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Murderer Monday: “The Killer Clown”

Before I start this, I just wanted to say that I don’t think I’ll be doing these every week any more. When I start my new job it is very beauty and makeup related, so I would like to take my blog further in that direction. I absolutely love doing these, but I also didn’t like that every other blog post on my homepage was a Murderer Monday.

Don’t get me wrong, I might do them weekly on occasion but I’m thinking every other week at the moment just to space them out a bit more. I only do 2 blog posts a week because I work really hard on them. They take me hours of planning, writing, proof reading, photography, editing, putting it altogether, sorting the analytics and SEO etc, so I want to have more of a variation of posts.

Ok, on with the story. This story has kind of IT vibes which really terrifies me as I could barely watch the trailer for that film. (Fake films scare me but real life crimes don’t – weird?). These crimes happened in the 1970’s, and the culprit is long dead now, which always makes me feel more at ease writing these aha.

Early Life:

John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1942. The only son of three children. His family was from Polish and Danish ancestry as his grandparents had immigrated to the US. As a child he was overweight and had a difficult relationship with his father who was an alcoholic and physically abused John and his family. He strived to make his father proud of him but never received the approval he craved. One of his earliest memories was of being beaten with a belt for accidentally disrupting car engine parts his father had assembled. At one point, his father even knocked him unconscious with a sweeping brush handle.

Not only was he subjected to physical abuse, but also mental abuse. His father would often belittle him, compare him to his sisters, and insult his intelligence. In later interviews, John would admit he was never good enough for his father but deny ever hating him for thinking this.

John’s mother tried to shield him from his father’s temper by not telling him when John misbehaved. This only earned John nicknames such as “Mama’s boy” and “sissy” from his father. John and another boy were caught molesting a girl at school and his father beat him with a leather whip. He also claimed in later life that he was molested himself by a family friend. He never told his family for fear he would be blamed by his father for these incidents.

John was overweight and unfit because he had a heart condition and had to avoid school sports. This meant he was often the target of bullies so spent his lunches doing errands for teachers. As a teenager he began to experience fainting spells and seizures. He later estimated that he spent almost a year between age 14 and 18 in hospital, which meant his grades declined. His father suspected that this was in an effort to gain sympathy and attention. He claimed John was faking his symptoms when he was laying in his hospital bed.

This apparent medical condition was never conclusively diagnosed. His school friends recalled witnessing seeing his father lash out at him without provocation or reason. John would simply put his hands up to protect his head and never hit his father back.

Career:

At 18 John became involved in politics which led to his father accusing him of being a “patsy”. He became a Democratic Party candidate the same year, and his father bought him a car. However, he immediately made John pay him back monthly. He would also confiscate the keys as punishment. John once bought a spare set of keys so his father too the distributor cap so the car wouldn’t start. Once he returned it days later, John drove to Las Vegas and found work as a mortuary attendant.

In this job he had to sleep in a bed next to the embalming room. He would observe morticians embalming bodies daily. He confessed that he once climbed into the coffin of a teenage boy to embrace his body. This shocked him so deeply that he immediately called and asked if he would be allowed to return home. He enrolled in College and graduated with a degree in Business in 1963. John eventually became engaged to a woman who worked in the shoe company that he was the manager of, Marlynn. Marlynn’s father subsequently purchased three KFC restaurants and let John manage them.

Although his life seemed to be looking up, there was a darker side to this life. He was deeply involved in wife swapping, prostitution and pornography. Regularly cheating on his wife and only socialising with young males that he worked with.

Offences:

He began to abuse his power over young teenage boys, luring them back to his house with the promise of alcohol and adult films. Many were tricked into believing he was commissioned to carry out homosexual experiments in the interests of “scientific research” and were paid $50. A 15 year old boy eventually confessed to their father who immediately informed the police. John publicly denied any wrongdoing and insisted the charges were politically motivated. He paid an 18 year old boy to beat up the 15 year old who had confessed in an effort to convince him not to testify against John. The boy managed to escape his attacker and tell the police. Both John and the boy were arrested and charged.

John was ordered to undergo a psychiatric test which determined that he had antisocial personality disorder and was unlikely to benefit from any treatment. They also said his behaviour was likely to bring him into repeated conflict with society. In 1968 he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The same day he was sentenced, his wife filed for divorce, sole custody and possession of everything. The Court ruled in her favour and John never saw her or his children again.

John became a model prisoner and rose to the position of head chef. He also secured an increase in inmate daily pay. In 1969 his father died of liver cirrhosis and John was not told until 2 days later. He was said to have collapsed, sobbing uncontrollably and could not be assisted. His request for compassionate leave to attend the funeral was denied. Not long after this, John was granted parole as long as he lived with his mother and obeyed a 10pm curfew. He became engaged to a woman with 2 daughters who moved in with them, and life started looking up.

