“Find the bodies if you can.”
– John Wayne Gacy, death-row message
John Wayne Gacy.
Three words synonymous with evil.
Even 32 years after his conviction in Chicago for murdering 33 young men and boys – most of whom were buried in a crawl space under his house – it’s a case our nation will never forget.
And a case so gruesome and shocking, it ranks No. 13 on Time’s Top 25 Crimes of the 20th Century.
But even after Gacy’s 1994 execution, the case is not closed in the minds of many criminal experts who are convinced Gacy killed more than 33 people.
And over the years, investigators and amateur detectives have tried to pinpoint the location of other Gacy victims without success.
But in a stunning development, new information – related to a controversial 1998 Chicago Police Department search for more Gacy victims – strongly suggests that a location in a quiet Chicago family neighborhood is the burial site for additional victims of America’s worst serial killer.
Story Last Updated On January 16, 2013
“Unfinished Nightmare: The Search for More Victims of John Wayne Gacy” began as an interview story in September 2009 for a graduate journalism class I was taking at Roosevelt University. My subject, Bill Dorsch, was a private detective with Northern Lights Investigative Services and an ex-CPD homicide detective.
While discussing some of his most memorable cases during his 25-year career, Dorsch brought up his ties to a 1998 Chicago Police Department investigation that centered on the search for more victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The search focused on a site near O’Hare International Airport.
Intrigued, I decided to write a story about that investigation and the possibility of undiscovered Gacy victims.
Dorsch was kind enough to grant me several more interviews and access to his Gacy case files. From there, I spent about 10 months thoroughly researching the 1998 CPD Gacy investigation and the original Gacy case that started with his arrest in 1978.
In December 2010, I completed “Unfinished Nightmare.” But at 15,000 words, the story was too long for a magazine and too short for a book. So, I decided to self-publish on ShadowReports.com.
ShadowReports is my start-up site where I publish some of my stories and various creative works. “Unfinished Nightmare” was posted on February 7, 2011.
In March 2011, several Chicago and national media outlets reported on the new developments in the Gacy case – based on my story – but most failed to credit ShadowReports or myself as the source.
However, WGN-TV was one of the few news organizations that did credit ShadowReports with breaking the story in its report, “More Gacy Victims?” – March 17, 2011.
As a result of the ShadowReports article and related follow-up stories, there was renewed interest in the Gacy case, which culminated with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office reopening the case in October 2011.
“Unfinished Nightmare” is based on dozens of interviews and hundreds of sources.
The original Gacy case background for Chapters 1-3 are based on interviews with Des Plaines Police Department investigators, Cook County Sheriff’s Office investigators, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office investigators and prosecutors at the 1980 trial, and on newspaper, magazine and television stories, and the books Killer Clown (Windsor Publishing 1983) by Terry Sullivan, The Man Who Killed Boys (St. Martin’s Press 1980) by Clifford Linedecker, I Have Lived in the Monster (St. Martin’s Press 1997) by Robert Ressler, and The Chicago Killer (Xlibris 2003) by Joseph Kozenczak and Karen Henrikson.
The first quote by Joseph Kozenczak in Chapter 3 is from his book, The Chicago Killer, but it is presented as a direct quote with permission from the author. The purpose is to enhance story flow. The same device is used for Clifford Linedecker’s quote in Chapter 7, who also granted permission as the author of The Man Who Killed Boys.
Due to the length of the story and to make it easier to read, the article is presented in chapters.
Prologue: A Late-Night Encounter
It was 3 a.m. and Bill Dorsch looked forward to getting home.
As a 31-year old tactical officer in the violent crimes division of the Chicago Police Department, Dorsch had spent the past eight hours working the streets on Chicago’s northwest side.
The 1971 CPD graduate discovered that after a year or two on patrol you get a feel for the streets. There’s a smell and taste distinct to each city block.
And during an average shift in the summer of 1975, Dorsch would drive endlessly up and down the streets observing suspects, snaking his unmarked 1974 green Dodge through dimly lit alleys chasing the bad guys – all his senses on high alert.
He would make between 20 and 30 stops a night ranging from drug deals, prostitution, and gang activity to armed robberies, bar fights, and murder.
Dorsch embraced it all. He especially loved the adrenaline rush he got from a “hot call” – that is, a crime in progress.
