John Wayne Gacy is he focus of a new Netflix series
True Crime

Netflix’s new true crime series explores the life and crimes of John Wayne Gacy

In a chilling twist, he performed as a clown in children's hospitals

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Netflix delivers yet another chilling documentary series for true crime fans, this time about the disturbing trail of destruction left by serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

But who was he, and what led him to kill?

Where is he now, and how many victims did he sexual assault or kill?

Here’s everything you need to know about sex offender and serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the focus of Netflix‘s new documentary Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes.

***Warning: contains disturbing details of John Wayne Gacy’s crimes***

John Wayne Gacy poses for his mug shot
John Wayne Gacy poses with a sickening smile in his police mug shot (Credit: Netflix/YouTube)

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Who was John Wayne Gacy?

John Wayne Gacy was an aspiring politician who lived in Chicago.

He was also a popular local contractor, and part-time clown-for-hire.

The soon-to-be killer dressed as Pogo the Clown for kids’ parties and charity events around Chicago.

He was born on March 17 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, to mechanic John Stanley Gacy and homemaker Marion Elaine Robison, and had two sisters.

John Snr was reportedly an alcoholic who was physically abusive to his family, and cruel to his son John Jnr.

John Wayne Gacy was a closet homosexual, who felt unable to admit to his true sexuality.

What was his childhood like?

In 1949, John Wayne Gacy’s father discovered that his son and another boy had been caught sexually fondling a young girl.

His father whipped him with a razor strop as punishment.

The same year, a family friend and contractor would allegedly molest John Wayne Gacy in his truck – something the boy never told his father.

After leaving school, John Wayne Gacy became involved in politics, working as an assistant precinct captain for a Democratic Party candidate in his neighbourhood.

He went on to work within the ambulance service, became an attendant at a mortuary – where he admits fondling a dead body – and later worked in a salesman.

During his career, he managed a chain of KFC restaurants, before opening a ‘bar’ in the basement of his house.

He also worked as a cook, painter and decorator, and dabbled in politics.

His employment as a clown led to his gruesome nickname The Killer Clown.

What did John Wayne Gacy do?

During his time managing KFC, John Wayne Gacy joined the Waterloo Jaycees.

It was at this time, he became involved in wife swapping, prostitution, pornography, and drug use.

He also made advances towards boys after getting them drunk, but laughed it off if he was ever rebuffed.

In August 1967, Gacy sexually assaulted 15-year-old Donald Voorhees, the son of a fellow Jaycee.

Over the following months he abused several other youths – including one who he encouraged to have sex with his own wife before blackmailing him into performing oral sex on him.

John Wayne Gacy eventually graduated to sexual assault and murder.

He killed at least 33 teen boys and young men between 1972 and 1978.

John Wayne Gacy dressed as a clown
John Wayne Gacy worked as a clown in children’s hospitals (Credit: Netflix)

What were his early crimes?

In March 1968, Voorhees reported to his father that John Wayne Gacy had sexually assaulted him.

Voorhees Senior immediately informed the police.

The police arrested John Wayne Gacy and subsequently charged him with performing oral sodomy.

Police also charged him with the attempted assault of 16-year-old Edward Lynch.

On May 10 1968, police indicted Gacy on the sodomy charge.

After Gacy paid someone to intimidate and attack Voorhees, police arrested him and laid an additional charge of hiring Schroeder to assault and intimidate Voorhees against him.

On September 12 1968, John Wayne Gacy underwent a psychiatric evaluation.

A psychiatrist diagnosed him with an antisocial personality disorder  – also known as sociopathy and/or psychopathy.

The doctors concluded he was mentally competent to stand trial.

A judge convicted Gacy of sodomy and sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Gacy was granted parole with twelve months’ probation on June 18 1970, after only 18 months of his 10-year sentence.

Within months, police charged Gacy with sexually assaulting a teenage boy, however the charges were later dropped.

How did John Wayne Gacy kill and who were his victims?

John Wayne Gacy killed at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978 – sometimes two in one evening.

All were killed in his suburban Norwood Park ranch house, most of them strangled or asphyxiated.

John Wayne Gacy restrained his victims, before raping and torturing his victims by forcing fellatio, burning with cigars, and partly drowning them in the bathtub.

Gacy typically murdered his victims by placing a rope tourniquet around their neck before progressively tightening the rope with a hammer handle.

He referred to this act as the “rope trick”.

After their death, Gacy usually stored the victims’ bodies under his bed for up to 24 hours.

The killer then buried 26 of the bodies in the crawl space beneath his home.

Fifty years later, DNA scientists are still trying to identify all of his victims.

Gacy’s victims included people he knew and strangers he lured from Chicago’s Greyhound Bus station and other public places.

He promised jobs, drinks and/or drugs, or money for sex.

Some victims were grabbed by force; others were conned into believing Gacy was a policeman.

Only 28 of Gacy’s victims were conclusively identified.

Of these, the youngest were Samuel Stapleton and Michael Marino, who were both 14.

The eldest were Francis Alexander and Russell Nelson, both 21.

Five victims have never been identified.

Where did John Wayne Gacy kill?

John Wayne Gacy bought the ranch house 8213 West Summerdale Avenue in Cook County, Chicago.

