John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994) was an American serial killer and rapist, also known as the Killer Clown, who was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of a minimum of 33 teenage boys and young men in a series of killings committed between 1972 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois.
All of Gacy's known murders were committed inside his Norwood Park home; his victims would typically be lured to this address by force or deception and all but one victim was murdered by either asphyxiation or strangulation with a tourniquet (his first victim was stabbed to death). Gacy buried 26 of his victims in the crawl space of his home; three further victims were buried elsewhere on his property, while the bodies of his last four known victims were discarded in the Des Plaines River.
Convicted of 33 murders, Gacy was sentenced to death for 12 of these killings on March 13, 1980. He spent a total of 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center on May 10, 1994.
Gacy became known as the "Killer Clown" due to his charitable services at fundraising events, parades and children's parties where he would dress as "Pogo the Clown", a character he devised himself.
John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago, Illinois, the second of three children born to John Stanley Gacy (June 20, 1900 – December 25, 1969) and Marion Elaine Robinson (May 4, 1908 – December 14, 1989). Gacy was of Polish and Danish heritage. (His paternal grandparents had been born in Poland.) As a child, he was overweight and nonathletic. He was close to his two sisters and mother, but endured a difficult relationship with his father, an alcoholic who was physically abusive toward his wife and children.
Throughout his childhood, Gacy strove to make his father proud of him, but seldom received his approval: one of Gacy's earliest childhood memories was of being beaten with a leather belt by his father at the age of 4 for accidentally disarranging car engine components his father had assembled. He was regularly belittled by his father and often compared unfavorably with his sisters, enduring disdainful accusations of being "dumb and stupid". The friction between father and son was constant throughout his childhood and adolescence, yet in interviews after his arrest, Gacy always vehemently denied he hated him. When he was 6 years old, Gacy stole a toy truck from a neighborhood store. His mother made him walk back to the store, return the toy and apologize to the owners. When his mother told his father, Gacy was beaten with a belt. After this incident, Gacy's mother attempted to shield her son from his father's verbal and physical abuse, yet this only succeeded in Gacy earning accusations from his father that he was a "sissy" and a "Mama's boy" who would "probably grow up queer."
At the age of 9, Gacy was molested by a family friend, a contractor who would take Gacy for rides in his truck, then fondle him. Gacy never told his father about these incidents as he was afraid his father would blame him.
At school, where he was ordered to avoid all sports due to a heart condition, Gacy was an average student with few friends who was an occasional target for mockery and bullying by neighborhood children and classmates. He was known to assist the school truant officer and volunteer to run errands for teachers and neighbors. During the fourth grade, Gacy began to suffer blackouts. He was occasionally hospitalized as a result of these seizures, and also in 1957 for a burst appendix. Gacy later estimated that he spent almost a year in the hospital for these episodes between the ages of 14 and 18, and attributed the decline in his grades to his time out of school. His father suspected the episodes were an effort to gain sympathy; on one occasion he accused his son of faking even as the boy lay in a hospital bed.
Gacy's medical condition was never conclusively diagnosed, although his mother, sisters and few close friends themselves never doubted his illness. A friend of Gacy's named Richard Dalke was also able to recall several instances in which Gacy Sr. ridiculed or beat his son without provocation: on one occasion in 1957, Gacy's father began shouting at his son for no reason, then began hitting him. Gacy's mother attempted to remonstrate between her son and her husband. Dalke recalled Gacy simply "put up his hands to defend himself", adding that he never struck his father during these altercations.
At the age of 18, Gacy became involved in politics, working as an assistant precinct captain for a Democratic Party candidate in his neighborhood. This decision earned more criticism from his father, who accused his son of being a "patsy". Gacy himself later speculated the decision may have been an attempt to seek the acceptance from others that he never received from his father.
