay attention. This little habit never seemed to leave him in later life. (He seemed to develop a heart problem anytime he was in danger)
He graduated business college and went on to marry into a wealthy family, taking over the management of the families chicken restaurant. John became a well known and liked member of the community, and his arrest in 1968, on a charge of attempting to coerce a male employee into homosexual acts came as a big suprise to everyone, especially his wife. Gacy didn't really want to go to trial so he paid for the young male to be beaten. All this did was cause more trouble and he had more charges laid against him. In the end Gacy pled guilty to sodomy and recieved 10 years in prison. Since he was such a model prisoner he was paroled in only eighteen months. Needless to say his wife divorced him while he was inside.
Gacy moved to Chicago where he set up as a building contractor. Once again he turned out to be a great success at his chosen profession. Gacy remarried and moved into a very upmarket neighborhood. He became active in politics, working for the Democrats (he even had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalyn Carter), and also performed for sick children as 'Pogo the Clown'.
Gacy ran into trouble with the police again in February, 1971 when he was charged with the attempted rape of a young man. This charge was dropped as the victim never appeared in court at Gacy's hearing and the charges were dropped. On October 18, 1971, Gacy had his probation officially discharged. Less than three months later Gacy killed for the first time. Gacy picked up the unidentified young man at a bus terminal and took him for a drive he would never return from. What Gacy did to his victims has never actually been clear, but it is known they were tortured rather violently, usually raped repeatedly, then shown the 'rope trick'. The 'rope trick' was strangulation.
Gacy went on killing young men almost at will for seven years, burying them in the crawlspace under his house. Gacy made up a story about sewer problems as the smell from the crawl space began to get worse, and it seems everyone believed him The beginning of the end came for Gacy's on December 12, 1978. He picked up Robert Piest at a pharmacy where Piest worked. Gacy fed him a line about a better job and Piest fell for it, accompanying Gacy back to his house. The next time anyone would see Piest he was a bloated corpse.
As Gacy was the last person seen with Piest police decided to check him out, and as he had previous arrests for shagging young men, he made a great suspect. The police went to interview Gacy at his house and with the stench of 28 corpse wafting up into the house it didn't take to long for them to realize what was under the house, but they had no way of getting down there to check. Once the police had decided Gacy was there man they basically hassled the poor bastard into screwing up, and once they had the evidence they needed Gacy was arrested.
John made a full confession, admitting there were 28 bodies under his house and garage and that he had dumped another five in a local river. After arrest Gacy tried feigning insanity, pretending he had another personality, Jack, who did all the evil shit. Then, once Jack failed, he tried to say he was forced into a confession and, in fact, it was a conspiracy by three other people who did all the killing and then set him up. POOR BABY.
While in prison Gacy did hundreds of paintings that were bought by everyone from Hollywood stars to the average guy. It became something of a trend to own one. Gacy was executed on May 10, 1994, by leathal injection.
Illinois Death Penalty.com
John Wayne Gacy, 51, was executed by lethal injection at Stateville penitentiary on May 10, 1994, a little more than 14 years after he was found guilty of murdering 33 boys and young men. The bodies of most of the victims were unearthed in the crawl space under Gacy's brick bungalow in an unincorporated area known as Norwood Park northwest of Chicago. Gacy, a self-employed contractor, had moved to Norwood Park in 1971 when he was paroled after serving 3 years of a 10-year sentence in Iowa for sodomy of a male teenager.
On December 11, 1978, a 15-year-old Des Plaines high school sophomore, Robert Piest, disappeared shortly after leaving work at a pharmacy where Gacy had recently completed a remodeling job. The youth's mother had come to drive him home, but he asked her to wait a few minutes while he went to talk to a man about a job. The boy did not return.
When routine checking of Gacy's background turned up his Iowa criminal record, Des Plaines police put him under surveillance. After additional investigation revealed that two teenage employees of Gacy, Gregory Godzik and John Butkovich, also had recently disappeared, the police obtained a search warrant for Gacy's home. A roll of film was seized in the ensuing search, and it was soon determined that it belonged to the Piest boy.
At this point, the Cook County Sheriff's Police obtained a second search warrant. When they executed it the night of December 21, they found three lime-covered bodies in the crawl space. According to Cook County Sheriff Richard J. Elrod, Gacy pointed officers to the precise locations of certain bodies in the crawl space and stated that he had lured the victims to his home, either expressly for sex or through the promise of employment, and then strangled them.
On December 22, the day after the first bodies were discovered, Gacy was charged with the Piest murder. In the days that followed, 28 additional bodies were exhumed from the crawl space and Piest's body was found in a river where Gacy had dumped it. Eventually, Gacy was charged with and convicted of all 33 murders. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Louis B. Garippo sentenced Gacy to death for 12 of those murders and to natural life in prison for the others. Gacy also found guilty of one count of deviate sexual assault and one count of indecent liberties with a child.
Gacy's execution followed by four years the execution of Charles Walker, who had abandoned his appeals and became first person to be executed in Illinois after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to be resumed in 1976 after a 4-year hiatus (Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153). Gacy was the first to be involuntarily executed.
Received in the mail on the day of his EXECUTION!
This interview I got from an American fanzine, and it is said to be his last interview. It was received by the author at the same day Gacy was executed, in the words of himself (the author): "I received his response to my questions in the mail only 6 hours before his death, when I got home from my job at 6:30 PM". I'm sorry I can't say you the name of author and fanzine that it was published (I've lost the whole mag ...)...
Please give a short biography of yourself:
Full name: John Wayne Michael Gacy
Date Of Birth: 5-17-42
Height; weight: 5'9" 220 lbs
Marital Status: twice divorced
Family: 2 sisters, 5 children
Few people know that you were actively involved in many civic and charitable organizations and that you received several commendations before your arrest. What is your most treasured honor?
Being voted THE JAYCEE's "MAN OF THE YEAR" in 3 different cities.
Please Describe the traits in man/woman that you find appealing
man- Bright, bold, honest, dependable and someone that says what they are thinking.
Woman- independent, thinker, self starter, and someone that has a mind of their own.
Who were your childhood heroes, and who do you currently admire?
J.F.Kennedy and R.J.Daley were my early heroes. Two people I currently admire now are Mario Cuomo and Donald Trump.
What are your favorite TV shows and movies?
Unsolved Mysteries and Nacional Geographic specials. As far as movies: Önce Upon A Time In America", "Good Fellas" and "The Ten Commandments".
What are your favorite bands-musicians/songs/ and singers?
Musicians - Elton John, Zamfir, Reo-Speedwagon.
Songs - "Amazing Grace" and "Send In The Clowns". (ironic?)
Singers - Sha na na, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Neil Diamond.
What are some of your hobbies?
Correspondance, oil painting, and the study of human interests.
Can you give us some book recomendations; and what were the last few books you've read?
"The Texas Connection" and "A Question Of Doubt". The last books that I read were: "Naked Lunch" and "Wild Boys" by Williams S.Burroughs.
What is something about you that very few people know or realize?
Almost no one seems to realize that I'm a character that loves to tease and joke around.
What is your biggest regret in life?
Being so trusting and guilible, or just plain being taken advantage of! (I bet the 28 men found under your house and the 5 at the river feel exact same way! - ED.)
If things had turned out out completely different in your life and you were in a position of power such as the President; what would be your 1st objective?
I'd make sure that the people in this country had jobs and a place to live before worrying about other countries and their problems.
What kind of advice would you have for children and young people?
Be yourself, think positive and respect their parents. (And avoid serial killers at all costs?-ED)
What are some things that you don't like about people and what are your "pet peeves"?
I don't like phonies and people that don't keep their word. I dislike people who say they will do something that they have no intention of doing.
What is your biggest fear in life?
Dying before I have a chance to clear my name with the truth.
Do you have any supertitions?
None at all; they are for negative people.
What do your friendslike about you the most?
The fact that I'm outspoken and honest, fun loving, and dependable.
If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
I would like to meet MICHELANGELO and LEONARD DA VINCI.
What are your personal goals for the future?
To see that my children are provided for.
How do you view yourself personally?
I think of myself as a positive thinker, a self stater, open minded and non-judgemental.
What are your political views and what do you think about this country?
I am a semi-liberal democrat but I don't think that either party has all the answers. This country would be great if people would work for it; instead of against it by pointing fingers at others. Our problems take all races to make it better.
What do you think about all the crime that we have here?
There's too much political corruption and the allowed drugs by the government has off-set the balance of judicial reform and punishment.
Do you think that drugs should be legalized?
I hink they should make some legal to avoid crime but block the rest from the country.
What are your views on sex?
I consider myself liberal; but WITH VALUES. Whatever that will of consenting adults who are in control of their own well being, and lives.
What do you expect from friends?
I want them to be light hearted, fun loving, dependable, honest and someone who is with you through thick and thin; but they expect nothing in return.
Do you have any religious beliefs?
My faith is in God but I think that churches need to work on the family units.
What are your artistic interests?
To please myself and hope that my expression is enjoyable to others with bold and brightness of colors. Art; as in life; is a journey and not a destination. If you don't like it then you need to move on. Just like music to the ear, or food to the smell and taste.