However, John could not stay away from his aggressive tendencies. He subjected many young males to sexual assault without his new partner knowing. One victim drove to his house and beat him up afterwards, an incident his wife witnessed. John told her that he was attacked because he had refused to pay the boy for his poor work.

Pogo the Clown:

John eventually joined a Moose club, for males only. Within this group there was a “Jolly Joker” club of members who dressed as clowns and would perform at events. He created his characters “Pogo” and “Patches” the clown. He designed his own costumes and taught himself how to apply clown makeup. Although some told him that his makeup was a little scary as he had a pointed mouth and eyes rather than the usual round mouth. He performed at many parties, charity events and children’s hospitals. After these events he would go to a bar in his costume and have some drinks before he headed home.

In 1975 John told his wife that he was bisexual and that he would never sleep with her again. She observed him bringing teenage boys into the garage on several occasions and also filed for divorce.

Victims:

In January 1972, John picked up 16 year old Timothy McCoy from the bus stop. The boy was on a sightseeing tour of Chicago. John promised he could spent the night at his house and he would drive him back to get his bus in the morning. According to John’s later account, he woke to find Timothy standing in his doorway with a kitchen knife.

John jumped out of bed and accidentally caught his arm on the knife, as he had a scar on his arm. He wrestled the knife out of the boys hand, fought him to the floor and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest as he straddled him. He said he then went to the kitchen and found that Timothy had been trying to cut bacon to make breakfast. Panicking, he buried the boys body in the crawl space under his house and covered it with concrete.

“That’s when I realised that death was the ultimate thrill.”

His second victim is an unidentified teenage boy whom John strangled and stored the body in his wardrobe. He later stated that fluid leaked out of the body which stained his carpet. After this incident he began stuffing his victims bodies with cloths or clothing. Eventually he buried the body near his barbecue in his garden.

In 1975 his business began expanding rapidly and he was working 12 to 16 hour days to fulfil all of his contracts. This was also the year that he frequently searched for young males to interact with. Much of the labour workforce was young men and students. John hired one boy called Anthony Antonucci. Anthony injured his foot at work so John brought him to his house. He plied Anthony with alcohol, wrestled him to the floor and handcuffed his hands behind his back. However, one cuff wasn’t very tight and Anthony managed to escape.

A member of his school’s wrestling team, he was not afraid of a fight. When John returned, Anthony pounced, wrestled him to the floor, gained possession of the key and cuffed John’s hands behind his back. John screamed threats at the boy while he watched, then calmed down and promised to leave him alone if he removed the cuffs. Anthony agreed and managed to escape with his life.

A week later, another of John’s employees disappeared. 17 year old John Butkovitch disappeared after threatening John over 2 weeks of outstanding pay. John invited him to his house to settle the issue of his pay. Somehow he managed to get handcuffs on the boy and proceeded to strangle him to death. He later admitted to sitting on John’s chest for a while before killing him. His body was also buried under concrete in his garage. John Butkovitch’s father called John Gacy later that day.

John Gacy told him he was sorry his son had “run away” and was happy to help search for the boy. Gacy was questioned and told police about his outstanding pay but said that he left with his money. Over the next 3 years, John Butkovitch’s parents called police over 100 times urging them to investigate John Gacy further.

Forcing handcuffs onto boys became John’s modus operandi in subduing his victims after supplying them with drink or drugs. He would often produce the handcuffs and trick his victims into putting them on as part of his clown routine. His favourite punch line was “the trick is, you have to have the key”. He would finish with his “rope trick”, placing a rope over the victim’s neck as a makeshift tourniquet until the victim was strangled to death.

Divorce:

Between his mutually agreed divorce and it being finalised, many neighbours noticed a change in Gacy’s behaviour. He would arrive and leave in the early hours of the morning. Lights would switch on and off at odd hours, and he was seen with many young males. One neighbour recollected that for years, she and her son had repeatedly been woken up by screaming, shouting and crying in early hours of the morning.

‘Cruising Years’:

These were the years between 1976 and 1978 when John was unmarried so could do whatever he wanted. Many more boys were murdered over this period. He began to throw his victims over the l-55 bridge into the Des Plaines River.

Robert Piest:

In December 1978, John visited a pharmacy to discuss a remodelling contract. A 15 year old employee, Robert Piest overheard this conversation. He later told his mother on his way out that “some contractor wants to talk to me about a job”. When he failed to return, his family filed a missing person report. When the police visited John’s home the next day he denied ever meeting the boy and promised to visit the station later and make a statement. He arrived at 3:20am, covered in mud and claimed he had been in a car accident.