The same year Gacy became a Democratic Party candidate, his father bought him a car, with the title of the vehicle being in his father's name until Gacy had completed the monthly repayments to his father. These repayments took several years to complete, and his father would confiscate the keys to the vehicle if Gacy would not do as his father said. On one occasion in 1962, Gacy bought an extra set of keys after his father confiscated the original set of keys from him and used the extra set of keys to drive the vehicle. In response, his father removed the distributor cap from the vehicle, withholding the component for three days. Gacy recalled that as a result of this incident, he felt "totally sick; drained". When his father replaced the distributor cap, Gacy drove to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he found work within the ambulance service before he was transferred to work as a mortuary attendant. He worked in this role for three months before returning to Chicago.
In his role as a mortuary attendant, Gacy slept in a cot behind the embalming room. In this role, he observed morticians embalming dead bodies and later confessed to the fact that on one evening while alone, he had clambered into the coffin of a deceased teenage male, embracing and caressing the body before experiencing a sense of shock.
The sense of shock prompted Gacy to call his mother the next day and ask whether his father would allow him to return home. His father agreed and the same day, Gacy drove back to live with his family in Chicago. Upon his return, despite the fact he had failed to graduate from high school, Gacy successfully enrolled in the Northwestern Business College from which he graduated in 1963. Gacy subsequently undertook a management-trainee position within the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company.
In 1964, the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company transferred Gacy to Springfield, Illinois, initially to work as a salesman, although Gacy was subsequently promoted to manager of his department. In March of that year, he became engaged to Marlynn Myers, co-worker within the department he managed. After a nine-month courtship, the couple married in September 1964. Marlynn Myers' father subsequently purchased three Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Waterloo, Iowa and he and his wife moved to Waterloo in order for him to manage the restaurants, with the understanding that Gacy and his wife would move into Marlynn's parents' home.
During his courtship with Marlynn, Gacy joined the Jaycees and became a tireless worker for the organization; being named Key Man for the organization in April 1964. The same year, Gacy had his first homosexual experience. According to Gacy, he acquiesced to this incident after a colleague of his within the Springfield Jaycees plied him with drinks, invited him to spend the evening upon his sofa, then performed oral sex upon him while he was drunk.
By 1965, Gacy had risen to the position of vice-president of the Springfield Jaycees. The same year, he was named as the third most outstanding Jaycee within the State of Illinois.
Move to Iowa 
In 1966, Gacy's father-in-law offered him the opportunity to manage the three Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants he had purchased in Waterloo. The offer was lucrative: $15,000 per year plus a share of profits. Gacy accepted the offer and, following his obligatory completion of a managerial course, he and his wife relocated to Waterloo in the autumn of that year.
In Waterloo, Gacy joined the local chapter of the Jaycees, regularly offering extensive hours to the organization in addition to the twelve- and fourteen-hour days he worked as a manager of three KFC restaurants. Although considered ambitious and somewhat of a braggart by his colleagues in the Jaycees, he was highly regarded as a tireless worker on several fund-raising projects. In 1967, he was named "outstanding vice-president" of the Waterloo Jaycees. At Jaycee meetings, Gacy would often provide free fried chicken to his colleagues and insisted upon being given the nickname "Colonel" by his colleagues. The same year, Gacy served on the Board of Directors for the Waterloo Jaycees.
Gacy's wife gave birth to two children during the time the couple lived in Iowa: a son named Michael was born in March 1967, followed by a daughter named Christine in October 1968. Gacy later described this period of his life as being "perfect." His achievements in life earned him approval from his father, who told him during a 1967 visit, "Son, I was wrong about you."
However, there was a seedier side of Jaycee life in Waterloo, one that involved wife swapping, prostitution, pornography and drugs. Gacy was deeply involved in many of these activities and regularly cheated on his wife. He is also known to have opened a "club" in his basement, where he allowed employees to drink alcohol and play pool. Although he employed teenagers of both sexes at his restaurants, he socialized only with his male employees. Many were given alcohol before Gacy made sexual advances toward them, which he would dismiss as a joke if the teenager rebuffed his advances.
First offenses 
In August 1967, Gacy committed his first known sexual assault upon a teenage boy. The youth was a 15-year-old named Donald Voorhees, the son of a fellow Jaycee. Gacy lured the youth to his house upon the promise of showing Voorhees pornographic films. Gacy plied Voorhees with alcohol and persuaded the youth to perform oral sex upon him. Several other youths were sexually abused over the following months, including one whom Gacy encouraged to sleep with his wife before blackmailing the youth into performing oral sex upon him. Several teenagers were tricked into believing Gacy was commissioned with carrying out homosexual experiments in the interests of "scientific research," for which the youths were each paid up to $50.
