John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer and rapist, who sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois.
Gacy’s first legal troubles began in March 1968, when a teenager named Donald Voorhees told his father that Gacy had sexually assaulted him the year prior. Donald Voorhees Sr. immediately informed the police and Gacy was arrested and charged with oral sodomy and the attempted assault of a 16-year-old named Edward Lynch. Gacy vehemently denied the charges and subsequently demanded to take a polygraph test to clear his name. However, after taking the test, the results indicated that was nervous when he was denied any wrongdoing to either Voorhees or Lynch.
Gacy publicly claimed that the accusations were politically motivated as Voorhees Sr. had opposed Gacy’s appointment as the president of the Iowa Jaycees, the United States Junior Chamber. Gacy’s fellow Jaycees believed his story rallied around him to show support. However, on May 10, 1968, Gacy was indicted a charge of sodomy.
Then on August 30, 1968, Gacy persuaded his employee Russell Schroeder to physically assault Voorhees to discourage the teen from testifying against him. In early September, Schroeder lured Voorhees to an isolated park, sprayed mace into the youth’s eyes, then beat him up while yelling at him not to testify against Gacy. Voorhees escaped and immediately reported the assault to the police, identifying Schroeder as his attacker. Schroeder was arrested and confessed to having assaulted Voorhees at Gacy’s request. Gacy was arrested and additionally charged in relation to his hiring Schroeder to assault and intimidate a witness.
On September 12, 1968, Gacy was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He underwent examination by two doctors over a period of 17 days before concluding he had an antisocial personality disorder (a disorder which incorporates constructs such as sociopathy and psychopathy) and as a result was unlikely to benefit from any therapy or medical treatment, and his disorder would likely to bring him into repeated conflict with society. In addition to that diagnosis, the doctors concluded he was mentally competent for trial.
Gacy entered a plea of guilty to one count of sodomy but pleaded not guilty to the other charges lodged against him by other youths at a formal arraignment held on November 7, 1968. Despite his lawyers’ recommendations for probation, Gacy was convicted of sodomy on December 3, 1968. He was sentenced to 10 years at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. On the day of his conviction, his wife filed for divorce, requesting sole custody of their two children. Gacy never saw his first wife or children again
While in prison, Gacy was a model prisoner and thus he was granted parole with 12 months’ probation on June 18, 1970, after serving only 18 months of his 10-year sentence. He had two conditions of his probation: first, that he would relocate to Chicago to live with his mother and two that he was to observe a 10 p.m. curfew with the Iowa Board of Parole receiving regular updates as to his progress.
Upon his release, he moved in with his mother in Chicago. On February 12, 1971, Gacy was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy, but when the boy failed to appear in court, the case was dismissed. The Iowa Board of Parole did not learn of this incident and eight months later, in October 1971, Gacy’s parole ended. Following the end of his parole, his record in Iowa was sealed.
Gacy certainly tried to keep up appearances, buying a house and becoming engaged to Carole Hoff, a divorcee with two young daughters. One week before his wedding, Gacy was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and reckless conduct after attempting to get a youth to perform oral sex on him. The charges were eventually dropped after it was revealed that the youth was trying to blackmail Gacy into paying money to drop the charges
After divorcing his new wife, Gacy went on a killing spree, murdering dozens of young men. In 1978, Gacy lured a man named Jeffrey Rignall into his car and eventually raped tortured him and left him in a park to die. Eventually the man went back to the area he was abducted and recognized Gacy’s car driving by. On July 15, police issued an arrest warrant and arrest Gacy. He faced an impending trial for a battery charge for the Rignall incident.
While awaiting trial, Gacy killed several more young boys, the last of which was Robert Jerome Piest, a 15-year-old whom he tricked into doing some “work” for him. After being under surveillance for months, Gacy eventually confessed the murders to his attorney Sam Amirante, who was representing him in a civil case against the Des Plaines police, on Dec. 20, 1978. Knowing his arrest was imminent, Gacy began drunkenly confessing to his friends.
On Dec. 21, police obtained a search warrant to search Gacy’s crawl space. They soon found body parts and then dozens of bodies. Gacy was arrested on Dec. 22, 1978. He eventually confessed to killing around 30 young men or teens. Upon searching, police discovered 26 bodies in his crawl space.
Gacy was eventually charged with 33 counts of murder and on February 6, 1980 his trial began. The prosecution team was headed by lawyer William Kunkle, who served as assistant state’s attorney to Cook County from 1973 to 1985. He was tried in Cook County, Illinois, before Judge Louis Garippo. The jury was selected from the city of Rockford because of the press coverage in Cook County.
Gacy pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges against him. However, since Gacy confessed to the crimes, the arguments were focused on whether or not he could be declared insane and thus sent to a state mental facility instead of a prison. Prosecutors argued that he was of sound mind.
Gacy’s defense team tried to argue the possibility that all 33 murders were accidental erotic asphyxia deaths. However, multiple of the men Gacy abused or assaulted testified at the trial.
On March 11, Prosecuting attorney Terry Sullivan gave his closing argument, outlining Gacy’s history of abuse. Meanwhile Gacy’s lawyer gave a four-hour closing. The attorney cited several of Gacy’s doctors in his arguments.
The jury deliberated for less than two hours and found Gacy guilty of 33 charges of murder. He was also found guilty of sexual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child in regards to Robert Piest. As for the sentencing phase, the jury deliberated for more than two hours before sentencing Gacy to death for the twelve counts of murder.
Gacy was transferred to the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois, where he remained for 14 years. After a last meal of fried chicken, fried shrimp, French fries, Coke and strawberry shortcake, Gacy was executed on May 10, 1994.
His final words were: “Kiss my ass.”
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