Victim Studies 007: John Wayne Gacy

on December 27, 2011 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies, Victimology by

John Wayne Gacy was convicted for murdering 33 people in the United States, but may have been involved in additional murders. Gacy’s known murder series is thought to have spanned from 1972, at the age of 30, until his arrest in 1978. There is still an ongoing investigation into Gacy’s additional victims and the identities of the 29 bodies that were found under his floorboards.

From a young age Gacy was known to have problems gaining approval from his father. Although he constantly strived to impress his father, he always fell short. Gacy was overweight, antisocial and was not exceptionally good at any sport. His father would beat him with a belt and often belittled him, called him a sissy and claimed that Gacy would grow up to be a homosexual. At the age of 9 Gacy was known to have been molested numerous times by a family friend, but told no one out of fear that his father would blame him. It is believed that the constant critique from his father caused him to feel powerless, this led Gacy to feel the need to control his victims. It is believed by some that Gacy would choose young attractive men because it was what his father wanted Gacy to be.

Gacy primarily murdered boys between the ages of 14 and 18, with only a one exception where his victim was 25 years old. All of Gacy’s victims were Caucasian and usually had brown hair. The young ages of Gacy’s victims suggest that he was not too concerned with being caught by the police. Since Gacy preyed on young males it was fairly obvious that families would notice their missing sons or brothers and that police would begin to investigate. Many serial killers that prey on prostitutes rely on police not investigating the case immediately. However, when there is a higher amount of children that disappear in one area police should begin to notice a trend. The spike of missing Caucasian boys in this age group, within the span of six years, should have alerted the police that there was a serious problem, but police did not notice this problem immediately. Prior to Gacy’s move to Illinois and the divorce from his first wife, Gacy was convicted of sodomizing a 15 year old boy in Iowa, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Gacy only served 18 months before being released. The police in Illinois were not notified of his criminal record while they investigated the disappearances. This also caused police to not notice when Gacy violated his parole after he attempted to rape a teenage boy. However, because the missing boys and their remains were not found and there were not many witnesses, the police had a difficult time naming Gacy as a suspect.

According to records, Gacy claimed to hate homosexuals and their lifestyles. His negative thoughts towards homosexuality were thought to be prior to his murder series, as he would later openly flirt with males and his employees. Gacy would often go to stores to buy gay pornography, which was not easy to attain in the 1970s. His second wife, Carole Hoff, found the gay pornography in their house. When she questioned Gacy claimed that he preferred young boys to women and believed that there nothing wrong with that. She divorced him shortly after, leaving him in the empty house to commit murder in. At his construction company he was known to hire only young teenage boys. Gacy would tell others that he wanted to keep the cost of labor down, but in reality he wanted to seduce the young men. Although Gacy is thought to be gay he would not choose homosexual men to molest or rape. Instead, Gacy would only choose openly heterosexual boys and men to kidnap, torture and murder. Only one of his victims was old enough to be a married man.

There were many techniques that Gacy would use to kidnap and seduce his victims. One of the few survivors of Gacy claimed that Gacy had shown him a police badge and lured him into a car where he was forced to perform oral sex. Gacy would lure his other victims into his home with the promise of a job in his construction company, money, sex or threaten them gunpoint. While Gacy was married to his first wife, Marlynn Myers, he made a coworker sleep with her in order to blackmail him into performing oral sex. Many of Gacy’s victims were convinced or lured into being bound and later convinced to have sex. Gacy claimed that was conducting science experiments on homosexual activities and would sometimes pay men $50 after the ‘experiment’ was over. Gacy is well known for dressing as a clown, which he named “Pogo”. While in this clown suit he would attend fundraisers and children’s parties. It is unknown if Gacy molested children while attending the fundraisers or other events. There were no witnesses to most of Gacy’s kidnappings, leaving little evidence that could tie him to the disappearances.

After Gacy kidnapped his victims he would go on to torture them for hours. Unlike many other serial killers that are driven by lust, Gacy was not known to rape his murder victims. Instead, Gacy would force them to perform oral sex. The only time he was known to penetrate his victims was when he would use foreign objects. However, Gacy was known to have raped many of the victims he allowed to survive. After he was arrested Gacy claimed that he developed a rope technique in which he would strangle his victims for hours before they died. Many experts claimed that Gacy was just as sexually violent as Ted Bundy, however many people did know this because articles which reported the case from the 1970s did not state what Gacy would do to his victims and how they were murdered.

It is believed that Gacy preferred to murder in places where he felt comfortable, in control and in power. He would typically murder or molest his victims in his home or at work. Gacy was the manager of his own construction company, giving him constant access to construction sites and power over his employees. This position also gave him more control over the young boys that he chose to employ. Gacy did not murder outside of his comfort zone and was known to frequent bus terminals that were close to his home.

There were a total of 29 bodies that were found on Gacy’s property. At first when Gacy murdered his victims they were buried beneath his house. Prior to the murders he had asked many of his coworkers to dig trenches under his house so that water would settle lower. He later positioned the bodies throughout the trenches, sometimes going as far as to stack the bodies on top of each other. Throughout the time Gacy lived in this home he was known to have thrown many parties and get-togethers. It was later found that many guests and neighbors claimed there was an awful smell in the house, especially when it was hot outside. Even his ex-wife and children stated that there was a smell that came from beneath the house. His wife believed that there was a rat that had died and continuously caused the stench, but it actually was the decomposing bodies of 29 people. It is believed that the remaining 4 known victims were placed in the Des Plaines River. Many serial killers wait years before feeling the need to murder again, but Gacy would commit murders with very short breaks in between. All 33 of his known victims were murdered in the span of 6 years. It is believed that Gacy preferred to keep his victims close at all times, continuing to keep them in his comfort zone even after death. Gacy had comfort knowing that his victims were beneath his home, it allowed him to have control over nearly all the bodies.

In 1978 witnesses named Gacy as the last person seen with a victim and police began their investigation. Police discovered his previous criminal charges and received a search warrant. The police found many strange things like class rings, handcuffs, driver’s license and pieces of wood with holes drilled into the ends. This discovery caused a surveillance team to be set up around Gacy residence. On December 20, 1978 Gacy invited some members of the surveillance team into his home, which is when they noticed the smell of the bodies beneath the floor. It is believed that the original team that surveyed the house did not smell the bodies because it had been colder outside.

Gacy originally tried to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but it failed after the court discovered that he had predetermined that bodies would be placed in the trenches. Witnesses claimed that Gacy had trenches dug out after the original ones had been filled in. On March 13, 1980 Gacy was found guilty on all 33 counts of murder and sentenced to death. During his time in prison Gacy began to paint birds, cartoon characters and pictures of himself as Pogo the Clown. These paintings were bought at prices as high as $9500 and many of them were later burned by the owners. Gacy was not put to death until May 10, 1994, nearly 14 years after being sentenced to death. Gacy’s final words were “kiss my ass”. It is not known how many victims Gacy actually accumulated over the span of his murder series.

Sources:
John Wayne Gacy on Wikipedia
John Wayne Gacy Jr. by Rachael Bell and Marilyn Bardsley on TruTV.com
John Wayne Gacy on SerialKillerCalendar.com (Brief Bio)
John Wayne Gacy on SerialKillerCalendar.com
John Wayne Gacy by Diane & Peter Brendt

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