In March 1968, Donald Voorhees reported to his father that Gacy had sexually assaulted him. Voorhees Sr. immediately informed the police and Gacy was arrested and subsequently charged with oral sodomy in relation to Voorhees and the attempted assault of a 16-year-old named Edward Lynch. Gacy vehemently denied the charges and demanded to take a polygraph test. This request was granted, although the results indicated Gacy was lying when he denied any wrongdoing in relation to either Voorhees or Lynch.
Despite the charges against him, Gacy publicly denied any wrongdoing and insisted the charges against him were politically motivated. (Voorhees Sr. had opposed Gacy's nomination for appointment as president of Iowa Jaycees.) Several fellow Jaycees found Gacy's story credible and rallied to his support. However, on May 10, 1968, Gacy was indicted on the sodomy charge.
On August 30, 1968, Gacy persuaded one of his employees, an 18-year-old named Russell Schroeder, to physically assaultDonald Voorhees in an effort to discourage the boy from testifying against him at his upcoming trial. The youth agreed to lure Voorhees to a secluded spot, spray Mace in his face and beat the youth upon the promise that if he did so, he would be paid $300. In early September, Schroeder lured Voorhees to an isolated county park, sprayed the Mace supplied by Gacy into the youth's eyes, then beat him, all the while shouting that the youth was not to testify against Gacy at his upcoming trial.
Voorhees immediately reported the assault to police, identifying Schroeder as his attacker, and the youth was arrested the following day. Despite initially denying any involvement, the youth confessed to having assaulted Voorhees, indicating that he had done so at Gacy's behest. Gacy was arrested and additionally charged in relation to hiring Schroeder to assault and intimidate Voorhees. On September 3, Gacy was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at the Psychiatric Hospital of the State University of Iowa. Two doctors examined Gacy over a period of 17 days and concluded he had antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), was unlikely to benefit from medical treatment, and whose behavior pattern was likely to bring him into repeated conflict with society. The doctors also concluded he was mentally competent to stand trial.
Conviction and imprisonment 
Upon advice from his attorney, Gacy entered a plea of guilty to one count of sodomy in relation to the charges filed against him by Donald Voorhees. He pleaded not guilty to the other charges lodged against him by other youths at a formal arraignment held on November 7, 1968. Before the judge, Gacy contended that he and Voorhees had indeed engaged in sexual relations, yet he insisted Voorhees had offered his sexual services to him and that he had acted out of curiosity. His story was not believed. Despite his lawyers' recommendations for parole, Gacy was convicted of sodomy on December 3, 1968, and sentenced to 10 years at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. The day Gacy was sentenced, his wife petitioned for divorce; requesting possession of the couple's home, property and subsequent alimony payments. The Court ruled in her favor and the divorce was finalized in September 1969. Gacy never saw his first wife or children again.
Inside the Anamosa State Penitentiary, Gacy rapidly acquired a reputation as a model prisoner. Within months of his arrival, he had risen to the position of head cook; Gacy also joined the inmate Jaycee chapter and increased their membership figure from 50 to 650 in the space of less than 18 months. He is also known to have both secured an increase in the inmates' daily pay in the prison mess hall and to have actively supervised several projects to improve conditions for inmates at the prison. On one occasion, Gacy oversaw the installation of a miniature golf course in the prison's recreation yard.
In June 1969, Gacy first applied to the State of Iowa Board of Parole for early release: this application was denied. In preparation for a second scheduled parole hearing in May 1970, Gacy completed 16 high school courses, for which he obtained his diploma in November 1969. Gacy's father died from cirrhosis of theliver on Christmas Day 1969. Gacy was not told that his father had died until two days after his death. When he heard the news, Gacy broke down in tears and had to be supported by prison staff. Gacy requested supervised compassionate leave from prison to attend his father's funeral, but his request was denied.