The following questions are the ones that John Wayne Gacy didn't answer:
1) Besides the negative comments that the history books might say about you; it certainly can't be said that you were failure in the world of enterprise! Why were you so sucessful in the many business ventures that you embarked upon in your life? Was it hard work, good fortune, connections with helpful persons, or was it some other intangible quality?
2) I am amazed at all things you have going on from prison! The paintings that you have for sale and the phone line that people can call (for a fee per minute) to hear a recording of you discussing the legal aspects of your case. How did you manage to set these things up and does the anti-profiteering law affect you?(a law that prevents convicted criminals from earning any moneyfrom the notoriety of their crimes) If it does; who keeps the money earned from the enterprizes?
3) I know you express your creative side and vent your frustrations through your artwork and paintings but these pieces are selling for amounts out of proportion with your level of ability. I believe this is due to your notoriety and your "colorful" past; very much like VINCENT VAN GOGH. Do you agree and is it just another "good business opportunity"?
4) I know of at least 3 biographies and a movie made about your life. Besides the fact you are portrayed as guilty of the crimes that you claim you are innocent of; which is the most accurate about the events that led up to the controversy?
5) Please tell about your meeting with G.G.ALLIN! Do you think he was insane or mentally ill? Was he putting on an act or was he "genuine"?
6) I'll never forget the day you were arrested! It made the national news for weeks and created quite a stir. Many things I have read about that period in your life statted that your abuse of several substances caused you to be in a "narcotic haze" or "diminished state of conciouusness" which prevented you from being able to remember any the events of that time. Has the effects of being removed from these intoxicants "cleared up the clouds" in your memory and allowed you to remember the truth more clearly now?
7) Would you say that your dad's unreasonable expectations for you created your endless drive to suceed in business?
8) Describe the events of your meeting with President Carter and his wife, the mayor of Chicago and other proeminent citizens you have met. Didi you ever meet Harlan Sanders when you worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken?
9) Do you see any symbolism in the fact that a clown can be anyone behind the mask that he paints over his face?
10) Have you met any other "well known" convicted murders or has the subject held any fascination for you? How do you feel about the fact that in history your name will be placed alonside Fish, Gein, Bundy, Lucas, and Dahmer?
11) Do you fear death and do you believe in a final judgememnt? Will you be vindicated in the afterlife?
12) Would you agree with the saying that: "You're never more alive than when you're at the edge of death"?
Name: John Wayne Gacy
RECORD: 1968: sexual abuse of a boy in Iowa (sentence: 10 years)
1972: molestation of a gay
1978: 33 murders on boys in the age of 15 - 20 (dead-penalty)
Gacy claims to be abused on the age of 5 by a female teenager and on the age of 8 by a man. After his father came home from work he often went to the basement and started drinking. When it was dinner time, he came up, was pissed and started beating up his wife and children. (that probably was the reason why he buried his victims in the basement) Gacy worked several years for his uncle in a Fried Chicken Restaurant where he took advantage of his position and had sex to several employees. He sometimes offered them sex with his first wife after having oral sex with Gacy.
After he was sent to jail for ten years in 1968 he was released in 1970 on good behaviour.
He moved to Chicago and claims to commited his first murder in 1972 when he picked up a boy, had sex with him and (as Gacy claims) the next morning the boy tried to attack him with a knife. He got hold of the knife, killed the boy and buried him under his garage. When the smell became too bad he covered the body with concrete.
The second murder was somewhere between 1972 and 1975 when he worgened a boy and also buried him in his basement. After he was divorced of his second wife in 1976 the lust for murdering became more intense and killed almost every month. He took them home and filled with alchoolics and drugs. After that he started to watch movies with'em and then offered to show'em his handcuff trick. After he had handcuffed them he often worgened them. After he had kidnapped and killed more the tortures became more serious and intense: he sometimes almost drowned'em and then had sex with'em or he put a plastic bag over their head so they almost stiched.When his handcuff trick had succedded he said he had another trick: the rope trick. He did the rope around the victim's neck and putted a stick between it and slowly turned it that long that the victim stiched. Gacy used to kidnap kids who didn't have a definite place to stay so they weren't missed for a long time, but when he wasn't even suspected from murdering them he became more brutal and picked them from the street in his neighbourhood where everybody could see it. That was his worst mistake.
On December 11th 1978 he kidnapped Robert Piest after he has had an application conversation with him in front of the drug store. The kid's mother became worried when he didn't return and called the police. Gacy's house was searched, but they couldn't find any evidence. (Robert's body was hidden on the garret!!) Later Gacy told about the young man who attacked him and whom he had killed and pointed the place where he had buried him. Then they also found a trapdoor to the basement where they found three other which were decaying... Later they had found 29 bodies and parts of it under his house and Gacy confessed he had thrown 4 other people in the Des Plain river. Gacy confessed the murders and said he wanted to liberate the world fromyoung pain in the asses and faggots. Later on he told that there were other people who had a key of his fron door and that they also murdered some of the bodies... Until today that hasn't been proved. (the author of this text claims getting mostly inspiration from "Who ever fights monsters" from Robert K. Ressler.)
Boy Killer: John Wayne Gacy
By David Lohr
Not many people who knew him would have suspected that John Wayne Gacy, a respected member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Des Plaines, Ill., a performing clown at neighborhood children's parties, a precinct captain in the local Democratic party, and the owner of his own contracting business would come to be known as one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history.
Nor would his childhood in any particular way set off red flags that a monster was in the making. Gacy, a middle child, was born in Chicago in 1942 into a blue-collar family. He had two sisters, one two years older and the other two years younger. According to the book Killer Clown, by Terry Sullivan and Peter Maiken, Gacy seemed to have a regular childhood with the exception of his turbulent relationship with his father, John Wayne Gacy Sr. The authors describe the father as an unpleasant, abusive alcoholic prone to physically and verbally assaulting his children. The authors describe Gacy as deeply loving his father and wanting desperately to gain his approval and attention, but failing to win him over.
According to the book The Man Who Killed Boys by Clifford L. Lindecker, Gacy was struck in the head with a playground swing when he was 11 years old. He suffered from blackouts until the age of 16, when a doctor diagnosed him with a blood clot on the brain and corrected the condition with medication.
After attending four high schools during his senior year and never graduating, Gacy dropped out of school and left Chicago for Las Vegas. While there, he worked part time as a janitor for Palm Mortuary. Unhappy in Vegas, he returned to Chicago a few months later.
During the early 1960s, Gacy enrolled in a business college and developed a talent for salesmanship. A natural salesman, he could talk his way in and out of practically any situation. Upon graduating, he went to work as a management trainee at Nunn Bush Shoe Co in downtown Chicago. He excelled in his position and within weeks was transferred to Springfield, Ill., to manage a mens clothing outlet for the company, where he remained employed for nearly a year.
In 1964, Gacy married Marilyn Myer, a co-worker. Shortly after the wedding, the newlyweds relocated to her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. Marilyns father prompted the move by offering Gacy a position in the familys chicken restaurant. A year later, Gacy's father died in Chicago.
In 1966, at the request of his father-in-law, Gacy took over management of the familys chicken restaurant. Gacy became a well-known and liked member of the community, according to later accounts in the Waterloo Courier.
But all was not well with Gacy. The future serial killer would be arrested for the first time in 1968. The felony charge -- attempting to coerce a male employee into homosexual acts -- came as a big surprise to those who thought they knew this likable father of two toddlers, especially his wife of four years. Gacy pled guilty to sodomy and was sentenced to 10 years in Iowas State Mens Reformatory in Anamosa. His wife filed for divorce following the sentencing. Angered, Gacy informed her he did not want to see his children again and would henceforth consider her and the two kids dead.
After serving 18 months, Gacy was paroled on Oct. 18, 1971 and returned to Chicago. Unknown to his parole officer, Gacy was arrested by Chicago police on Feb. 12 -- eight months after his release from prison -- and charged with attempted rape and disorderly conduct. A gay youth had complained to authorities that Gacy had picked him up at the Greyhound station in downtown Chicago. He told police that Gacy took him back to his house and attempted to have sex with him. However, the charges were dropped when the boy failed to appear in court for the hearing.
Shortly after returning to Chicago, Gacy went to work as a construction contractor. Three years later, in 1975, he started his own construction business, PDM Contractors. That July he remarried a recently divorced woman he had met through mutual friends and, with financial assistance from his mother, moved into a house in Des Plaines, a middle-class Chicago suburb.
Gacy had a talent for business. According to the Des Plaines Journal, he was known by local merchants as a sharp businessman. He often gained contracts by undercutting his competitors' bids. He was able to cut costs by hiring on a number of teenage boys. (At least five of these boys became his victims.) His business grew.
Gacy spent part of his leisure time hosting elaborate street parties for friends and neighbors, dressing as a clown, and entertaining children at local hospitals. He also immersed himself in organizations such as the Jaycees and the local Democratic party. As a Democratic precinct captain he once had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalyn Carter.
