This story starts with John Wayne Gacy's torture and murders. Several boys that knew Gacy, just disappeared. At first, the police didn't believe Gacy was involved and he had no problem talking to them. The police got a search warrant and found some suspicious items in Gacy's home. From there, it all turned into a big game. Gacy loved toying with the detectives, inviting them over for drinks in his home, and going out to eat with them. He was definitely keeping his enemies close. Gacy thought he was outsmarting everyone, but the detectives that he invited into his home, smelled something that they were very familiar with.....rotting corpses.
Here's a recap of our first episode on John Wayne Gacy. He grew up with an alocholic father who beat him and when he got old enough to leave, he drove to Las Vegas and became an attendant at a funeral home for three months, but he had to dip because he climbed into a coffin with a dead boy and fondled his corpse. He went to college, got married, joined a local Jaycee club and managing KFCs. He eventually started his own business called PDM, but only hired boys and young men to work for him. Gacy was accused several times of sexually assaulting boys, but he still received clearance from the United States Secret Service and was photographed with the first lady, oopsies! Now, you're all caught up. As promised, we are starting today's story, with Gacy's first known murder.
We've talked a lot about Gacy's background, we're getting to his violent years now and it's dark and graphic, so there's your warning. Gacy ended up murdering at least 33 young men and boys. 26 of them were buried in the crawl space in his house. Typically, Gacy liked to lure the boys to his home when they were alone, so he would have a single victim. On 3 occasions, he lured two victims to be killed on the same night. Several victims were promised jobs with PDM, or he would offer drinks, drugs, or even money for sex. He took people he knew or even found individuals from the bus station, or off the streets. Some victims were grabbed by force, others were conned to go with him.
When Gacy brought a victim to his home, he would often start them out with drinks and drugs to gain their trust. Then, he would pull out his handcuffs and show them a magic trick, sometimes it was part of his clown routine. He would cuff his own hands behind his back, then release them with the hidden key between his fingers. Gacy would offer to show the victim how they could get out of the cuffs too. This is how he got the cuffs on them.
Once he had them restrained, he would rape and torture his victims. He often started by sitting on their chest before forcing them to perform oral. Next, he would torture them by burning them with cigars, forcing them to imitate a horse as he sat on their backs, and would violate them with dildos or prescription bottles. Gacy typically restrained the victim's legs to a two-by-four with handcuffs attached at each end. He drug several victims to his bathroom and would partially drown them in the bathtub and would repeatedly revive them so he could continue the abuse.
Most of Gacy's victims were murdered by placing a rope tourniquet around their necks and tightening. He often told them this was his last trick and on one occasion, he read part of Psalm 23 while he was tightening the rope. Sometimes, the victims would convulse for 1-2 hours before dying and several died from asphyxiation from the cloth gags he stuffed deep in their throats. All victims, except the last two, were murdered between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM. After the murders, Gacy often stored the bodies under his bed for up to 24 hours before they were buried in the crawl space and he would pour quicklime on them to speed up the decomposition. Quicklime basically burns your skin off. A few of Gacy's victims were embalmed in the garage prior to burial.
Gacy's first KNOWN murder was January 2nd, 1972. According to Gacy, he attended a family party and afterwards, he went for a drive to the Civic Center in the Loop to see the ice sculpture display. When he drove by the Greyhound Bus Terminal, he lured 16-year-old Timothy Jack McCoy into his car. They drove around Chicago for some sightseeing, then Gacy drove the young boy to his home and told him he could spend the night and then he would be driven back to the station in the morning so he could catch his bus.
Gacy claims he woke up early the next morning and Timothy was standing in his bedroom doorway with a kitchen knife in his hand. Gacy jumped from his bed and Timothy put his arms up in the air, as if he was like, showing he was going to surrender. The knife accidentally cut Gacy's forearm and Gacy twisted the knife out of Timothy's grasp, banged his head into the wall, and kicked him against his wardrobe. He says Timothy kicked him in the stomach and the two were wrestling on the floor. Gacy straddled him and stabbed Timothy in the chest repeatedly.
