Case Studies
John Wayne Gacy: Serial Killer Caught Through DNA from Tooth

John Wayne Gacy: Serial Killer Caught Through DNA from Tooth

The killer clown, as he was commonly referred to, had caused one of the most dangerous and longest serial killing episodes ever. The crimes were concentrated in Cook County, Illinois. Most of the dead bodies were buried under his house and the rest of them recovered from the river Des Plaines. All of them led towards the most prominent contractor, John Wayne Gacy.

Born on 17th March 1942, John Wayne Gacy was the son of Danish and Polish parents. He had two sisters and was close to them and his mother. Being under an abusive and alcoholic father, Gacy grew up to be tough, so was his sisters and mother. His father used to beat them up with razor blade belts and when his mom tried to protect him he would criticize him stating abuses like mommy’s doll, spoiled child, etc.

John Gacy was also a patient of congenital heart disorder since childhood, due to which he had to stay away from sports or any sort of such physically straining activities in the school. He was alienated due to this reason by his classmates. He grew up to be a chubby and lazy child.

After continuous criticisms from his father, Gacy moved on to work as a security guard at a mortuary. After watching the assistants embalming the corpses he once tried doing it himself. When the assistants were out of town. He tried embalming a dead teenage boy. It was then that he realized he was homosexual.

That episode had left him shocked and he decided to move back to his hometown. After reaching there he completed his graduation course and became active in state politics and fundraisers. After John had his first marriage, his father-in-law handed over the KFC food chain he bought to him.

Soon he was the manager of the food chain and later on he developed into a self-made building constructor. Post which he had married and divorced twice and had two biological children and two stepchildren.

He was also a member of the Chicago Jolly Jokerdown club and used to perform in clown attire in fundraisers and children’s parties. “Pogo the clown” and “Patcher the clown” were his alter egos as described by him.

Modus Operandi of John Wayne Gacy’s Crimes

Gacy was a very prominent person regarding society and his interactions with them. Thus contacts were easily made. He was involved in the Joycee societies and their programs which also included secret deals such as drugs, child pornography, prostitution, and much more.

Soon he was an expert in luring youngsters promising them money for intimate photoshoots to publish in adult magazines and for child pornography. Except for children amongst other youngsters he targeted men, promising them extra money and sometimes even jobs at his construction company and would sexually assault them.

For murder, he would kill them with whatever tools he found. And sometimes in the absence of those he would strangle them using electric wires.

A simple, one-story ranch house in a middle-class neighborhood was Gacy’s house. He had outfitted his home with a trap door leading to a crawl space beneath the house, where he would dispose of many of his victim’s bodies. Others were buried in the backyard or dumped in the nearby Des Plaines River. 

The Clown Crimes

The clown never started his crime career directly with murder just like the typical serial killers. In 1968 Gacy was convicted for sexually assaulting two teen boys and was given ten years imprisonment. He was released on parole in the summer of 1970.

However, he was caught again in the following year after a teen accused him of rape. However, the charges were dropped after the complainant failed to appear in the trial. In the middle of 1970, he was accused of rape, but the charges were dropped again due to lack of any leads or evidence.

In December 1978, 15-year old Robert Piest went missing. He was last seen by his mother at the drug store where he worked and had said to her he was going to meet Gacy to confirm his job in construction. Ten days later after the police conducted the search at Gacy’s house in Norwood Park, Illinois. Evidence was uncovered which linked him to various major crimes.

From all the bodies discovered, eight of them could not be identified. It was later discovered that one among those eight was a 16-year-old Timothy McCloy. The connection was established using advancements in DNA technology in the year 2017. There were also rumors which came around portraying he could have been involved in more than 30 crimes.

Timothy traveled to Chicago to start a new life in the city in 1976. On August 5, 1976, he called his mother and informed her that he reached the destination. However, police assumed that he was killed soon after that. Even though his mom died in the early 2000s, his family members produced samples for DNA analysis which helped in identifying his remains.

The End of the Clown

Gacy’s trial began on February 6, 1980. He was requested for an insanity plea but was devoided by it. He was given 12 death sentences and 21 natural life sentences. He was imprisoned at The Menard Correctional Center in Illinois for a decade and a half.

While in prison he used to paint. His paintings were beautiful and creative and most of the time portrayed his alter ego clown “Pogo the clown” and were sold and exhibited to the public in Chicago. He was executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994.

In 1992, a movie was produced on him titled as ”To catch a killer”.

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