Gacys second wife divorced him in March of 1976. According to accounts in Harlan Mendenhalls book, Fall of the House of Gacy, she felt she could no longer cope with the marriage due to her husband's unpredictable moods and bizarre obsession with homosexual magazines. The couple did not have children.
On Dec. 12, 1978, the police again focused their attention on John Wayne Gacy. Robert Piest, a teenage stock boy at a Nisson Pharmacy in Des Plaines, had come up missing. Gacy was the last person seen with the boy prior to his disappearance. When investigators ran a background check on Gacy, they were surprised to discover that he had previously served time for committing sodomy on a teenage boy. With this incriminating information, investigators were able to obtain a warrant to search Gacys house.
During the execution of the warrant, investigators entered a crawl space located beneath the home. A rancid odor was quickly noticed. The smell was believed to be faulty sewage lines and was dismissed. Without any noticeable incriminating evidence, investigators returned to headquarters to run tests on the evidence they seized.
During a review of the items confiscated from Gacys house, investigators soon realized that they had unknowingly seized a piece of critical evidence. One of the rings found at Gacys house belonged to another teenager who had disappeared a year earlier. They also discovered that a receipt for a roll of film found at Gacys home had belonged to a co-worker of Robert Piest who had given it to Robert the day of his disappearance.
With this new information, investigators began to realize the possible enormity of the case that was unfolding before them. Following the discovery of their new information, it was not long before investigators were able to obtain a second search warrant for Gacys home.
On Dec. 22, 1978, Gacy, realizing that his dark secrets were about to be exposed, went to the police to confess. Shortly into the confessions, Gacy waived his Miranda rights and told detectives, ''There are four Johns.'' He later explained that there was John the contractor, John the clown, and John the politician. The fourth person went by the name of Jack Hanley. Jack was the killer and did all the evil things.
According to accounts in Killer Clown, Gacy informed investigators that his first killing took place in January 1972, and the second two years later in January 1974. He further confessed that he lured his victims into being handcuffed. Gacy would tell his victim that he wanted to show him a "pair of trick handcuffs" he used in his clown act, claiming there was a special way to unlock the cuffs and daring the youth to break out of them. Once the youth was securely manacled, he would kill him by pulling a rope or board against their throats, as he raped them. Gacy admitted to sometimes keeping the dead bodies under his bed or in the attic for several hours before eventually burying them in the crawl space
Gacy went on to make voluntary confessions to over two dozen murders, although he couldn't answer all the questions posed by the police, often responding, ''You'll have to ask Jack that.'' He also drew them a detailed map to the locations of 28 shallow graves under his house and garage. Further he admitted to dumping five other victims into the Des Plaines River.
Less than an hour after the initial dig at Gacys house began, investigators discovered the first body in a crawl space under the home. As the days and weeks passed, the body count grew. So did the media coverage, exponentially. The macabre excavations at Gacy's modest home in Des Plaines led the national news night after night. The house itself became almost as familiar to American and foreign viewing audiences as The White House.
The details of the dig were riveting. Some of the victims had been buried so close together that police believed they were probably killed or buried at the same time. By the end of January, police and construction crews had gutted the entire house and exhumed twenty-seven bodies. The search had taken longer than expected due to the frozen ground and the winter cold.
During this time, four bodies that had been discovered in the Des Plaines River were linked to Gacy by drivers licenses and other personal items found in his home.
While the identities of the 32 victims began to surface, investigators discovered that all of the victims were young men ranging from their early teens to mid-twenties. While most were male prostitutes known to solicit at "Bunghouse Square" in Chicago, some were young boys who simply disappeared for no apparent reason, and at least five were employees of PDM Contracting at one point or another.
Surprisingly, the excavations and the dragging of the river did not turn up the corpse of Robert Piest.
As the search for bodies came to and end, two young men, Robert Donnelly and Jeff Rignall came forward and spoke to investigators. The youths both felt extremely lucky to be alive and their stories were startlingly similar in detail even though their run ins with Gacy happened on different days. Each claimed that sometime in December of 1977, he had been abducted at gunpoint by Gacy, chloroformed, tortured, whipped and raped. For reasons only know to Gacy himself, both youths were spared their lives. Whether it was fear or embarrassment, neither youth had wished to pursue the matter directly after it had occurred.
Finally in April 1979, the remains of Robert Piest were discovered along the Illinois River. An autopsy later determined that he had died as a result of suffocation. Gacy was charged with his death.
Gacys murder trial began Feb. 6, 1980 in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. During the five-week trial the prosecution and the defense called more than 100 witnesses to testify. The defense strategy was to establish that Gacy was insane and out of control at the time of the killings. To bolster this claim the defense put on the stand psychiatrists who had interviewed Gacy prior to trial. The prosecution, on the other hand, vigorously opposed the notion that Gacy was insane, contending that his claim of multiple personalities was a death-penalty dodge.
The jury clearly sided with the prosecution's version. It deliberated for only two hours before finding Gacy guilty of murdering 33 people.
On March 13, 1980, Gacy was sentenced to die. He was sent to Menard Correctional Center in Illinois. He would remain there for just over 14 years until he was transported to the Statesville Penitentiary near Joliet for execution.
On May 9, 1994, Gacy sat down for his last meal: fried chicken, French fries, Coke and strawberry shortcake. Prison officials later described his demeanor as ''chatty... talking up a storm.'' In a phone interview shortly before his execution, he told a Knight-Tribune reporter, ''There's been 11 hardback books on me, 31 paperbacks, two screenplays, one movie, one off-Broadway play, five songs, and over 5,000 articles. What can I say about it?'' But of course, he quickly protested, ''I have no ego for any of this garbage.''
Just after midnight on May 10, 1994, Gacy was executed by lethal injection. For his last words, Gacy snarled, ''Kiss my ass.''
John Wayne Gacy Confesses ONLY to Edtay. Exclusive!
In 1978 when the then world's worst serial killer, Illinois' John Wayne Gacy was first captured, I was just 22. Serial killers and their methods weren't really well known then and I was hoping with John Gacy's arrest, that the world would finally learn a lot more of the "whys" --- why these people choose to kill, why they do the horrible things they do without regards to the feelings of others, and how they truly think. I was to wait in vain to learn anything of value about John Wayne Gacy from either the media or law enforcement.
The world waited in vain. Even after Gacy's May, 1994 execution few new details came out at all. Police said Gacy wouldn't talk, fiegning mental illness in the form of a dual or split personality.
Sadly, it was all just a legal ploy. I befriended John Gacy thru both a series of letters and phone calls from 1989 through right up to his 1994 execution, learning invaluable facts about this brutal and sadistic killer of 33 young men and boys, 27 of whom were buried under Mr. Gacy's own house in a dank, dark and spooky crawl space.
I will now tell you what John Wayne Gacy told me.
In the course of Gacy's confessions I called the FBI, and asked the media to help, I even begged a local Illionois psychiatrist with whom Gacy had spoken to to help me, no one said they were interested! Incredibly, a tracker at the FBI's Quantico Behavorial Sciences Unit told me that the FBI had interviewed Gacy and that he'd given them all they could get out of him and so they would not be interested in anything I had! And I had called the FBI on three diferent occassions and the results were always the same: the bureau had already interviewed him, I was just wasting my time! First off I made Gacy a promise: I knew he couldn't tell me anything "direct." He'd made it clear to me a man appealing a death sentence can never talk unless he wants to lose and be put to death. So I made Gacy an offer: could we talk thru someone he trusted who was there with him? Yes, came the answer, his "bodyguard" would be our go-between, I was to not report any of the details until 10 years after his death had passed and I was to ask everything to his bodyguard and then Gacy himself would answer them thru him.
Gacy had a real love/hate relationship with his father whom one day he'd tell his prison buddies, "My dad's the greatest dad in the whole world I really love my dad!" and then 3 days later he would say, "That S.O.B. I should have killed him a long time ago." Gacy was the ultimate narcissist, telling me he drank his own sperm in prison, and that he had so many orders for paintings he'd done that he hired other inmates to paint them for him!
Once when I got the flu Gacy seemd unconcerned and went right on into describing how to pick up teenage boys by using ruses and finding out what vices they liked. I realized to my great horror that he was describing how he'd picked up his victims and I pounded my fists into my wall in agony and despair after that conversation.
Gacy revealed how he'd put a garbage bag over a victims head and had sex with the victim, while tightening a rope he had wraped around his victim's neck. Gacy said he didn't have an orgasm until he'd tightend the rope so much that the victim had expired!
Gacy also revealed he'd had a blueprint for serial murder from about the time he was 12! And, he said, he'd used that blueprint not only for where he'd put the bodies but also for an insanity defense should he ever be caught! I will withold more details of his unique and horrifying blueprint but I can reveal now for the first time that John Wayne Gacy had developed the fantasy to kill by age 12 and already had a blueprint for murder by then too! It seems as if only an early intervention by a through, competent psychatrist would have stopped his murderous thoughts at such an early age.
994 F.2d 305
John Wayne Gacy, Petitioner-appellant,
George Welborn, Warden, Menard Correctional Center, Androland W. Burris, Attorney General of Illinois, respondents-appellees
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued March 4, 1993.
