Serial Killer: John Wayne Gacy

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. His life
  3. The Murders
  4. Investigation and trial
  5. His Death
  6. Conclusion
  7. Reference


John Wayne Gacy was the serial killer who killed 33 young men. He was born on March 17, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois and died on May 10, 1994, in Joliet, Illinois. During that time in history, no one was convicted of killing so many people. He was a pillar of the community before he was convicted. The paper will talk about his life, criminal offenses, investigation and finally his death.

His life

John Wayne Gacy was born into a family that had three children. His father was an authoritarian type of parent; this led to severe disciplinary and verbal abuse. His father also was a violent alcoholic. Gacy was caught wearing women’s underwear during his teen years. He thought his father would think he was less than a man after being caught wearing the women’s underwear. No matter what he did, he couldn’t impress his father. He decided to run away after a disagreement with his dad.

He first got a job in the ambulance server. Eventually, he went to work in a mortuary. He had to leave the mortuary job because his boss started to find bodies that were undressed for no reason. After the mortuary job he took classes for business and also worked as a shoe salesman.

He married Marilynn Myers and then moved to Waterloo, Iowa to operate three stores owned by Marilynn’s father. In 1968 he was arrested for sodomy and was sentenced to ten years but only served eighteen months of his sentence. His wife divorced him, and he ended up moving back in with his mother who was now a widow. He was once again arrested, but the charges were dropped because the victim did not testify. He remarried in 1972. His new wife and mother started smelling a foul odor, but Gacy made up the excuse that it was sewer gas. In 1975, his mother moved out of the house. In October of that same year, his wife wanted a divorce. He had two more brushes with the law in 1978, one charge was dropped and the other one there were no criminal charges.

The Murders

John Wayne Gacy murdered young men and boys. The first person he murdered was a boy that he had picked up at a bus station in Chicago. The last murder was a boy named Rob Piest. The youngest male he murdered was fourteen, and the oldest was twenty-one. He killed a boy while his wife was taking care of his mother in 1975. He then killed six more boys in 1976.

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The method he used was to lure them to his house with drugs or money. He even sometimes posed as a police officer or forced them into his car by gunpoint. He suggested that there was an accomplice. Next, he would then attempt a sexual relationship with them which involved in handcuffing them, gagging them and drugging them and then sexually assaulting them. One account by a victim that Gacy released said he would be raped, strangled, be immersed under water, urinated on, and have items inserted into his rectum. It would be repeated severe times, and he even played Russian roulette with him. There is no telling what the victims who were murdered endured but they ended up strangled with a rope twisted by a stick. This was a consistent part of his MO. He buried them in the crawl space of his house, but some of the bodies were found in the Des Plaines River because he ran out of room in the crawl space of his home.

Investigation and trial

In December 1978, a boy disappeared. He told his family that he was going to see Gacy for a job and when he did not show up for his mother’s birthday that night the family called the police. This was the clue that guided law enforcement to catch Gacy. The police put him under 24-hour surveillance. Gacy allowed the police free access to his house to prove that he was innocent. A police officer noticed that when a furnace was kicked that the odor that originated at the duct smelled the same as in a morgue.

During the investigation, the investigators discovered that Gacy had sexually assaulted and murdered over thirty teenage boys. He eventually confessed to the murders. His lawyer asserted the insanity defense. His lawyers relied on four psychiatrists and psychologists to show that he was insane during the murders. “They argued he suffered from “pseudo-neurotic paranoid schizophrenia,” an illness that caused temporary psychosis so that Gacy had no awareness of or control over his actions” (Lauger, 2016). They also said he was projecting himself and his father.

On the prosecution side, the experts diagnosed him with the anti-social and narcissistic disorder. The prosecution also noted that his methods were well planned, thoughtful, and required a rational mind to complete. Gacy lied on the psychological test to seem worse than he was this coincided with someone who was a narcissist. Gacy Lawyers filed many appeals. The last one before his execution, his lawyers said “their 52-year-old client was mentally incompetent, that he was out of town at the time of 16 of the killings and that Illinois' method of execution was unconstitutional” (Kifner 1994).

His Death

“After years of unsuccessful appeals in both the state and federal systems, Gacy was executed by lethal injection in Illinois on May 10, 1994” (John Wayne Gacy, Jr 2002). His execution was delayed because the tube in his arm was clogged because there was a chemical reaction between the anesthetic and the serum that was meant to stop his breathing. “Like the police search for the killer and the judicial process that finally condemned him, the act of putting him to death was prolonged” (John, 1994). Some comments about him included ', He was very popular, very well liked. You just can't tell.', 'It wasn't like he had horns, or a sign,” and his lawyer said he was like a poster child for the death penalty (Kifner, 1994). Only twenty-four of the victims have been identified. Twenty years after his execution, the police announced that they would collect and test DNA of eight of his victims. They also decided to look through their old paperwork to search for men who were never found and that matched the profile of Gacy victims.


My theory on why he did these murders was closely tied to his father. He could never please his father in anything. He realized he was gay, but he feared what his father would think of it. Eventually, he came to terms he liked the same sex, but since he had no real experience with real love, he likely did not know the right way to express it. He could have been rejected and that would have solidified all the negative comments his father said to him. Even if he did come to terms that his sexuality, he likely subconsciously still feared what his father would think even when his father was dead. He could have subconsciously wanted to tarnish those boys who probably in his mind were better than him in some way. Even though I say this, I do not think it was all based on how he was treated. I say this because based on my research, he never felt guilty in killing any of the young men. I think he was a psychopath, to begin with, but with the way his father treated him, that just brought the psychopath to the surface.


  1. John Wayne Gacy. (1994). In Newsmakers. Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from
  2. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (2002). In World of Criminal Justice. Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from
  3. Kifner, J. (1994, May 11). Gacy, Killer of 33, Is Put To Death as Appeals Fail. New York Times. Retrieved from
  4. LAUGER, T. (2016). Gacy, John Wayne (1942–1994). In S. Chermak & F. Y. Bailey (Eds.), Crimes of the Centuries: Notorious Crimes, Criminals, and Criminal Trials in American History (Vol. 1, pp. 285-286). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Retrieved from
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