Timothy was lying on the floor, dying, and Gacy figured this was a good time to go wash the knife in the bathroom. This made him very hungry, so, he went to the kitchen. Gacy found an opened carton of eggs and a slab of bacon on the table......and the table was set for two. It turns out, Timothy was making breakfast for the two of them and had the kitchen knife in his hand as he walked in to wake Gacy up. Timothy's body was buried in Gacy's crawl space and later covered with concrete. During an interview, Gacy mentioned that he felt “totally drained” after stabbing Timothy and he listened to his “gurglations” and gasps for air.....he experienced a mind-numbing orgasm and realized at this time, that death was the ultimate thrill.
Gacy says his second murder was around January of 1974. This victim remains unidentified, but he says he strangled him and placed his body in his closet before burial. Bodily fluids leaked from the victim's mouth and nose, which stained the carpet. This was the moment that Gacy realized he would need to stuff something in the victim's mouths to prevent them from leaking.
On July 31st, 1975, an employee of Gacy's, 18-year-old, John Butkovich, disappeared. His car was discovered near the corner of Sheridan and Lawrence with his jacket, wallet and keys inside. The day before he disappeared, John had confronted Gacy because he owed him two weeks of pay. John's father called Gacy and he said he'd be happy to help search, but was sorry he had run away. The police questioned Gacy and he explained that John and two friends came over to his house and they demanded he pay John the money that was owed, but they reached a compromise and the boys left.
Over the next three years, John's parents called the police over 100 times and kept begging for the police to investigate Gacy further. Later, during an interview, Gacy admitted that he ran into John on a street corner. John approached his car and said they needed to talk. Gacy invited him into his car and said they could go back to his place and work out the issue with the payment. When they got back to the home, Gacy gave John a drink, cuffed his hands behind his back, sat on his chest for awhile, then strangled him. He put John's body in the garage with the intentions of putting him in the crawl space later, but his wife and stepdaughters returned earlier than he expected. So, he had to bury John's body under the concrete floor in the garage.
Most of Gacy's murders happened between 1976 and 1978 because he lived alone after his divorce. He referred to this time as his “cruising years”. He began driving around finding young males to have sex with. Several neighbors later said that they noticed Gacy's behavior drastically changed after the divorce. They often saw him with young males at the home and they could hear his car arriving or leaving at odd hours. Now, this is where I want to say.....IF YOU SEE OR HEAR SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. One of the neighbor's says that for several years, they often heard sounds of muffled high-pitch screams, shouting, and crying. This repeatedly woke her son up. I can't imagine what this person has gone through, knowing that he was hearing people being murdered as a child.
A month after Gacy's divorce was finalized in 1976, he abducted and murdered 18-year-old Darrell Samson. Darrell was last seen in Chicago on April 6th, 1976. Gacy buried him under the dining room and put cloth in his throat. On May 14th, of this same year, 15-year-old Randall Reffett disappeared while he was walking home from high school. Just hours later, 14-year-old Samuel Stapleton disappeared as he was walking home from his sister's apartment. The two boys were both buried together in the crawl space and it's believed that they were both murdered on the same night.
On June 3rd, 17-year-old Michael Bonnin disappeared. Gacy strangled Michael with a ligature and buried him under the spare bedroom. Ten days later, 16-year-old William Carroll was murdered and buried in the crawl space. William Carroll is believed to be the first of four victims that were murdered between June 13th and August 6th of 1976. Three of the victims were between 16 and 17 years old and once appears to be an adult.
On August 5th, 16-year-old James Haakenson from Minnesota called his family and then disappeared. He was murdered and buried in the crawl space beneath the body of a 17-year old, Rick Johnston who was last seen on August 6th.
It's believed that two other males were murdered between August and October 1976. On October 24th, Gacy abducted and killed teenage friends Kenneth Parker and Michael Marino. The pair was last seen outside a restaurant on Clark Street in Chicago. Two days later, 19-year-old William Bundy disappeared after telling his family he was going to a party. He died from suffocation and was buried under the the master bedroom. William was an employee of Gacy's.
In December of 1976, another PDM employee, 17-year-old Gregory Godzik disappeared. He had just gone on a date with his girlfriend and had driven her home. He had been working for PDM for just three weeks and told his family that Gacy had him digging trenches for drain tiles in a crawl space. Gregory's car was found abandoned and his family contacted Gacy. He claimed that Gregory told him he was running away from home and that he received a message on his answering machine from Gregory. His parents were like, ok, play us the message, but Gacy claimed it was already erased.