Decided April 12, 1993.
Rehearing and Rehearing En BancDenied May 7, 1993
Before EASTERBROOK, MANION, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.
EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge.
- United States
- Low cost pet insurance
John Wayne Gacy is a serial killer. Between 1972 and 1978 he enticed many young men to his home near Chicago for homosexual liaisons. At least 33 never left. Gacy tied up or handcuffed his partners, then strangled or choked them. Twenty-eight of the bodies were dumped into the crawl space under the Gacy residence; one was entombed under the driveway; the rest were thrown into the Des Plaines River. Gacy, who operated a construction business, had his workers dig trenches and throw lime into the crawl space. Gacy's wife complained about an "awful stench." But the slaughter continued until the disappearance of 15 year old Robert Piest on December 11, 1978. Piest vanished after telling his mother that he was going to see a building contractor about a summer job. The presence of Gacy's truck outside the place where Piest was to meet his potential employer led to Gacy's arrest within two days.
The discovery of so many skeletons, several with rags stuffed in the victims' mouths, created a national sensation. Gacy regaled the police with stories about his exploits, which he attributed to "Jack," an alternative personality. A jury convicted Gacy in March 1980 of 33 counts of murder, rejecting his defense of insanity. The same jury sentenced Gacy to death for 12 of these killings, the only 12 that the prosecution could prove had been committed after Illinois enacted its post-Furman death penalty statute. The Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed. People v. Gacy, 103 Ill.2d 1, 82 Ill.Dec. 391, 468 N.E.2d 1171 (1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1037, 105 S.Ct. 1410, 84 L.Ed.2d 799 (1985). That court also rejected a collateral attack, 125 Ill.2d 117, 125 Ill.Dec. 770, 530 N.E.2d 1340 (1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1085, 109 S.Ct. 2111, 104 L.Ed.2d 671 (1989). A United States district court has decided that Gacy is not entitled to collateral relief. 1992 WL 211018, 1992 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 12498 (N.D.Ill.), motion to suspend judgment denied, 1992 WL 358851, 1992 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 18073. Opinions in this case already exceed 200 pages. We spare readers further recapitulation and turn directly to the four arguments Gacy has culled from more than 100 raised at one or another stage of this litigation, now 14 1/2 years old. Gacy has in this sense already escaped the 12 judgments of execution, for judge and jury cannot decide whether a murderer will die, but only how soon.
* Illinois commits the capital sentencing decision to the jury. If the jury convicts a defendant of a capital offense, there is a sentencing proceeding. At this proceeding the prosecution bears the burden of establishing the existence of defined aggravating circumstances. If the jury unanimously decides that there is at least one aggravating circumstance, the defendant becomes eligible for a death sentence. Section 9-1(g) of the Illinois statute (Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38 p 9-1(g) (1979), now 720 Ill.Comp.Stat. § 5/9-1(g)) spells out what happens next:
If the jury determines unanimously that there are no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death sentence, the court shall sentence the defendant to death.
Unless the jury unanimously finds that there are no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death sentence the court shall sentence the defendant to a term of imprisonment under Chapter V of the Unified Code of Corrections.
The second paragraph means that a single juror's belief that the defendant has demonstrated the existence of a single mitigating factor precludes the death sentence. Such a rule surprises some judges, who are accustomed to telling jurors that decisions must be unanimous. For example, in Kubat v. Thieret, 867 F.2d 351 (7th Cir.1989), the judge instructed the jury: "If, after your deliberations, you unanimously conclude that there is a sufficient mitigating factor or factors to preclude imposition of the death sentence, you should sign the form which so indicates." The court did not tell the jury that a single juror could block capital punishment, and we held the instruction violated the Constitution. 867 F.2d at 371-74. Cf. Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367, 108 S.Ct. 1860, 100 L.Ed.2d 384 (1988); McKoy v. North Carolina, 494 U.S. 433, 110 S.Ct. 1227, 108 L.Ed.2d 369 (1990). When the jury knows about its full options, however, the Illinois system comports with all constitutional requirements. Silagy v. Peters, 905 F.2d 986, 997-1001 (7th Cir.1990); Williams v. Chrans, 945 F.2d 926, 935-38 (7th Cir.1991).
* At the close of Gacy's penalty proceeding, Judge Garippo instructed the jury:
If, after your deliberations, you unanimously determine that there are no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death sentence on the Defendant, you should sign the verdict form directing a sentence of death. If, after your deliberations, you are not unanimous in concluding that there are no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death sentence, you must sign the verdict form directing a sentence of imprisonment.
As Judge Grady, who denied Gacy's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, remarked: "This written instruction is completely accurate." The jurors had this instruction, like the others in the three-page charge, during their deliberations. Unfortunately, Judge Garippo did not read the instruction to the jury as written--or at least the court reporter did not take down the same words that appear in the written instructions. The transcript has it that the second sentence of this instruction was delivered as: "If, after your deliberations, you unanimously conclude there are mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death penalty, you must sign the verdict form directing a sentence of imprisonment." This sentence, Gacy submits, carries the same defect as the instruction in Kubat and vitiates the death sentences.
Gacy's jury was told that if it is unanimous in finding a mitigating circumstance, it must return a verdict of imprisonment. The oral version of the instruction is accurate, as far as it goes. But the instruction did not give the jury the whole truth, because it did not tell the jurors what to do in the event of disagreement. Mills and McKoy, the closest decisions from the Supreme Court, dealt with instructions telling the jury that only unanimous agreement, on a particular mitigating factor, would permit the jury to return a verdict of imprisonment. Such an instruction creates a risk that even though every juror believes that there is some mitigating factor, the jurors' inability to agree on a particular factor would lead to the defendant's execution. No such problem infects the oral instruction to Gacy's jury. Kubat dealt with a related question: what if the jury is ignorant of the power of a single juror to block the death penalty under state law? Both oral and written instructions in Kubat's case dealt only with unanimous verdicts, and a reasonable jury might well have thought that it was supposed to continue deliberating until it reached agreement--just as it had done at the guilt phase of the trial.
Like Judge Grady, we conclude that reasonable jurors would not have been under the misapprehension that they had to reach unanimous agreement. Judge Garippo opened the sentencing phase of Gacy's trial by describing to the jurors the findings they would need to make. The judge said, among other things:
If you cannot unanimously agree that there are no sufficient mitigating factors to preclude the imposition of the death penalty, you will sign that verdict so indicating, and the Court will sentence the Defendant to imprisonment.
The final instructions came close on the heels of the preliminary set, for the jury did not receive fresh evidence; instead the lawyers presented arguments based on the evidence at the five-week trial. Defense counsel emphasized during these arguments that unanimity was unnecessary:
[T]he only way that you can impose the death penalty on Mr. Gacy, and His Honor will instruct you, it is a unanimous decision, all 12 of you have to agree to give Mr. Gacy the death penalty. If there is just one of you who feels that he was acting under an emotional disturbance, or if there is just one of you who feels it would not be the right thing to do, if there is one of you who feels that he should be studied for any reason at all, if there is one of you, then you must sentence him or direct the court to sentence him to a term of imprisonment.
This argument, an accurate statement of Illinois law, was presented without objection from the prosecutor. For his part, the prosecutor did not urge the jury to seek unanimity on mitigating factors.
What we have, in sum, is a slip of the judicial tongue. No one noticed at the time; defense counsel did not object to the misreading of the written instruction. The complete, and completely accurate, instructions were available to the jurors during their deliberations. The text was short; vital information did not drown in a sea of words. If the jurors wondered about the consequences of disagreement, they had correct answers at their elbows. Within two hours, the jurors brought back death verdicts on all 12 counts. This is too little time to reach unanimous agreement on aggravating factors and beat down even a single holdout on mitigating factors. So the question at hand probably did not arise in the jury's deliberations; they must have been in agreement from the outset. These circumstances "rule out [any] substantial possibility that the jury may have rested its verdict on the 'improper' ground". Mills, 486 U.S. at 377, 108 S.Ct. at 1867. "Jurors do not sit in solitary isolation booths parsing instructions for subtle shades of meaning in the same way lawyers might. Differences among them in interpretation of instructions may be thrashed out in the deliberative process, with commonsense understanding of the instructions in the light of all that has taken place at the trial likely to prevail over technical hairsplitting." Boyde v. California, 494 U.S. 370, 380-81, 110 S.Ct. 1190, 1198, 108 L.Ed.2d 316 (1990).
This assessment supposes that the written instruction is satisfactory. Although we have twice (in Silagy and Williams ) rejected constitutional challenges to this instruction, a district court, relying on research by the late Hans Zeisel, has concluded that jurors do not understand such instructions, which therefore violate the Constitution. Free v. Peters, 806 F.Supp. 705 (N.D.Ill.1992). The district judge, concluding that Silagy and Williams depend on mistaken beliefs, has refused to carry out the holdings of those cases. Id. at 731. If we conclude (as we have) that the validity of his sentence depends on the written instruction, Gacy submits, we should remand so that he may present to Judge Grady the same evidence that persuaded Judge Aspen in Free.