But at this moment, Dorsch was exhausted. He couldn’t wait to crawl into bed next to his wife and put the night behind him. His lower back ached, his shoulders slumped and his bloodshot eyes felt heavy as he stared through the windshield of his yellow Plymouth Duster.
But as he was about to turn into the side road by his home near O’Hare Airport, Dorsch noticed something strange. He saw a short, husky man lumbering across the street with a shovel in his hand.
“John, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning, what are you doing?” Dorsch asked the man, whom he now recognized.
“Bill, you know me, not enough hours in the day,” John said with a laugh. “You get it done when you can.”
Dorsch shook his head, smiled and went on his way. He didn’t give the incident much thought until three years later when John Gacy, independent contractor, became John Wayne Gacy, America’s worst serial killer.
And no one could have imagined that 1975 random late-night encounter would be the catalyst for a controversial 1998 search for more Gacy victims and spark a mystery 36 years later about the true depths of Gacy’s murderous rage.
Chapter 1: The Colonel
Named after the legendary movie star, John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day in 1942.
He was close with his two sisters and mom, who called him “Johnny.” And he enjoyed a relatively normal childhood with the exception of a volatile relationship with his alcoholic father, John Wayne Gacy Sr.
In the early 1960s, after dropping out of high school and spending a few years as a drifter, John Jr. took a job managing a men’s clothing store in Springfield, Illinois.
Young Gacy, who possessed a natural talent for sales, excelled in the position. He also began dating pretty co-worker Marlynn Myers.
The couple married in 1964 and moved to Waterloo, Iowa where Gacy managed three KFC restaurants owned by his father-in-law.
Nicknamed “the Colonel,” Gacy was an active member of the community and a leader in the Waterloo Jaycees.
However, in 1968, Gacy’s idyllic middle-class lifestyle and social status were shattered when two Waterloo boys – age 15 and 16 – accused him of sexual assault (one of the boys would later commit suicide).
The felony charge came as a shock to his wife and friends.
“It was all so hard for us to believe,” said Waterloo Motel manager Charles Hill in a 1979 Newsweek interview. “He was such a good doggone Jaycee.”
Gacy, 25, pleaded guilty to sodomy and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison. Marlynn filed for divorce after his conviction. The Colonel would never see his wife or two children again.
Gacy’s 1968 Iowa mug shot
During his incarceration, the stocky 5-foot-8-inch, 210-pound Gacy was a model prisoner and was paroled in June 1970, after serving just 18 months.
He immediately returned to Chicago hoping for a fresh start – but time in prison did little to change John Gacy.
Within 18 months of his release, he was arrested twice by Chicago police for violent sex crimes involving teenage boys. But the charges – unknown to Gacy’s Iowa parole officer – were eventually dropped.
On June 1, 1972, Gacy married his former high-school sweetheart Carole Hoff, who along with her two daughters, moved into Gacy’s house near O’Hare Airport.
Gacy, who now had a second chance at a happy family life, focused on being a good husband and father. And he supported Carole and the young girls by running PDM Contractors – a small, but modestly successful construction company.
As the years went by, it appeared the charismatic and charming Gacy had conquered his demons – he was a respected business owner and neighborhood celebrity who would host elaborate theme parties for hundreds of guests; he did volunteer work and would entertain at children’s parties and hospitals dressed as his alter ego, “Pogo the Clown,” and he was photographed with First Lady Rosalyn Carter during the annual Chicago Polish Day Parade, an event he helped organize.
Gacy with First Lady Rosalyn Carter
But below the surface, a dark and insatiable sexual rage was consuming Gacy. And once again, his life began to unravel.
In 1976, Carole filed for divorce saying she could no longer deal with her husband’s unpredictable moods and obsession with pornography.
And two years later, the high school dropout would find himself at the center of a small-town police investigation that would make his name – John Wayne Gacy – synonymous with evil.
Chapter 2: The Disappearance of Robert Piest
In 1978, 15-year-old Robert Piest, a clean-cut kid who worked at Nisson Pharmacy in Des Plaines, Illinois, went missing around 9 p.m. on Monday, December 11.
Robert Piest with his mom, Elizabeth
And local contractor John Gacy – who was in the store that night scouting a future construction job – was the last person to see him.
When the Des Plaines Police Department checked Gacy’s criminal record the next day, they discovered the 1968 Iowa sodomy charge.