On January 20th, 1977, 19-year-old John Szyc went to Gacy's home with the intentions of buying his Plymouth Satellite. Gacy strangled him in his spare bedroom, while his roommate, Michael Rossi was asleep. Then, Gacy sold John's car to Michael for $300.
Between December 1976 and March 1977, Gacy murdered an adult male and buried them in the crawl space under the body of 20-year-old Jon Prestidge from Michigan, who disappeared March 15th. Jon Prestidge had told people that the was working for a local contractor shortly before his disappearance.
Another unidentified youth was buried in the crawl space in the spring or early summer of 1977. On July 5th ,Gacy murdered 19-year-old Matthew Bowman who was last seen at the suburban train station by his mom.
In August, Gacy's roommate, Michael Rossi, was arrested for stealing gasoline. At the time, he was driving John Szyc's car and the gas station attendant was able to get the license plate number and the police traced the car to Gacy's house. Gacy told police that John sold him the car in February and claimed he needed money to get out of town. They were like, yeah that makes, sense, no need to investigate this any further.
By the end of year in 1977, Gacy had murdered six more men between the ages of 16 and 21. The first victim was 18-year-old Robert Gilroy, the son of a Chicago police sergeant. Robert was last seen on September 15th, lived 4 blocks from Gacy, and was buried in the crawl space. On September 12th, Gacy was supervising a remodeling project and flew to Pittsburgh and wasn't back in town until the 16th. Since it was known that he was in another state at the time of Robert's disappearance, this may prove that Gacy wasn't working alone in his murders. I'll let that simmer in your brain for a bit and we will circle back to it. Ten days after the last day Robert Gilroy was seen alive, 19-year-old former US Marine John Mowery disappeared after he left his mother's house to walk to his apartment. John Mowery was strangled and his body was buried under the master bedroom.
On October 17th, 21-year-old Russell Nelson from Minnesota, disappeared and was last seen outside a Chicago bar. Russell had been looking for contracting work and was murdered and buried under the guest bedroom. A few weeks later, 16-year-old Robert Winch from Kalamazoo, Michigan, was murdered and buried in the crawl space. On November 18th, 20-year-old Tommy Boling disappeared after leaving a Chicago bar.
On December 9th, 19-year-old US Marine, David Talsma disappeared after telling his mother he was attending a rock concert in Hammond. He was strangled with a ligature and buried in the crawl space, near the body of John Mowery.
On December 30th, 19-year-old Robert Donnelly was abducted at gunpoint from a Chicago bus stop. He was driven to Gacy's, raped, tortured, repeatedly dunked in the bathtub until he passed out, and taunted. Gacy said things to him like, “Aren't we playing fun games tonight?” We know that this is true, because Robert Donnelly survived his attack. He later testified at Gacy's trial that the pain and torture was so awful, that he asked Gacy to kill him. Gacy told him, “I'm getting around to it.” For some reason, he didn't kill him and after several hours of torture, he drove Robert Donnely to his workplace, released him, and warned that if he went to the police, they would never believe him.
Robert Donnelly DID go to the police and reported what happened. Gacy was questioned on January 6th 1978. He admitted to having a “slave-sex” relationship with Donnelly, but said it was all consensual and mentioned that he didn't pay the kid the money he promised. The police thought this sounded legit and no charges were filed. Gacy was obviously no stranger to the police and had already been questioned many times before about assaults and disappearances. It absolutely BLOWS my mind that this was just shrugged off again.
The next month, Gacy murdered 19-year-old William Kindred, who disappeared February 16th after telling his fiance he was going to a bar. William was the last victim to be buried in the crawl space.
On March 21st, Jeffrey Rignall got into Gacy's car. He was chloroformed and driven to Gacy's home. When they got there, his arms and head were restrained in a pillroy device, which is essentially a medieval torture device. It's like one of those wooden frames that has a hole for head and hole for your hands and can be locked. Back in the day, this was used for public shaming. Jeffrey Rignall was raped and tortured with candles and whips and repeatedly chloroformed into unconsciousness. When Gacy was done with tormenting his victim, he drove him to Chicago's Lincoln Park and dropped him off. He was unconscious, but alive.