Gacy filed a post-judgment motion in the district court asking for such a hearing. The district court denied this motion, and Illinois asks us to treat the subject as waived. It would have been within the district court's discretion to treat the argument as untimely. Instead the court wrote that, because Free would govern the outcome of this case, Gacy could raise the question in a new collateral attack, which would abide the outcome of Free. After McCleskey v. Zant, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 1454, 113 L.Ed.2d 517 (1991), however, prisoners cannot wage a series of collateral attacks, adding new issues each time. There will be only one federal adjudication of Gacy's claims. Those not made now are lost. Gacy has been attacking the jury instructions from the beginning, and it is best to consider all of the contentions he presses on us.
Putting Gacy's case on ice while another panel of this court considers the appeal of Free would be inappropriate. Implementation of Gacy's sentences has been stayed by federal litigation since 1989, and we have been told to resolve capital appeals expeditiously. In re Blodgett, --- U.S. ----, ----, 112 S.Ct. 674, 676, 116 L.Ed.2d 669 (1992). The district judge in Free has asked a magistrate judge to inquire into claims that the defendant misled the court about the provenance of the study. All other proceedings in Free have ground to a halt, and we cannot tell how long it may be before the appeal in that case will be resolved (or even which side will turn out to be the appellant). Both Gacy and the State of Illinois are entitled to decision without indefinite delay.1
* Professor Zeisel conducted a survey of persons reporting to a courthouse as potential jurors. He gave them the facts of a case and a set of instructions based on the 1987 Illinois Pattern Instructions for capital cases. (These instructions are similar, though not identical, to those given to Gacy's jury.) Then he asked a series of questions designed to test the subjects' comprehension of the instructions. The questions most pertinent to Gacy's argument follow:
Question 4. A juror decides that the fact that Mr. Woods was only 25 years of age when he committed the murder is a mitigating factor sufficient to preclude the death penalty. However the other eleven jurors disagree and insist that his age is not a mitigating factor. The one juror believes that she cannot consider a mitigating factor unless the entire jury agrees upon it and votes for the death penalty. She votes for the death penalty. Has that juror followed the judge's instructions?
One quarter of the subjects answered "yes", leading Prof. Zeisel to conclude that as much as a third of the pool of jurors would not understand a critical feature of the instructions. Prof. Zeisel computed a confidence interval of 8.7%, leading to the calculation 25.0% ± 8.7% = 16.3% 33.7%.
Question 5. A juror decides that the fact that Mr. Woods was good to his family is a mitigating factor sufficient to preclude the death penalty. However, the other eleven jurors disagree. The other jurors insist that no juror should consider the defendant's good relations with his family as a mitigating factor unless they all agree it is a mitigating factor. The one juror accepts this approach and votes for the death penalty. Has the juror followed the judge's instructions?
On this question, 36.5% answered "yes", leading to the computation 36.5% ± 9.6% = 26.9% 46.1% wrong answers. See 806 F.Supp. at 767. Gacy contends that these error rates demonstrate that the written instruction is confusing and thus could not have corrected the misimpression created by the oral instruction. The district court in Free concluded that the study as a whole "refut[es] the underlying judicial assumptions driving the decisions in Silagy and Williams [and shows] a reasonable likelihood that [the] jury (1) believed that only the statutory mitigating factors, or factors comparable to them, could preclude the imposition of the death penalty, and (2) was confused about (i) which side, if any, had a burden of persuasion, and (ii) the nature of that burden." 806 F.Supp. at 731. The court's approach would require new penalty proceedings in almost all Illinois capital cases--although Free rejected the argument that the answers to Questions 4 and 5 show that there is an independent constitutional flaw in the unanimity instruction. Id. at 720-22.
As it did in Free, the state contends that the reported data are inaccurate. Illinois points out that although the jury instructions were read to the panel, the questions were administered in writing. Perhaps, then, the subjects grasped the instructions but misunderstood (or could not read) the questions. The questions are not free from ambiguity. For example, might a subject understand Question 5 as inquiring whether a juror legitimately may be persuaded by other jurors' arguments? Questions 4 and 5 also involve mitigating factors that were not on the list recited in the instruction. Some subjects may have understood these questions as asking whether a particular factor is appropriate, rather than whether the instructions require unanimity. Finally, the state reminds us that Prof. Zeisel was a zealous opponent of capital punishment and that the study was conducted under the auspices of the MacArthur Justice Center, an organization devoted to the defense of capital litigation, which may have influenced the findings no matter how careful the principal investigator sought to be.
If we believed that the validity or soundness of Prof. Zeisel's work were controlling, we would give Gacy the hearing he requests. We conclude, however, that even taken for all it could be worth, Prof. Zeisel's study does not assist Gacy.
Free refused to follow two opinions of this circuit, claiming the support of "empirical evidence refuting the underlying judicial assumptions driving" our cases. 806 F.Supp. at 731. Although Prof. Zeisel's work may persuade us to reexamine Silagy and Williams, it does not permit district courts to disregard those decisions. Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/American Express, Inc., 490 U.S. 477, 484, 109 S.Ct. 1917, 1921, 104 L.Ed.2d 526 (1989); Thurston Motor Lines, Inc. v. Jordan K. Rand, Ltd., 460 U.S. 533, 103 S.Ct. 1343, 75 L.Ed.2d 260 (1983); United States v. Burke, 781 F.2d 1234, 1239 n. 2 (7th Cir.1985). Ours is a hierarchical judiciary, and judges of inferior courts must carry out decisions they believe mistaken. Hutto v. Davis, 454 U.S. 370, 375, 102 S.Ct. 703, 706, 70 L.Ed.2d 556 (1982). A district judge who thinks that new evidence or better argument "refutes" one of our decisions should report his conclusions while applying the existing law of the circuit. Panels of three appellate judges establish rules for the approximately 100 judicial officers of this circuit, and for the approximately 22 million persons living within its boundaries. Some of these decisions are bound to be erroneous, or at least to depart from those the many other judges who are not on a given panel would have reached. Illinois litigated and won Silagy and Williams; it need not re-litigate them prisoner by prisoner, district judge by district judge. Cf. Steven G. Calabresi & Gary Lawson, Equity and Hierarchy: Reflections on the Harris Execution, 102 Yale L.J. 255, 273-79 (1992).
Now that the question is here, we must decide whether Prof. Zeisel's work justifies overruling two carefully thought out opinions. Silagy and Williams were expressed as decisions on questions of law, not as predictions about the findings of future survey research. Legal developments since 1991 do not call those opinions into question. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has reiterated that the choice between judge and jury in sentencing, and the allocation of burdens of production and persuasion after the prosecutor establishes aggravating circumstances, are questions of state rather than constitutional law. E.g., Delo v. Lashley, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 1222, 122 L.Ed.2d 620 (1993).
At all events these cases are immune from overruling on collateral attack. Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989), holds that federal courts may not apply rules of constitutional law devised or altered after the conclusion of the prisoner's direct appeals. Silagy and Williams show that when Gacy's direct appeal ended in 1984 no constitutional problem was apparent in the sentencing instructions. Discarding two recent decisions of this circuit necessarily would establish a "new rule" for purposes of Teague. None of the exceptions to Teague is available to Gacy. Overruling Silagy and Williams would not place any conduct beyond the power of law to proscribe or establish a new category of fundamental constitutional norms. 489 U.S. at 307, 109 S.Ct. at 1073.
In an effort to explain why he should be allowed to raise new arguments in federal court despite not having presented comparable contentions in state court, Gacy (like Free) points to the novelty of Prof. Zeisel's research. Arguments based on his work were unavailable at the time of Gacy's direct appeal, and hence, Gacy contends, he has "cause" for not presenting the claim to the state court.2 This follows the path of Reed v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1, 104 S.Ct. 2901, 82 L.Ed.2d 1 (1984), which held that prisoners have "cause" for not presenting arguments so novel or so inconsistent with established law as to be "unavailable." After Teague, however, this stratagem to avoid Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 97 S.Ct. 2497, 53 L.Ed.2d 594 (1977), does nothing except plead the petitioner out of court. Any claim sufficiently novel that it was unavailable during the state proceedings must be a "new rule" under Teague. Prihoda v. McCaughtry, 910 F.2d 1379, 1385-86 (7th Cir.1990). See also Joseph L. Hoffman, The Supreme Court's New Vision of Federal Habeas Corpus for State Prisoners, 1989 Sup.Ct.Rev. 165, 183. Cf. Sawyer v. Whitley, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 2514, 120 L.Ed.2d 269 (1992) (defendant who is "eligible" for capital punishment, as Gacy is, may not use the "actual innocence" exception to Sykes, and presumably not the "actual innocence" exception to Teague either). And calling the Zeisel study "new evidence" does nothing to break the grip of Teague and Sykes--not only because it is not new evidence about Gacy's guilt (as opposed to the factual underpinning of a legal argument) but also because of cases such as Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 1715, 118 L.Ed.2d 318 (1992), and Herrera v. Collins, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 853, 122 L.Ed.2d 203 (1993).