Police checked his record and discovered that he had an outstanding battery charge and had also served a prison sentence for sodomy. A further search of his house turned up several suspicious items. A high school class ring engraved with J.A.S, many licenses, handcuffs, small male clothing and a receipt for the pharmacy. Police confiscated his vehicle and assigned a surveillance team to follow him while they continued their investigation.

Surveillance:

When checking his battery charge, police discovered John had lured a boy into his car, chloroformed, raped and dumped him. However they still could not arrest him for Robert’s disappearance. During the investigation, John became friendly with the officers. John knew that they would not arrest him on trivial matters and began openly taunted officers by flouting traffic laws. At one meal with officers he commented, “you know… clowns can get away with murder”.

Eventually, officers searched John’s car and found several hairs. When allowing search dogs into the car they did the “death reaction”, indicating Robert had been in the car. John became tired of surveillance and tried to prepare a civil suit against the police accusing them of harassment. The day the hearing was set, the surveillance detectives entered John’s home to use the toilet. One noticed a smell coming from the heating duct that he suspected was rotting flesh.

First Confession:

On the evening of December 20, John drove to his lawyer’s office for a meeting. John insisted on drinking whiskey and slowly became drunk. He pointed to a front-page article covering Robert’s disappearance and claimed “The boy is dead. He’s in a River”. Over the next few hours he gave a very rambled confession, not naming his victims and claiming he would black out and wake up with a body. He fell asleep through his confession due to the alcohol. When he woke up he was shocked to hear he had confessed to over 30 murders. He knew that it would be his last day of freedom, and walked out of his lawyer’s office.

John decided to say goodbye to his family and friends before the police caught up with him. He drove to his friend Ronald Rhode’s house and burst into tears, “I killed 30 people, give or take a few”. He was also witnessed praying on a rosary whilst driving to his next friend’s house.

At 4:30pm on December 21st, the search warrant request for John’s house was granted. Police found that he had unplugged a pump to fill his crawl space was flooded with water. After waiting for it to drain, an evidence technician crawled in to find rotten flesh and a human arm bone. He immediately shouted back to charge John with murder, remarking “I think this place is full of kids”.

Arrest:

In the early hours of December 22nd 1978, John Gacy admitted to 30+ murders since 1972. He first falsely claimed that they were runaways or prostitutes whom he would abduct off the streets. He also confessed to “doubles”, occasions where he killed two people in the same evening. John planned to fill the entire crawl space with concrete in January 1979. When questioned about Robert Priest, John confessed he disposed of his body in the river which was why he arrived at the police station covered in mud.

He also lead officers to the bodies in his garden, drawing a diagram of where they were buried. 4/5 victims John threw into the river were recovered. Overall after a search and demolition of John’s entire property and the river, 33 bodies were found. Robert’s body was found in April, entangled in roots at the edge of a river. He had died of suffocation after having material stuffed down his throat.

Trial:

John faced trial in February 1980, charged with 33 murders. 2 surviving victims testified against him. It had taken months to determine whether he was mentally competent to stand trial. John attempted to convince doctors he suffered from multiple personality disorder. 3 psychiatric experts found him to be a paranoid schizophrenic and his lawyers opted to have him plead guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors used witnesses to counter argue that he was sane and in control of his actions. They gave examples of how John had tried to cover his tracks. The jury deliberated for less than 2 hours and found John guilty on all 33 counts of murder. As well as sexual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced to death with the date set for June 2nd 1980.

Death Row:

John remained on death row in Illinois for 14 years. Throughout his time he painted many pictures, mainly of clowns and himself as “Pogo”. These have now sold for anywhere up to $20,000 since his death. On death row, he read many law books in order to appeal however all of his requests were denied.

Execution:

In May 1994 John was transferred to be executed. He was allowed a private picnic with his friends and family the afternoon. In the death chamber, the chemicals used to execute him unexpectedly solidified which clogged the IV tube in his arm. His death ultimately took 18 minutes. John’s final spoken words were “kiss my ass”, and he never showed any remorse for his crimes. During his execution, a crowd of over 1000 people gathered outside to hear his death announcement.

Overall, only 27 of his victims were named. The most recent was identified using DNA testing in 2017, and police are still working to uncover the identities of the remaining few.

Sorry this one was super long, I hope you stayed until the end!

Check out my other crime posts HERE! 

Sources:
  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=_anX-EgKqKM
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne_Gacy
  • serialkillershop.com/blogs/true-crime/john-wayne-gacy
  • https://www.biography.com/people/john-wayne-gacy-10367544
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