Somehow, Jeffrey Rignall was able to get himself to his girlfriend's apartment. The police were contacted about the assault and he was able to recall the Oldsmobile, the Kennedy Expressway and some side streets. This guy was not going to leave this up to the police. He decided to round up some of his buddies and do some investigating on his own. Jeffrey Rignall and two friends staked out the Cumberland exit of the Expressway and in April, he saw the Oldsmobile and they followed to 8213 West Summerdale. Police obtained an arrest warrant and Gacy was finally arrested on July 15th.........BUT IT WAS ONLY FOR THE BATTERY AGAINST RIGNALL.
During interviews that happened later on, because Gacy still hasn't been caught yet, he admitted that by 1978, the crawl space was full and he couldn't fit anymore bodies in there. He considered throwing bodies in his attic, but he was worried that there may be leakage and didn't want a mess. He figured he could just start throwing the victims off the I-55 bridge in the Des Plaines River. He admitted to throwing five bodies in the river in 1978, but thought one may have landed on a passing barge. Only four of the five bodies were recovered.
The first known victim to be thrown from the bridge was 20-year-old Timothy O'Rourke. He was murdered in June after leaving his Dover Street apartment to purchase cigarettes. Shortly before his disappearance, he told his roommate about a contractor that had recently offered him a job.
On November 4th, 19-year-old Frank Landingin had been murdered and his body was discovered in the river on November 12th. On November 24th, 20-year-old James Mazzara disappeared after he had Thanksgiving dinner with his family. He told his sister he was working in the construction industry. Is anyone sensing a theme here?
On December 11th, 1978, Gacy went to Nisson Pharmacy in Des Plaines to talk to the owner about some potential remodeling. There was a 15-year-old employee named Robert Piest and Gacy made sure to mention that he often hired teenage boys for $5 an hour, which is double what he made at the pharmacy. Soon after Gacy left the store, Robert's mother arrived to pick up her son to take him to celebrate her birthday. He asked his mom to wait and said there was a contractor that wanted to talk to him about a job. Around 9PM, he asked his mother to wait for him and headed to the back parking lot. At about 10PM he was murdered at Gacy's home. It was later discovered that Gacy took a business call as Robert lay dying and suffocating on his bedroom floor.
When Robert didn't return back to the store, his family filed a missing person report and the store owner was able to name Gacy as the contractor that Robert had gone to see. Investigators spoke to the family and became convinced that this wasn't just a runaway situation. They did a routine check for Gacy's criminal background and discovered he had that outstanding battery charge against him. They wondered, should they investigate Gacy further?
Two Des Plaines officers visited Gacy at his home the next night. He told them that he saw two young kids working at the pharmacy and asked one, whom he believed was Robert, if there were remodeling materials behind the store. He said he never offered any of them a job and was back at the pharmacy after 8PM because he left his appointment book there. He promised that he would stop by the station later to make a statement confirming this information. He was unable to do so right away because his uncle had just died. The police asked when he would be able to get to the station and Gacy said, “You guys are very rude. Don't you have any respect for the dead?”
I watched Psychic Investigators Season 3, episode 3.
An interesting thing happened here. The police thought that they should try consulting a psychic. They made an appointment for that very night with Carol Broman. The detective handed Robert's camera to the psychic and she said she was getting sick to her stomach, there was torture and Robert Piest was dead. She said there was a construction site affiliated with the murderer and that they would find six or seven other bodies buried in the same place. The police are looking for one person, now there's multiple? The psychic let them know one more thing......she said, Robert doesn't know he's dead.
Around 3:20 AM, Gacy arrived at the police station, covered in mud. I wonder if their first thought was that he just buried his uncle......but, Gacy claimed he was involved in a car accident. Boy, this guy has really bad luck. He came back to the station later that day and denied any involvement in Robert's disappearance and confirmed that he never offered him a job. The police called the store owner and he said Gacy never left an appointment book at the store and he never came back a second time after he left that night. There you go, they finally caught Gacy in a lie. They had him write down his whole statement on December 11th. At this time, police actually thought Gacy was holding Robert at his home against his will. They obtained a search warrant on December 13th and searched the house.