Whatever power to revisit Silagy and Williams we may possess, we shall not exercise. The Zeisel study does those cases no damage. To see why, consider the question: Is an error rate of 25.0% ± 8.7% large or small? Such a question has no answer. Large or small, compared to what? Presumably compared with some lesser error rate, reflecting greater comprehension achieved by changing the instructions to the jury. That is, actual levels of comprehension must be compared with achievable levels of comprehension, not with ideal levels. Yet Prof. Zeisel did not test jurors' comprehension of instructions worded differently. Nothing in his work shows that some other set of instructions would do better.3
To put this differently, there are many potential reasons why jurors might not grasp what a judge tells them. Think of just a few: (1) The instructions may be poorly drafted, with needlessly big and technical words and ambiguous constructions; (2) The instructions may convey rules of some complexity, which cannot be mastered on first exposure; (3) The instructions may use concepts that are inherently complex; (4) Jurors may be unable to grasp thoughts unfamiliar to them.
If explanation (1) is at work, then the State of Illinois is responsible and may be called on to improve things (although, as we explain below, the Constitution has but a limited role to play even here). Explanation (2), by contrast, attributes misunderstanding to a mixture of state law with the constitutional obligations announced by the Supreme Court. Cases beginning with Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978), have established a set of increasingly reticulated rules for capital sentencing, including shifting burdens, unanimity on some issues but not on others, and consideration of mitigating factors that do not appear in state statutes. Justices of the Supreme Court occasionally complain that these rules are too complex, e.g., Graham v. Collins, --- U.S. ----, ---- - ----, 113 S.Ct. 892, 906-13, 122 L.Ed.2d 260 (1993) (Thomas, J., concurring); Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 656-74, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 3058-68, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990) (Scalia, J., concurring in part)--and the high reversal rate in capital cases supports this perspective. Yet if the Constitution requires this convoluted set of rules, then the attendant confusion is a regrettable cost rather than a reason why the Constitution's own norms are, in application, un-constitutional.
Explanation (3), the complexity of the concepts, also plays a role. Burdens of proof and persuasion are hard to explain (one reason why this court strongly discourages efforts to define "reasonable doubt", see United States v. Glass, 846 F.2d 386 (7th Cir.1988)). Learned Hand confessed that, after a lifetime in the law, he still did not understand the shadings among burdens of persuasion. United States v. Feinberg, 140 F.2d 592, 594 (2d Cir.1944). See also Flamm v. Eberstadt, 814 F.2d 1169, 1173-74 (7th Cir.1987). That subjects being peppered with questions about a complex concept they have encountered for the first time will not give answers satisfactory to lawyers is no surprise. It cannot be that the Constitution, which requires judges to tell juries to use these elusive concepts, is self-destructive because lay persons will experience difficulty in answering questions about what they have been told. Confusion and misunderstanding attributable to the Constitution of the United States does not yield a violation of that document.
Then there is explanation (4): Human shortcomings. Difficulty in coping with abstract concepts (most jurors spend their lives in the world of the concrete) explains why we have lengthy arguments, why judges give instructions orally as well as in writing (and reinstruct juries that ask questions), why juries deliberate. Jurors who "don't get it" on first hearing may do better as the process continues. Professor Zeisel himself concluded as much. Harry Kalven, Jr., & Hans Zeisel, The American Jury 149-62 (1966). See also Reid Hastie, Steven D. Penrod & Nancy Pennington, Inside the Jury 81 (1983) (concluding that jurors collectively remember 90% of the evidence and 80% of the instructions). In sum, it is inadmissible to use inaccurate answers attributable to explanations (2), (3), and (4) as reasons to condemn a jury instruction. The Constitution establishes a system of jury trials, which necessarily tolerates the shortcomings of that institution. Pointing to one of these shortcomings, no matter how vivid, does nothing to undercut the Constitution's own method.4
Professor Zeisel did not try to isolate the effect of the state's drafting choices. For all we can tell, the best conceivable exposition would have reduced the misunderstanding rate on Question 4 from 25% to 24%, with comparably paltry changes on other questions. The study thus does not justify chastising the state, as opposed to the Supreme Court or the institution of the jury or the failings of the species.
If the study enabled us to lay some responsibility at the state's doorstep, this still would not permit a federal court to take a blue pencil to a state's jury instructions. For as long as the United States has been a nation, judges have been using legalese in instructing juries, with an inevitable adverse effect on the jury's comprehension. We do not think that traditional forms of jury instruction are now, and always have been, unconstitutional because of this.
One enduring element of the jury system, no less vital today than two centuries ago, is insulation from questions about how juries actually decide. Jurors who volunteered that they did not understand their instructions would not be permitted to address the court, and a defendant could not upset a verdict against him even if all of the jurors signed affidavits describing chaotic and uninformed deliberations. E.g., McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915); Hyde v. United States, 225 U.S. 347, 381-84, 32 S.Ct. 793, 807-09, 56 L.Ed. 1114 (1912); United States v. Schwartz, 787 F.2d 257, 261-62 (7th Cir.1986); Fed.R.Evid. 606(b). Instead of inquiring what juries actually understood, and how they really reasoned, courts invoke a "presumption" that jurors understand and follow their instructions. As Rule 606(b) shows, this is not a bursting bubble, applicable only in the absence of better evidence. It is a rule of law--a description of the premises underlying the jury system, rather than a proposition about jurors' abilities and states of mind. See Parker v. Randolph, 442 U.S. 62, 73, 99 S.Ct. 2132, 2139, 60 L.Ed.2d 713 (1979) (plurality opinion) ("A critical assumption underlying [the] system [of trial by jury] is that juries will follow the instructions given them by the trial judge. Were this not so, it would be pointless for a trial court to instruct a jury, and even more pointless for an appellate court to reverse a criminal conviction because the jury was improperly instructed."); Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 382 n. 10, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 1783 n. 10, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964); Opper v. United States, 348 U.S. 84, 95, 75 S.Ct. 158, 165, 99 L.Ed. 101 (1954). Cf. Sparf & Hansen v. United States, 156 U.S. 51, 80, 15 S.Ct. 273, 284, 39 L.Ed. 343 (1895). Cases doubting jurors' ability to put out of their minds events vividly described in court have not expressed equivalent doubts about jurors' ability to follow instructions on the law. Compare Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476 (1968), with Richardson v. Marsh, 481 U.S. 200, 211, 107 S.Ct. 1702, 1709, 95 L.Ed.2d 176 (1987). See also, e.g., Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307, 324-25 n. 9, 105 S.Ct. 1965, 1976 n. 9, 85 L.Ed.2d 344 (1985).
Social science has challenged many premises of the jury system. See generally Symposium, Is the Jury Competent?, 52 L. & Contemp. Prob. (Aut.1989); Symposium, The Selection and Function of the Modern Jury, 40 American L.Rev. (Win.1991). Students of the subject believe, for example, that jurors give too much weight to eyewitness evidence and not enough weight to other kinds. See Credibility Assessment (Yuille ed. 1989); Elizabeth F. Loftus, Eyewitness Testimony: Psychological Research and Legal Thought, 3 Crime and Justice 105 (1981). Cf. Lea Brilmayer & Lewis Kornhauser, Quantitative Methods and Legal Decisions, 46 U.Chi.L.Rev. 116, 135-48 (1978). Still, the ability of jurors to sift good evidence from bad is an axiom of the system, so courts not only permit juries to decide these cases but also bypass the sort of empirical findings that might help jurors reach better decisions. See Krist v. Eli Lilly & Co., 897 F.2d 293, 296-99 (7th Cir.1990); United States v. Hudson, 884 F.2d 1016, 1024 (7th Cir.1989). Juries have a hard time distinguishing "junk science" from the real thing, but aside from some tinkering with the expert testimony admitted at trial, this shortcoming has been tolerated. Compare Carroll v. Otis Elevator Co., 896 F.2d 210, 215-18 (7th Cir.1990) (concurring opinion), with Christophersen v. Allied-Signal Corp., 939 F.2d 1106 (5th Cir.1991) (in banc). Cf. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 951 F.2d 1128 (9th Cir.1991), cert. granted, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 320, 121 L.Ed.2d 240 (1992). Jurors reach compromise verdicts, although they aren't supposed to. Juries return inconsistent verdicts, representing irrational behavior or disobedience to their instructions. United States v. Powell, 469 U.S. 57, 105 S.Ct. 471, 83 L.Ed.2d 461 (1984). Juries act in ways no reasonable person would act. This is the standard for granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict in a civil case, or acquittal after verdict in a criminal case, or reducing an award of damages, and there are plenty of occasions for these post-verdict correctives. Yet for all of this, courts do not discard the premises of the jury system, postulates embedded in the Constitution and thus, within our legal system, unassailable. This shows up in a striking fact about the Supreme Court's treatment of social science: of the 92 cases between 1970 and 1988 addressing issues of evidence and trial procedure, not one relied on the extensive body of evidence about jurors' conduct. J. Alexander Tanford, The Limits of a Scientific Jurisprudence: The Supreme Court and Psychology, 66 Ind.L.J. 137, 139 (1990).
