John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was born and raised in Chicago
, the son of an alcoholic father who physically and verbally abused the young Gacy, who was overweight and more interested in typically feminine pursuits, such as cooking and gardening than the sports his father wanted him to enjoy. At the age of nine, Gacy was sexually abused by a family friend, but resisted telling the family because he feared his father would blame him. He began to suffer poor health in the fourth grade, which continued through his adolescence and into his young adulthood. His father believed that Gacy was faking his illness to gain sympathy. He first became involved with politics at the age of 18. At the age of 19 he dropped out of high school, and the next year left home for Las Vegas
, where he stayed for three months before returning to Chicago. There, he enrolled in the Northwestern Business College, despite his lack of a high school diploma, and gradated from there soon after. He obtained a job with a shoe company, and was transferred to their Springfield branch. There he met Marlynn Myers, who he married that same year. Gacy did well in his job, rising to the position of department manager, as well as becaming involved in local organizations, becoming vice-president of the Springfield United States Junior Chamber in 1965. He and his wife next moved to Iowa
, where his father-in-law gave him a job managing a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. There, his son Michael was born in 1967, followed by a daughter, Christine, the following year. Gacy also maintained his involvement in local organizations, as vice-president of the Waterloo, Iowa branch of the Junior Chamber.
Though he was doing exceptionally well on the surface, Gacy's life was far from the squeaky clean one that he presented to the world. The Junior Chamber members were involved in many questionable sexual activities, including wife swapping and prostitution. Gacy was involved in these activities, but also began indulging his other sexual proclivities: his attraction to teenage boys. In late 1967 he began to molest young workers in his restaurants, inviting teenage boys to his basement where he would ply them with alcohol and then sexually assaulted them. In early 1968 he was accused by two of his young victims of having sexually assaulted them. This lead in December of 1968 to his imprisonment for sodomy. He was sentenced to ten years, but served only eighteen months, during which time his wife divorced him and his father died of cirrhosis of the liver. After his release in 1970 he returned to Chicago, where he lived with his mother and worked as a short-order cook. In early 1971 he was again charged with sexual assault against a teenage boy, but escaped imprisonment when the victim failed to report to court. Instead, Gacy's criminal record was sealed, and he was able to hide it for several years. Soon after he bought a house and became engaged to a young divorcee, Carole Hoff.
He committed his first murder on January 7th, 1972, when he picked up a fifteen-year-old boy and stabbed him to death after the pair had sex. Later that year, he and Hoff married, and Gacy began his own construction company. He continued participating in local organizations and politics, and began entertaining at parties and picnics as a clown going by the name "Pogo." While his business was performing well, and he was well known and well liked in the community, his home life was falling apart; in 1976 he and his wife divorced. He also continued with his murders, developing ruses to lure young men to his house, to trick victims into handcuffs, and to force them to have sex with him. He abducted his final victim in early December of 1978. This abduction, which took place sometime after Gacy encountered the victim in a store, drew police attention to Gacy. He denied involvement in the boy's disappearance, but police soon uncovered his criminal record, and a search of his house yielded a number of suspicious items. Further investigation revealed his connection to several more boys, all of whom had vanished in mysterious circumstances. Police surveillance began in earnest, culminating near the end of December when he invited two detectives into his house for a meal, and the noticed the stench of bodies emanating from the heating vents. The day later, the 21st of December, they were able to obtain a second search warrant. On this second search of his house, they uncovered the first of what would prove to be 26 bodies of young men and boys buried in his house's crawlspace. Police officially made the decision to charge Gacy with murder
The next day, Gacy made a partial confession to police, confessing to the murders of between 25 and 30 young men, all of whom he claimed had been prostitutes or runaways. The majority of bodies- a total of 29- were located on Gacy's property, with most in the crawlspace, one under the concrete in the garage, one under the barbecue pit, and one beneath the dining room floor. A further four were found in the Des Plaines River, where Gacy claimed they had been dumped because the crawlspace was full. Gacy was brought to trial for a total of 33 counts of murder in February of 1980, having been determined to be mentally fit to stand trial following comprehensive assessments of his sanity. His lawyers entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, a plea that was discredited by the level of premeditation and counter-detection measures displayed by Gacy during his spree. Concluding statements were completed on March 12th, and the jury took less than two hours to reach a guilty verdict for each murder charge. After another brief period of deliberation, Gacy was sentenced to death. He spent fourteen years on death row. During this time he took up painting, which were popular among the murderabilia community and sold for as much as $200,000. Eventually he claimed that he was not responsible for any of the murders, claiming knowledge of only five deaths, and alleging that the remaining 28 had been buried in and around his house by employees. He put in a series of appeals that were denied, with the final denial arriving in October of 1993. He was executed by lethal injection in the early hours of May 10th, 1994. His last words were allegedly "kiss my ass." His brain was removed postmortem, and examined for abnormalities, of which none were discovered.
In Other Media
As one of the most infamous American serial killers, Gacy has appeared in a number of films, books and television series. Most of these appearances have been documentary or biographical in nature, notable among these A&E's Biography
series and the Discovery Channel's Most Evil
. Notable books include The Last Victim
, Johnny And Me
, and John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster
, the last of which was written by his defence team. He appears in the 1992 television movie To Catch a Killer
, wherein he is played by Brian Dennehy. He also appears in the 2003 feature film Gacy
, wherein he is portrayed by Mark Holton. He appears in the 2010 television movie Dear Mr Gacy
, wherein he is played by William Forsythe.