During the search, there were a few suspicious items discovered. They found several police badges, a 6mm Brevettata starter pistol, a syringe a hypodermic needle, handcuffs, books on homosexuality, porno films, capsules of amyl nitrite (relaxes blood vessels and increases the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart), an 18 inch dildo, a 39-inch two-by-four with two holes drilled into each end, bottles of Valium, several driver's licenses for other boys, a blue hooded parka, small underwear that clearly didn't belong to Gacy, a 1975 Maine West High School ring engraved with the initials J.A.S. a Nisson Pharmacy receipt and nylon rope.
This all looks bad, but maybe there's a perfectly logical explanation. Just to be sure, the police confiscated the Oldsmobile and other PDM work vehicles as well. Two men were assigned to be Gacy's surveillance team and were rotating every twelve hours. The next day, after the team was assembled, the police received a call from Michael Rossi, who told them about Gregory Godzik's disappearance and also pointed out that another PDM employee, Charles Hattula, had been discovered in an Illinois river earlier that year.
On December 15th, investigators found out further details of that battery charge against Gacy. They decided to interview Gacy's former wife and she told them about the disappearance of John Butkovich. They were able to trace the Maine West High School ring to John Alan Szyc. They interviewed his mother and she said several items from her son's apartment had gone missing, including a Motorola TV set.
By December 16th, Gacy was really hitting it off with the surveillance detectives. He regularly invited them to join him for meals in restaurants and would invite them for drinks at bars or even at his home. He denied all of the accusations and accused the officers of harassing him because of his political connections or possibly because of his recreational drug use. Gacy began taunting the officers. He didn't obey the traffic laws and was able to lose the officers that pursued him on more than one occasion. It was all a game to him.
On December 17th, Gacy's Oldsmobile was examined. In the trunk of the car, a small cluster of fibers was discovered and looked similar to human hair. A test was conducted with three trained German Shepherd search dogs. One of the dogs approached the vehicle and laid down on the passenger side and the handler said this was a death reaction. Later that night, Gacy invited two detectives to a restaurant for dinner. The next morning, he invited them to another restaurant for breakfast. They discussed business, marriage, and the fact that he was a registered clown. At one point, Gacy looked at the detectives and said, “You know, clowns can get away with murder.”
Even though Gacy was having his fun toying with the investigators, they could tell it was wearing him down. He began to look very tired, unshaven, and appeared anxious and was drinking more. On the afternoon of December 18th, Gacy went to his lawyer's office to prepare a $750k civil suit against the Des Plaines police and demanded they cease their surveillance. On this same day, the serial number from the Nisson Pharmacy receipt that was found in Gacy's kitchen, was traced back to 17-year-old Kim Byers. She worked at the pharmacy with Robert and explained that back on December 11th, it was a cold day, she was wearing a parka and placed a receipt in the pocket. That day, her co-worker, Robert, was going to speak to a contractor, so, she gave him the coat.
Uh oh. This means Gacy lied. On December 19th, investigators were gathering evidence for another search warrant and during the same time, Gacy's lawyers filed the civil suit against the police. The hearing would be scheduled for December 22nd. Perhaps Gacy thought this was cause for a little celebration? Who knows what he was thinking. He invited the surveillance detectives inside his home again. Officer Robinson distracted Gacy with conversation and officer Schultz headed to Gacy's room. He attempted to get the serial number from the Motorola TV set. While flushing Gacy's toilet, he noticed something....an awful something. He could smell rotting corpses in the heating duct. The previous searchers never noticed this because the house had been cold.
Gacy's old roommate, Michael Rossi was brought in again for questioning on December 20th. They asked if he had any idea where Robert's Piest's body may be. Michael said he dug trenches in the crawl space and the body could be there and he agreed to take a polygraph test. He denied having anything to do with Robert's disappearance and said he had no knowledge about where they boy was. All of a sudden, he became erratic and refused to finish the polygraph test.
We are going to end things here. Join us next week for part 3, we plan to kick things off with Gacy's confession.
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