John Wayne Gacy was an American serial killer who killed 33 young men and boys—29 of whom were found underneath his house.
Clown by Day, Killer by Night
John Wayne Gacy was born March 17, 1942. Family, friends and neighbors thought of Gacy as a friendly man who enjoyed entertaining children. As a side job, he would dress up as his alter ego Pogo the Clown for parties throughout the entire neighborhood.
That all changed in 1978 when Gacy went from being known as Pogo the Clown to “the Killer Clown.”
Gacy was arrested for the first time in 1964 and spent 18 months in jail when he was found guilty of sodomizing two young boys. This was the first sign of what was to become of Gacy. He then moved to Chicago for a new start.
There, Gacy re-married, founded a highly successful construction business, attended church, and spent time volunteering as the Democratic Precinct Captain in his area.
The Killer Clown
Gacy committed his first murder in 1972 and continued to kill until he was caught in 1978. Many of his known 33 victims were male prostitutes and young boys who worked for his company.
Typically, Gacy would lure his victims back to his house and trick them into having a rope tied around their necks or being handcuffed. He would then knock them unconscious with chloroform, then rape, torture and murder them.
In July 1975, a teenager who worked for Gacy disappeared. His parents tried to get Chicago police to investigate Gacy, but they failed to follow up on him. In 1977, a young man went to Chicago police to file a report against Gacy, claiming that he had been kidnapped and molested by him. Officers failed to follow up on Gacy yet again.
One year after the kidnapping report, a 15-year-old boy who had gone to Gacy’s house asking for a job with his construction company went missing. This time the police finally got involved and searched Gacy’s home. They noticed a stench coming from the crawl space and discovered the missing 15-year-old and 32 others.
Gacy admitted to murdering over 30 young men and was put on death row. He was put to death on May 10, 1994 by lethal injection.
Six of Gacy’s victims remain unidentified and authorities are using DNA to try to identify those victims. The most recently identified Gacy victim was James “Jimmie” Byron Haakenson, who was only known as victim #24 until August 1, 2017.
Jimmie left his home in St. Paul, Minnesota to go to Chicago in August 1976. His mother received a call from him on August 5, 1976 saying that he had arrived, and that’s the last his family ever heard from him. Police believe that Gacy killed him shortly after.
Jimmie’s mother contacted Chicago authorities in 1979 to see if her son had been one of Gacy’s victims. However, she didn’t have dental records and Chicago police lacked the resources at that time to identify him.
Jimmie’s mother died in the early 2000’s, but Jimmie’s siblings were able to provide the DNA samples that matched Gacy’s “Victim #24.”