None of this is to suggest that judges ought to be indifferent to the way they write instructions. Polysyllabic mystification reduces the quality of justice. One of the Illinois 1987 pattern instructions is a quadruple negative: "If you do not unanimously find from your consideration of all the evidence that there are no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of a death sentence, then you should sign the verdict requiring the court to impose a sentence other than death." Things seem to have gone downhill since Gacy's jury was charged in 1981 (his jurors got the same information with only three negatives). Modern pattern instructions use simple words in short, concrete, declaratory sentences. E.g., Federal Judicial Center, Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions (1987) (including an appendix of suggestions for making instructions more understandable). Would it not be better for all concerned to give a charge such as: "If after full discussion any one of you believes that a mitigating factor makes death an excessive punishment, then you must return a sentence of imprisonment."? For reasons we have discussed, even this "simplified" charge would leave many jurors dumbfounded; the underlying ideas are not at all simple, and words such as "mitigating" and "excessive" are foreign to jurors' daily discourse.
As there are no perfect trials, so there are no perfect instructions. How best to convey the law to lay persons sitting on juries is in the end a question for state legislatures and trial courts to resolve, and not for the federal kibitzers in collateral attacks many years later. The jury is a means to resolve disputes, not a waystation by which the controversy at trial is transported to a higher level of generality as a social science dispute about juries. Gacy's jury was instructed within the wide bounds set by the Constitution.
Gacy's remaining arguments require less discussion. Each received extended treatment by Judge Grady, whose opinion withstands all challenges.
* Because comment in the media was especially intense in Chicago, the court chose a jury in Rockford. During the four days devoted to screening potential jurors, the court put many questions to candidates. The judge asked, for example, whether the pretrial publicity made it impossible to approach the subject with an open mind, and whether Gacy's homosexuality (and the sexual nature of the crimes) would affect their judgment. The judge declined, however, to ask members of the venire exactly what they had read in the papers and exactly what they thought about homosexuals. Gacy contends that the judge's refusal to ask the questions his lawyer proposed deprived him of a fair trial.
The Constitution does not require a judge to use the defendant's preferred screening questions. Mu'Min v. Virginia, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 1899, 114 L.Ed.2d 493 (1991). Before the trial began, court and counsel compiled an index of what had appeared in the media. The judge asked the jurors what they watched and read. This information, combined with the index, enabled Gacy's lawyers to know the allegations to which each juror had been exposed. As Judge Garippo concluded, it could have been counterproductive to require each juror to repeat the details, because this could have summoned up information that the juror otherwise would have forgotten--and in the process contaminated other members of the venire. The index, the questioning, and drawing the venire from Rockford were adequate to select an unbiased jury.
Invoking Morgan v. Illinois, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 2222, 119 L.Ed.2d 492 (1992), Gacy contends that the judge's questions about homosexuality were inadequate. Judge Garippo asked general questions, such as: "Now, does the fact that the Defendant is charged with homosexual conduct prevent you from being fair to either side?" and "Could you put aside any feeling that you might have regarding homosexuality in rendering your verdict in this case?" These are inadequate, Gacy submits, because they invited bland "yes" or "no" answers and thus hid any subtle signs of bias. The questions his lawyer proposed, by contrast, called for potential jurors to describe their feelings about homosexuals. It may well be that the kind of questions proposed by the defense would have afforded greater entree into the jurors' attitudes, but Morgan does not require them. That case tells judges to ask about specific areas of bias rather than asking a general question such as "can you be fair and impartial?" Judge Garippo did what Morgan requires. To do more would have extended the jury-selection process considerably and left many jurors flustered and resentful, which in the end may have worked against the defendant. Defendants' safety lies in the size of the jury and in cautions from the court, not in extra questions posed in advance of trial. A long series of probing questions can anesthetize or offend the panel rather than enlighten judge and counsel. Experienced judges accordingly prune the list, omitting some that may look appropriate in isolation. Judge Garippo did just that--and proceeded to follow up with more pointed questions when appropriate. Judge Grady's opinion details several of these sequences, which we need not repeat.
Moreover, as Judge Grady pointed out, general questions about attitudes toward homosexuality were beside the point. Gacy admitted killing many persons. His defense was insanity. Gacy's lawyer did not ask the judge to propound questions along the line of "Do you believe that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to be sane?" or "Are you disposed to convict an insane person whose murders were related to homosexuality, although the law and the evidence require acquittal?" Of course questions this blunt would have been useless, but Gacy's lawyer also did not propose ways to get at these subjects indirectly. Which is not to fault his lawyer: the subjects are not easy to broach. Even in hindsight it is not clear what more counsel, or the court, could have done. All that we need hold is that the trial judge was entitled to resist the invitation to turn voir dire into a trial of jurors' attitudes about homosexuality.
Gacy presented his defense of insanity through six expert witnesses: four psychiatrists and two psychologists. Judge Garippo declined to allow Gacy's lawyers to use these witnesses to relay to the jury verbatim statements Gacy made to them, ruling that these were hearsay when offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Gacy did not testify at trial, and the prosecutor used the hearsay objections to prevent Gacy from getting the more favorable portions of his story before the jury indirectly. The trial judge nonetheless permitted the expert witnesses to recount the substance of what Gacy had said. The prosecutor did not hesitate to ask these six witnesses, and the state's own experts, about Gacy's incriminating statements. These came in as admissions of a party opponent. Gacy contends that this one-sided use of his words violated his rights under the due process clause.
On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Illinois concluded that Gacy had defaulted this claim by failing to make appropriate offers of proof. 82 Ill.Dec. at 420-22, 468 N.E.2d at 1200-02. On collateral review, however, that court addressed the merits of Gacy's contentions. In light of an intervening decision, People v. Anderson, 113 Ill.2d 1, 12-13, 99 Ill.Dec. 104, 495 N.E.2d 485 (1986), overruling People v. Hester, 39 Ill.2d 489, 237 N.E.2d 466 (1968), on which Judge Garippo had relied, the Supreme Court of Illinois held that Gacy's psychiatric experts should have been permitted to repeat his exact words to the jury, the better to illuminate their diagnoses. Nonetheless, the court concluded, exclusion of this testimony was harmless error in light of the fact that all six witnesses fully explained the bases of their diagnoses by paraphrasing what Gacy had said to them. 125 Ill.Dec. at 775, 530 N.E.2d at 1345. The Supreme Court of Illinois did not reiterate the procedural holding from the first case, which clears the way for Gacy to argue the merits in federal court. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 115 L.Ed.2d 706 (1991); Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 109 S.Ct. 1038, 103 L.Ed.2d 308 (1989). After a painstaking review of the evidence, Judge Grady concluded that all six witnesses had presented the jury with full assessments of Gacy's condition and complete statements of their reasons. Nothing material was withheld, so the error was indeed harmless, just as the Supreme Court of Illinois had concluded.
Without detracting in any way from the care Judge Grady lavished on this issue, or the correctness of his decision that any error was harmless, we hold that there was no error at all--no constitutional error, that is. Anderson was based on state law. Beyond explicit rules such as the privilege against self-incrimination and the confrontation clause, none of which applies here, the Constitution has little to say about rules of evidence. Estelle v. McGuire, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 475, 116 L.Ed.2d 385 (1991). The hearsay rule and its exception for admissions of a party opponent are venerable doctrines; no serious constitutional challenge can be raised to them.
A challenge would lie if a state used its evidentiary rules to blot out a substantial defense. See Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284, 298-303, 93 S.Ct. 1038, 1047-50, 35 L.Ed.2d 297 (1973); Green v. Georgia, 442 U.S. 95, 99 S.Ct. 2150, 60 L.Ed.2d 738 (1979). These cases hold that states must permit defendants to introduce reliable third-party confessions when direct evidence is unavailable. No court has extended them to require a state to admit defendants' own out of court words. A defendant is available to himself as a witness. Nothing in the Constitution gives an accused the privilege of proffering, through hearsay, his self-serving statements while denying the state access to the rest of the story that could be got at by cross-examination. Gacy had a right to offer expert evidence. Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68, 105 S.Ct. 1087, 84 L.Ed.2d 53 (1985). He did so, six times over. That these witnesses had to beat around the bush in order to avoid hearsay does not create a constitutional problem.
At last we reach the inevitable attack on trial counsel. It is, as Judge Grady concluded, unpersuasive. Gacy received a skillful, vigorous defense by lawyers who were prepared to the nines. Gacy's lead counsel, Sam Amirante, is now a judge of the court that conducted his trial.
For this appeal, Gacy's current legal team has discarded all but two objections. First comes the argument that Amirante raised the insanity defense over Gacy's objection, depriving him of the ability to control decisions vital to the defense. Second, Gacy insists that Amirante's loyalties were compromised by his pursuit of revenues from a book and other publicity. The lure of lucre led him to induce Gacy to confess, the argument goes, the better to get an interesting story--but with devastating effect on the defense. Although such claims could in principle raise problems, they fail for want of proof.
