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American Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy


John Wayne Gacy was an American serial killer who killed 33 victims. He was born in 1942 and died in 1994 after injection with a lethal chemical. He was famously known as the killer clown, a name he earned from his habit of murdering people despite his generous and charitable work (Bell & Bardsley, n.d). All his murders were committed in Chicago, Illinois, and involved youthful men and teenage boys. He managed to murder many people because of his secretive method of killing victims. He lured them into his home and then killed them. After killing them, Gacy would bury the corpses of his victims within his home compound (Bell & Bardsley, n.d). It was thus difficult to discover his heinous acts. After his capture, he was convicted of 33 separate cases of murder and was sentenced to death. Before execution, Gacy was under death row for 14 years and he was finally executed in 1994.

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Role of his family

Gacy was born in family of three children: two sisters, and himself. His parents were of Polish and Danish origins. He was overweight, a factor that made him spend most of his time alone because his peers were fond of making fun of him. He had a good relationship with his mother and two sisters. However, his relationship with his father was a strained one. His father was abusive because he was an alcoholic (Bellware, 2013). He would physically abuse Gacy and his siblings. Gacy’s main childhood goal was to make his father proud by doing what he asked of him. However, his father neither praised nor complimented him (Bell & Bardsley, n.d). He always scolded and rebuked him. At one time, his father beat him up for messing up with a car engine that he had put together. Gacy always felt inferior because his father compared him to his other siblings. In addition, he was always referred to as an unintelligent child. His childhood was awash with conflicts between him and his father. During another instance, Gacy stole a toy from a retail shop in their neighborhood. As a form of punishment, his father beat him thoroughly. After this incident, his mother tried to protect him from his father’s abuse. However, it made matters worse. His father scolded him for seeking protection from his mother. The menial treatment that Gacy received from his father contributed significantly to his behavior in adulthood (Bellware, 2013). He always felt inferior and of little value. On the other hand, he grew up experiencing physical violence meted on her mother and two sisters by his father. This turned his outlook on life and made him violent and inconsiderate (Bellware, 2013). Gacy was a victim of bullying and mockery from his peers. The harsh treatment that he got at home and at school was unbearable and did little to bring him happiness. Gacy had a heart condition that made him stay out of school for long periods. His absence had a toll on his schoolwork. His father saw his son’s predicament as an excuse to seek sympathy.

How Gacy evolved into a killer

After getting married, Gacy moved to Waterloo, Iowa, to be with his wife. His father-in-law admired his business skills and relinquished the management of the family business to him. His hard work and generosity made him a famous figure in the community (Bellware, 2013). Despite his excellent work, Gacy’s character deteriorated and instead, he started to associate himself with pornography, drugs, and prostitution (Bell & Bardsley, n.d). He started to cheat on his wife, which led to deterioration of their marriage. Gacy even established a club on the basement of his family house and invited young boys to party with him. It was during these events that he made sexual advances to the boys (Bellware, 2013). His first criminal act involved two boys that he had sexually assaulted. To make matters worse, Gacy hired another boy to beat one of them. Fortunately, the hired boy was apprehended. Gacy was arrested, and voluntarily pleaded guilty to assault charges. He was convicted and awarded a sentence of 10 years. As a result, his wife requested for divorce. Gacy was irritated by his wife’s move and in anger, told her that he would not consider them as part of his family anymore (Blanco, n.d). That life changing moment worsened his character. After serving one and half years, Gacy was released on parole and moved to Chicago to start a new life. It was in Chicago that he committed his second crime by attempting to rape a young man. However, the case was thrown out of court because the alleged victim declined to attend the court hearing (Blanco, n.d). One year later, he was arrested again for battery and sexual assault. The victim claimed that he was battered and forced to engage in homosexual acts. However, the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. After this incident, he started to commit murder in secrecy (Philbin & Philbin, 2009). Many of his victims would turn down his sexual advances. In retaliation, he would lure them into his home and murder them.

