The notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy was born on March 17, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. The son of Danish and Polish parents, Gacy and his siblings grew up with a drunken father who would beat the children with a razor strap if they were perceived to have misbehaved; the man physically assaulted Gacy's mother as well. Gacy's sister Karen would later say that the siblings learned to toughen up against the beatings and that John would not cry. John Wayne Gacy faced an abusive childhood and conflict over his sexuality.
Gacy worked as a fast-food chain manager during the 1960s and became a self-made building contractor and Democratic precinct captain in Chicago's Norwood Park Community in the 1970s.
Well-liked in his community and a clown performer at children's parties, Gacy also organized cultural gatherings. He was married and divorced twice and had biological children and stepchildren.
Yet Gacy had a highly disturbing history. He was convicted in 1968 and given a 10-year prison term in relation to the sexual assault of two teen boys. He was released on parole in the summer of 1970 but was arrested the following year again after another teen accused Gacy of sexual assault; the charges were dropped when the boy didn't appear during the trial. By the middle of the decade, two more young males accused Gacy of rape, and he would be questioned by police about the disappearances of others.
It was later discovered that he had committed his first known killing in 1972, taking the life of Timothy McCoy after luring the teen to his home.
In 1978, 15-year-old Robert Piest went missing. It was reported to police that the boy had last been seen by his mother as he was headed to Gacy's in relation to a potential job. On December 21, a police search of Gacy's house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, Chicago, Illinois,  uncovered evidence of his involvement in numerous horrific acts, including murder. It would later be determined that Gacy had killed 33 boys and young men, the majority of whom had been buried under his house and garage, while others would be recovered from the nearby Des Plaines River. The Des Plaines police were responsible for solving the murders.
Gacy lured his victims to his home with the promise of construction work and then captured, sexually assaulted and eventually strangled most of them with rope. When he killed, he sometimes dressed as his alter ego, either “Pogo” or “Patches” the Clown.
Gacy's trial began on February 6, 1980, with a prosecution team headed by William Kunkle. With Gacy having confessed to the crimes, the arguments were focused on whether he could be declared insane and thus remitted to a state mental facility. Gacy had told police that the murders had been committed by an alternate personality, while mental health professionals testified for both sides about Gacy's mental state.
Ultimately found guilty of committing 33 murders after a short jury deliberation, Gacy became known as one of the most vicious serial killers in U.S. history. He was sentenced to serve 12 death sentences and 21 natural life sentences. He was imprisoned at the Menard Correctional Center for almost a decade and a half, appealing the sentence and offering contradictory statements on the murders in interviews. Though he had confessed, Gacy later denied being guilty of the charges and had a 900 number set up with a 12-minute recorded statement of his innocence. He took up visual art as well, and his paintings were shown to the public via an exhibition at a Chicago gallery.
He was found guilty in 1980 and given multiple death penalty and life sentences. With both anti-death penalty forces and those in favor of the execution making their opinions known, John Wayne Gacy died by lethal injection on May 10, 1994, at the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois.
|John Wayne Gacy's Official Death Certificate - May 10, 1994|
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Six victims of John Wayne Gacy are still unidentified.
The house was razed in April 1979 and a new house built in its place in 1988. It was given a new address of 8215 West Summerdale Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
John Wayne Gacy - Documentary
A SERIAL KILLER
GACY'S ART IS TORCHED AMID CHEERSCompiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
By Jan Ferris, Staff Writer, Chicago Tribune
Sunday, June 19, 1994
With a flick of a match, more than a dozen paintings by executed serial killer John Wayne Gacy went up in smoke Saturday evening as his victims' relatives tossed the artwork onto a bonfire.
The scene at James Quick Auctioneers near Naperville was part macabre, part cathartic, as paintings bearing such titles as "Skull Clown" and "Death Wish" were thrown into the flames about 6 p.m.
Relatives of seven of Gacy's victims were among the 100 people present. Many in the crowd cheered and chanted as the fire was lighted.
"I wish it was (Gacy), but it's a piece of him," said Milica Marino of Chicago, whose brother Michael Marino was one of Gacy's 33 known victims. "It doesn't bring my brother back... but it makes it better."
The bonfire was the brainchild of Joseph Roth, a Naperville truck parts supplier, and Walter Knoebel of Builders Concrete Co. near Naperville. The two men spent more than $10,000 on the artwork, two figurines, and other Gacy items at an auction in May.
Although the purchase drew jeers from horrified onlookers-many there to buy furniture and other unrelated estate sale objects-Roth quickly made it known they planned to burn their purchases.
The auction was held five days after Gacy was put to death at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet. Roughly 40 paintings were up for bid that day, garnering $200 to $800 each.
Roth described the action as a quasi-public service, designed to teach children to be alert to strangers and to underscore the need for parents to keep better tabs on their young.
Kari Cohoon, whose teenage brother was killed by Gacy in 1976, called Saturday's bonfire "good therapy" for herself and other victims' relatives. Members of a dozen families had been expected to show up.
On Friday, a Will County coroner's jury ruled in a state-required inquest that Gacy died by lethal injection and that his death was a "justifiable homicide."
Coroner Patrick O'Neil also read an autopsy report by Dr. James Bryant, which noted that Gacy died of heart failure caused by lethal levels of potassium chloride, a drug used to stop the heart.
 Norwood Park is one of 77 Chicago community areas. It encompasses the smaller neighborhoods of Big Oaks, Norwood Park East, Norwood Park West, Old Norwood Park, Oriole Park, and Union Ridge.
Originally organized in 1872 from adjacent townships (Jefferson, Leyden, and Niles) as a village, and named after Henry Ward Beecher's novel Norwood, or Village Life in New England (1868), Norwood Park was annexed to the City of Chicago in 1893.