Let us start with the latter claim. Amirante filed an affidavit denying that he was pursuing profits from publicity. No book by Amirante or any of his associates appeared after the trial. Although an investigator may have leaked some tape recordings to Tim Cahill, author of Buried Dreams (1985), Amirante denied authorizing or knowing of this misconduct. A tape recording of a conversation between Gacy and Amirante 10 months before trial contains a brief discussion of publication possibilities. Amirante offered to refer Gacy to another lawyer to pursue that possibility--exactly the right thing to do, and the antithesis of a conflict of interest. All that remains is one paragraph in an order entered by the trial court requiring Gacy's lawyers to continue their work at public expense (Amirante had been retained privately at the outset):
That, over the objection of Defense Counsel, it is hereby ordered that Attorneys Amirante and Motta reimburse Cook County to the extent of fees received for services rendered from any royalties received as a result of book or movie rights hereafter acquired, excluding any professionally oriented works, lectures, treatises, or the like.
The record does not reveal who raised the subject of royalties (the prosecutor, the judge, or defense counsel), or the basis of the objection. For all we know, only the judge had movies on his mind. So Amirante asserted in his affidavit. In the absence of any contrary evidence, this is a blind alley.
As for the contention that counsel barged ahead with an unwanted insanity defense: again the evidence gets in the way. Gacy cooperated with extended interviews and tests by six experts for the defense and another six for the state, not the behavior you would expect of a person who wanted to stand on a plain denial of guilt. In mid-trial, Gacy threatened to stop cooperating with his attorneys, complaining: "I'm not running the trial." When the judge asked what the problem was, Gacy continued: "I was against the insanity defense from the beginning." This assertion, never heard again during the trial,5 has become the foundation for the attack on counsel. In an affidavit dated July 25, 1990, Gacy at last furnished a reason: "I couldn't believe that anyone could go insane 33 different times and then run a successful business, [and] if I didn't believe it how could [Amirante] expect 12 jurors to believe that". Good question--but how did Gacy expect to persuade the jury to disregard his confessions, plus the damning evidence of the 28 skeletons under his house, a 29th under his driveway, and 4 more recovered from the river, not to mention the testimony of witnesses who barely survived their encounters with him? His current story, that he was out of town on every occasion, is unsupported by evidence and less plausible than his insanity defense.
As Judge Grady remarked, Gacy's only real choice was between an insanity defense and a guilty plea. It may be that Gacy could have obliged Amirante to desist from the insanity defense and conduct a defense limited to guilt, trying (as Amirante did not) to suppress the confessions and fob off the significance of the human remains. We say "it may be" because several of Gacy's experts testified that he was not competent to assist in his defense. Although Judge Garippo rejected that position and ordered Gacy to stand trial, the duties of counsel representing a client of borderline competence are not so clearly established as the duties of counsel representing a normal defendant. However that may be, Gacy did not tell Amirante to stop. A statement such as "I was against the insanity defense from the beginning" is some distance from "I directed Amirante to drop that defense, and he refused." Being "against" a defense at the outset is consistent with yielding to the judgment of those who know better. Even the affidavit of 1990 does not assert that Amirante refused to carry out any direct instructions from his client. There is consequently no material dispute requiring an evidentiary hearing.
Because the decision in Gacy's case may affect many prisoners on Death Row in Illinois, we have accepted amicus briefs submitted by the MacArthur Justice Center and a representative of Prof. Zeisel, by Bernard Williams (of Williams v. Chrans, still litigating despite McCleskey ), and by Free himself. These briefs oddly do not explain or defend either the legal or the factual analysis in Free; instead they urge this court to wait for Free to wend its way here. There is, however, no principle that legal issues must be resolved for the first time on appeal in whatever case reached the district court first
Although Prof. Zeisel's study of the Illinois pattern instructions postdates Gacy's conviction, studies of other jury instructions, reaching similar conclusions, were published in the 1970s. See Robert P. Charrow & Veda R. Charrow, Making Legal Language Understandable: A Psycholinguistic Study of Jury Instructions, 79 Colum.L.Rev. 1306 (1979); Amiram Elwork, Bruce Sales & James Alfini, Juridic Decisions: In Ignorance of the Law or in Light of It, 1 L. & Human Behavior 163 (1977). That jurors had trouble coping with gobbledygook in instructions is no news. Strangely, the parties make nothing of these studies predating Gacy's trial
By contrast, the studies cited in note 2 tried out variations of the instructions to determine which were more comprehensible and the degree of improvement attainable from rewording
We are of course aware that the Constitution does not require Illinois to use juries in capital sentencing decisions. Still, the assumptions undergirding the use of juries in trials are no less appropriate when states elect to give juries a role in sentencing
Judge Garippo held a hearing. At its conclusion, Gacy answered "I don't know" to the question whether he stood by his assertion that he disagreed with his lawyers' strategy. The subject did not come up again until collateral attack
24 F.3d 887
John Wayne Gacy, Petitioner-appellant,
Thomas Page, Warden, Respondent-appellee
United States Court of Appeals,
Submitted May 9, 1994.
Decided May 9, 1994
Before EASTERBROOK, MANION, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.
EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge.
Illinois plans to execute John Wayne Gacy in less than twelve hours, at 12:01 A.M. Tuesday morning. Gacy asks us to issue a stay so that we may review the appeal he has just filed from an order denying his second federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court not only denied the petition (filed on May 2, 1994) but also declined to issue a certificate of probable cause to appeal, concluding that the petition is frivolous.
Although the district court denied the petition on Friday, May 6, at approximately 3:00 P.M., Gacy did not file an appeal or seek a stay until 12:20 P.M. today. If his lawyers believed that deluging the court with paper at the last instant would lead us to delay the execution in order to have more time to read the documents, they were mistaken. This panel is well acquainted with the case, having issued the decision on his first request for collateral relief. See Circuit Rule 22(a)(4). We deny the application for a certificate of probable cause and therefore deny as well the request for a stay of execution.
Even in a capital case, an applicant for a certificate of probable cause must make "a substantial showing of the denial of a federal right." Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 893, 103 S.Ct. 3383, 3394, 77 L.Ed.2d 1090 (1983). See also Lozada v. Deeds, 498 U.S. 430, 111 S.Ct. 860, 112 L.Ed.2d 956 (1991). This standard is difficult to meet when the applicant has had a complete federal review of his claims. Gacy received such a review, spanning several years, during which the district court sifted almost a hundred legal contentions. We affirmed the denial of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Gacy v. Welborn, 994 F.2d 305 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 269, 126 L.Ed.2d 220 (1993). Gacy's new petition reargues some issues that were raised and rejected previously and presents one new claim, concerning the manner of execution, that readily could have been raised previously but was not. He lacks cause and prejudice, and therefore the renewed petition is an abuse of the writ. McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U.S. 467, 111 S.Ct. 1454, 113 L.Ed.2d 517 (1991); Gomez v. United States District Court, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 1652, 118 L.Ed.2d 293 (1992).
The only legal claim that is even arguably proper after McCleskey is the contention that the Supreme Court's decision in Tuilaepa v. California, No. 93-5131 (argued March 22, 1994), may affect the validity of the standards Illinois uses to choose those eligible for capital punishment. But all avenues of attack on the Illinois standards have been exhausted long ago. Both the Supreme Court of Illinois and this court have concluded, after sustained attention, that the Illinois system is constitutionally acceptable. Free v. Peters, 12 F.3d 700 (7th Cir.1993), is the most recent among many such cases. Whatever the Supreme Court says in Tuilaepa about California's system would, if it leads us to reconsider our views about the Illinois system, establish a "new rule," inapplicable to Gacy under Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989). See Caspari v. Bohlen, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 948, 127 L.Ed.2d 236 (1994).
Much the same may be said of the grant of certiorari on April 25, 1994, in Kyles v. Whitley, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1610, 128 L.Ed.2d 338, which presents questions concerning the assignment of burdens when evaluating claims under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), in capital cases. This court fully considered Gacy's arguments concerning exculpatory evidence when the case was last here, and the possibility (no more than that) that the Supreme Court will say something pertinent to the subject does not justify delay of indefinite duration. Changes in law after the completion of direct appeals do not apply retroactively, with exceptions not applicable here. Gacy's direct appeals ended in 1985. See People v. Gacy, 103 Ill.2d 1, 82 Ill.Dec. 391, 468 N.E.2d 1171 (1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1037, 105 S.Ct. 1410, 84 L.Ed.2d 799 (1985). The potential for legal developments does not benefit Gacy, when even completed legal developments would not do so.
Bypassing all procedural obstacles, the district court rejected Gacy's claims on the merits. The district court's opinion compellingly shows that the contentions substantively fail the standard of Barefoot and Lozada. In particular, the contention advanced by Gacy's lawyers that Gacy is unable to assist them--implying that he may not be executed because he is insane--was rejected for failure of proof. The district court concluded that Gacy's difficulty in coping with the events does not differ from what many other persons experience when all legal and factual avenues have been exhausted and the end of mortal existence looms. Gacy's lawyers did not offer any medical or psychological evidence of insanity; they relied entirely on their own assessment of his mental state, which the district judge properly concluded is insufficient. Because Gacy's claims fail both substantively and procedurally, we deny the application for a certificate of probable cause and the motion for a stay of execution.