On May 10th, 1994, one of the most notorious serial killers that ever lived, John Wayne Gacy, was executed at Chicago’s Stateville Correctional Center. Known also as “The Killer Clown”, he sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and men.
All of his murders took place after he lured the victims back to his Norwood Park ranch house at Cook County, Illinois. His first murder was in 1972, when he picked up 16-year-old Tim McCoy. Police officer Dave Hachmeister who investigated the crimes, revealed to The Herald Sun, “He hadn’t really planned on killing him. But I think once he did make that move it gave him the ultimate power trip.”
All but four of the bodies were buried in the crawl space of the home – the others were dumped in the Des Plaines River. Following his arrest, Gacy assisted police in uncovering these bodies, he dotted a map showing exactly where they could find the decomposing corpses.
He revealed that many of his victims were strangled by a single rope trick. In a 1992 interview with CBS, he explained, “(The rope trick) cut off the air. So if you are going to kill somebody you would just put it around their neck and then twist it three times or four times or whatever ‘till the person stops moving.”
The Last Hope Legal Team
Karen Conti served as Gacy’s final death row attorney alongside her late husband, Greg Adamski. She told The Chicagoist, “To this day, people ask me: ‘How could you represent Gacy?’ Then in the next breath they say: ‘Tell me all about it.” Conti heard on the radio that Gacy’s final appeal had been exhausted and she was personally against his execution.
Gacy joked with the couple that his only crime was “running a cemetery without a licence.” Conti’s own father, famous comedian Joe Conti, once told the serial killer: “You should request strawberries for your last meal, John, you know why? Because they are out of season.”
Paintings of a Clown
Alongside attempts to distance Gacy from his execution date, Conti and Adamski also agreed to manage his civil matters. If the mind wonders what civil matters a serial killer who has sat on death row for 14 years could possibly have – he was concerned about an art collection he created behind bars.
Many of his paintings depicted his alter-ego “Pogo the Clown.” Gacy would attend events in his home community, including kid’s birthday parties, dressed as the clown and he had an affection for this persona. Gacy knew this collection would be worth money (he was right – his paintings can fetch anything from $2000 upwards) and he planned for the proceeds to go his children – Michael and Christine Gacy.
A Master Manipulator
Conti and Adamski may have let their guard down with Gacy on occasion, as a master manipulator he had the ability to draw people in. Following the death of Adamski’s sister, Gacy sent a card with an insensitive image depicting a naked woman in a casket with her legs spread and the message: “We wanted to remember her in death as in life.” There were no doubts that the couple was dealing with a disturbed individual. Conti once asked, “If John Wayne Gacy isn’t insane – then who is?”
Move From His Cell To The “Death Chamber”
Days before the execution, Gacy was moved from his cell block on death row to the one-story, brick building known as the designated death chamber. The chamber is 6ft by 12ft, sits only 20ft from the execution spot, and contains a writing desk, steel toilet and a sink. Reinforced steel plates cover the walls – diminishing any last minute hopes of an escape.
The building had previously housed mass murdered Richard Speck, who murdered eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital, before his execution in 1994.
Gacy was permitted to leave his cell when under supervision. Nic Howell, an Illinois Department of Corrections spokesperson, told NWI Times, “It all depends on his attitude, but he will be allowed into (a small courtyard with a basketball court) for some fresh air. We’ll be as co-operative as we can.”
The Final 24 Hours of John Wayne Gacy
Last minute appeals did not halt the inevitable – John Wayne Gacy would be executed as planned on May 10th, 1994, at Captain’s Court Building, Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.
The day before, Gacy was allowed visitors – friends and family – and his last meal. Joe Conti’s joke about requesting strawberries clearly was stuck in Gacy’s mind, as his last meal consisted of: Kentucky Fried Chicken, fried shrimp, french fries, diet coke – and of course, strawberries.)
Gacy also observed a prayer with a Catholic Priest. During his 1992 interview with CBS he revealed, “If you believe you’ve lived life in the right way then you do not have nothing to fear, in my case. I am fairly comfortable (with facing God) I’ve been at the Catholic services, I’m the servant for the priest, for the last 10 years. I have no qualms about doing that. I’m at peace with myself.”
Then at 9pm, his visitors were asked to leave. At 11pm, he walked to the execution chamber.
Gacy’s sister, Karen, recalls the final day vividly. Speaking with the OWN Network, she said, “Leaving the person and looking back, knowing I would never seen him again, was really, really hard. The whole situation was a nightmare.”
A crowd of more than 1,000 people had gathered outside – some of which were wearing “No Tears For The Clown” t-shirts. His sister recalled, “You could hear a lot of the chanting of people who had already gathered. It was really one of the worst days in the world for me.”
Gacy’s last words were reportedly, “Kiss My Ass.”
Sitting in the execution chair, the tube administering the chemicals into Gacy’s arm had unexpectedly solidified and clogged. The blinds were drawn, so witnesses could not observe the executioners as they replaced the clogged tube. Ten minutes later, the blinds were reponed and the execution had resumed.
The entire procedure took 18 minutes (an inhumane amount of time for any execution) and the blame was placed on the inexperienced prison officials. His death was confirmed at 12.58am and his brain was removed for future studies into the violent traits of sociopaths.
After the death was announced to the public, Chief Prosecutor William Kunkle stated, “He got a much easier death than any of his victims. In my opinion, he got an easier death than he deserved. But the important thing is that he paid for his crimes with his life.”