He lived there until his arrest in December 1978.

John Wayne Gacy confessed to committing all his murders in the ranch house.

Behind closed doors, the serial killer committed heinous atrocities.

But to his neighbours, he was a sociable, well liked pillar of the community.

Mugshot of John Wayne Gacy
Father of two John Wayne Gacy murdered dozens of men between the years of 1972 and 1978 (Credit: Netflix)

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How was John Wayne Gacy caught?

Police finally caught John Wayne Gacy after he murdered 15-year-old shopworker Robert Piest.

Gacy murdered Robert on December 11 1978 by suffocation.

Robert’s parents became worried when he failed to return home.

They filed a missing person report with the police, who soon suspected Gacy as the last person to have seen the boy alive.

A routine check of Gacy’s criminal background revealed that he had an outstanding battery charge against him in Chicago and had served a prison sentence in Iowa for the sodomy of a 15-year-old boy.

At the request of detectives, Gacy prepared a written statement detailing his movements on December 11.

A search of Gacy’s home revealed several suspicious items, including several fake police badges and a 6mm Brevettata starter pistol .

Police also found a syringe and hypodermic needle, nylon rope, handcuffs, books on homosexuality and pederasty, pornographic films, capsules of amyl nitrite, and a dildo.

Several driver’s licenses were found in the northwest bedroom, and clothes that were too small to fit Gacy.

Police put Gacy on round-the-clock surveillance.

During a second search of the home, a police officer noticed a smell he suspected could be rotting corpses emanating from a heating duct.

When Robert Piest’s body was found dumped in the river, a drunk Gacy eventually confessed, saying he had been the “judge, jury and executioner of many, many people”.

Gacy showed no remorse and dismissed his victims as “male prostitutes”, “hustlers” and “liars”.

Police subsequently found the flesh, bones and body parts of several of Gacy’s victims.

Where is John Wayne Gacy now?

John Wayne Gacy is dead.

During his trial, John Wayne Gacy attempted to convince the doctors that he had multiple personality disorder, but failed.

Several of his victims – including Voorhees – testified against him.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours and found Gacy guilty of 33 charges of murder.

They also found him guilty of sexual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child.

In 1980, a judge sentenced John Wayne Gacy to death.

His execution was set for June 2 1980.

John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy was convicted of killing 33 young men between 1972 and 1978 and burying them on his property (Credit: Netflix)

How did John Wayne Gacy die?

John Wayne Gacy was executed in 1994, after more than a decade on death row and several failed appeals.

He was executed by lethal injection on May 10 of that year.

He was 52 at the time of his death, and his last words were: “Kiss my ass.”

For his final meal, Gacy ordered a bucket of KFC, a dozen fried shrimp, french fries, fresh strawberries and a Diet Coke.

His final statement to his lawyer before his execution was that killing him would not compensate for the loss of others, and that the state was murdering him.

After his death was confirmed at 12:58am on May 10 1994, his brain was removed and his body was cremated.

It is now the possession of Helen Morrison, a witness for the defence at Gacy’s trial.

Who was he married to?

John Wayne Gacy met Marlynn Myers while working as a salesman at Nunn-Bush Shoe Company.

He and Marlynn, a co-worker, soon became engaged.

After a six-month courtship, Gacy and Myers married in September 1964 although it’s clear now that he was gay.

With the marriage came his father’s acceptance at last.

Gacy’s wife gave birth to a son in February 1966 and a daughter in March 1967.

John Wayne Gacy later described this period of his life as “perfect”.

She filed for divorce when John Wayne Gacy was first sentenced for sodomy in 1968.

Gacy didn’t see his first wife or children ever again after the divorce was finalised on September 18 1969.

In August 1971, Gacy became engaged to his high school sweetheart Carole Hoff, and they married on July 1 1972.

Carole and her two young daughters from a previous marriage moved into Gacy’s home soon after the couple announced their engagement.

By 1975, Gacy had told his wife that he was bisexual, and informed her he would no longer have sex with her.

After seeing Gacy bring teenage boys into his garage in the early hours, and evidence of gay pornography, she asked Gacy for a divorce.

Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Tapes promo
A judge sentenced John Wayne Gacy to death (Credit: Netflix)

John Wayne Gacy release date on Netflix

Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes is currently streaming on Netflix.

The streaming giant dropped the limited series on Wednesday April 20 2022.

The series is three episodes long, and each instalment is one hour long.

Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes on Netflix

Streaming channel Netflix tells us about Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes: “He dined with the powerful.

“He preyed on the vulnerable.

“Beneath a smiling exterior was the horrifying darkness of a sadistic serial killer.”

The three-part limited series re-examines the crimes of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

Fifty years later, DNA scientists are still trying to identify all of his victims.

But, thanks to 60 hours of unearthed audio between Gacy and his defence team, the documentary offers a fresh perspective on the narcissistic mindset of the murderer.

The Netflix episodes give a deeper understanding of how John Wayne Gacy operated for so long with impunity.

It’s the second instalment in an ongoing series from filmmaker Joe Berlinger, the first being Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.

The three-part documentary also features new interviews with key participants, some of whom have never talked before.

New footage includes gut-wrenching testimony from one of Gacy’s survivors.

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Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Helen Fear
TV Editor