How police captured him

Gacy’s capture was initiated by the disappearance of a young boy known as Robert Piest (Blanco, n.d). Before he vanished, Piest had informed a co-worker about a meeting with a contractor. Incidentally, the same co-worker had earlier heard Gacy talk to another person about looking for people to do a remodeling job. He was able to connect the dots and associate Gacy with the disappearance of Piest. Police started investigations on Gacy immediately. After checking his criminal records, they discovered that he had been jailed for sodomy. They initiated a search of his house where they made several discoveries that revealed a lot of information. They found several driving licenses and a ring, which belonged to his victims. In addition, they noticed a foul smell emanating from a hole beneath the floor of his house (Blanco, n.d). They also recovered a receipt from the pharmacy where Piest worked. After the search, the police conducted further investigations. They discovered that another boy named Godzik had disappeared. Further investigations revealed that the ring recovered from Gacy’s house belonged to a boy known as Szyc (Philbin & Philbin, 2009). The police made further discoveries during a second search of his house. They discovered human bones on the space under the floor of the house (Blanco, n.d). After realizing that he would face the jury for murder, Gacy confessed voluntarily and owned up to murdering more than 33 people (Blanco, n.d). He also confessed that all victims were buried in his home compound. However, after it became full, he discarded the rest of the corpses into the river. He was arrested and put on trial to face murder charges.

Number of victims

Gacy had killed 33 people, which were mainly young people and boys (Newton, 2006). He buried 27 of his victims under the floor of his house. Others were discarded into rivers after he ran out of space to bury them. He used cunning techniques to advance his heinous acts. He was in the habit of arranging parties for his neighbors and friends in his house (Philbin & Philbin, 2009). He was also very generous and played active roles in charity events. Gacy used his public appearances as a decoy to his actions. His preferred method of executing his victims was strangulation (Newton, 2006). However, he killed his first victim by stabbing him to death. He confessed to police that he used to lure teenagers and male prostitutes into his house where he would make sexual advances. If the victim declined, he would use force to assault them. Gacy died in 1994 after injection with a lethal chemical (Newton, 2006). This was after serving 14 years on death row.

Trial and execution

After apprehension, Gacy’s trial commenced in 1980. In court, he claimed that his actions resulted from his unstable mental condition (Newton, 2006). His lawyer claimed that his mental instability was periodical and only appeared a few moments before committing the murders. Gacy was not apologetic and at one time said that his only action that was punishable was operating an illegal cemetery in his house. His lawyers also made attempts to ascribe his actions to asphyxia but the claims were disproved (Philbin & Philbin, 2009). The court found him guilty and sentenced him to death. His execution took place at Stateville Correctional Centre. He was injected with lethal chemicals. The people rejoiced when prison officers announced that he was dead. Officers present during his execution stated that he was not remorseful for his actions (Philbin & Philbin, 2009).

Lessons learnt

I have learnt several things after completing this paper. First, the type of childhood that an individual goes through is critical in determining the type of adults they become. It is very important for parents to take care and protect their children because negative events affect them significantly. Secondly, serial killers murder people because of the negative effects of their childhood experiences. The belittling, physical violence, and condescending experiences that Gacy experienced contributed to his monstrous actions. Thirdly, serial killers develop their habits gradually and their urge to kill grows with every murder they commit

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John Wayne Gacy was an American serial killer who killed 33 victims mainly by strangling them. His childhood experiences contributed significantly towards his serial-killing adult life. He had a strained relationship with his father who used to abuse his mother and siblings physically. In school, he was bullied and segregated because he was fat. In addition, poor academic performance made his father describe him as dumb. He evolved into a serial killer after becoming overly interested in drugs, prostitution, and pornography. He used to invite boys to his parties and make sexual advances. His capture came after the disappearance of Piest. After investigations, police discovered bones of his victims that were buried in his compound. He was captured and tired in court where he was convicted for murder. He was sentenced to death, and he was finally executed in 1994.


Bell, R., & Bardsley, M. n.d. John Wayne Gacy Jr.

Bellware, K. (2013). John Wayne Gacy Crawl Space Excavation Investigator Shares Details, Photos. Web.

Blanco, J. n.d. John Wayne Gacy Jr.

Newton, M. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. New York: Infobase publishing.

Philbin, T., & Philbin, M. (2009). Killer Book of Serial Killers: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the World of Serial Killers. New York: Sourcebooks.

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