On Wednesday, December 13, the police executed a search warrant for his home, located just outside Chicago city limits.
Gacy’s house circa 1978
“The house had an aura of coldness and neglect and it didn’t take us long to realize that Gacy lived in a world of deviant fantasies embellished through books, tapes, all kinds of kinky aids, and drugs,” says Joe Kozenczak, the former Des Plaines police lieutenant who was in charge of the Gacy investigation.
“I remember just before checking out the crawl space, I had an image of finding Rob Piest down there, bound but still alive,” Kozenczak continues. “But we found absolutely nothing. I looked around for signs of a fresh grave, but the ground was like settled clay, and there was no indication it had been disturbed. There was nothing – only the usual smell of a damp basement.”
After the three-hour search, which didn’t turn up any obvious incriminating evidence, Kozenczak’s team returned to headquarters to run tests on the items they collected.
During their review, the detectives discovered two key pieces of evidence – a ring that belonged to another missing teenager and a receipt for a roll of film that a girlfriend of Piest’s had put in his jacket.
On Thursday, December 21, authorities – armed with this new evidence and a tip from a Gacy employee that the crawl space might contain bodies – obtained a second search warrant for Gacy’s home.
Kozenczak – who described Gacy as unshaven, unwashed, and usually dressed in rumpled clothes that made him look like the definition of a slob – says he started to realize the possible enormity of the case just days before the second search of Gacy’s house.
“We never suspected we were in the middle of a serial murder case,” recalls Kozenczak, whose son was a sophomore in the same class as Piest at Maine West High School in Des Plaines.
“We approached it as a missing persons investigation. We were just looking for one kid,” Kozenczak says. “But as the case evolved, we pieced together evidence and discovered other reports of missing kids that had ties to Gacy. And we realized we might find more than one body buried under the house.”
Around eight o’ clock Thursday night, less than an hour after they began digging in the 40-foot crawl space under Gacy’s home, investigators uncovered the first body.
And later that night at the Des Plaines police station, Gacy, 36, confessed that for six years starting in January 1972, he lured young men and boys to his home for sex – then tortured and strangled them.
Gacy, who possessed an above-average IQ, explained to the stunned officers how he would lure a victim into his car by pretending to be policeman “Jack Hanley,” or by promising a high-paying construction job.
After Gacy got his target home, he would offer alcohol and drugs and eventually bring out a pair of trick handcuffs he used in his clown act. Gacy would put them on and quickly get free. He would then dare the boy to try it.
Once his victim was securely manacled, Gacy would tell him the trick was to have the key. He would then take his time raping and torturing the boy before eventually killing him.
And adding to the morbid nature of his crime, Gacy would sometimes have sex with the corpse and sleep with it for a day or two before disposing of the body.
Gacy, who was fond of saying “a clown can get away with murder,” went on to make voluntary confessions to more than 30 murders.
He also drew a detailed map to the location of 27 shallow graves beneath his house, which he called his “burial grounds,” and one each under the concrete in his garage and patio.
In addition, he admitted to dumping four other victims – including Robert Piest – into the Des Plaines River.
Gacy’s mug shot the night he was arrested
During the dig, investigators discovered the trenches in the crawlspace were about three feet wide, six feet long and two feet deep and were dug by Gacy and his crew – who thought the holes were for a drainage problem.
And because Gacy murdered some of his employees, it’s likely a few of them actually dug their own grave.
By February 1979, the crawlspace excavation uncovered 27 bodies.
The crawlspace during the excavation
“One of the most disturbing aspects of the case was the fact that some of these kids were probably buried alive,” says Rafael Tovar, one of the 10 officers who worked on the excavation team. ”And every day parents were devastated, receiving the ultimate bad news that their kid was dead. Families could no longer hold out hope that their missing loved one might still be alive.”
In April 1979, the body of Robert Piest was found along the banks of the Illinois River. Gacy confessed he strangled Piest in his home shortly after abducting him from the Nisson Pharmacy parking lot.
Gacy also said Piest’s body was still in his house when four Des Plaines police officers questioned him the next day in his living room.
After concluding their investigation, the police charged Gacy with 33 murders – 27 in the crawlspace, one each in the garage and patio, and four in the river. And authorities discovered all his victims were young men in their early teens to early 20s.
Chapter 3: One Less Cub’s Fan
Gacy’s trial began on Feb. 6, 1980, in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago and lasted just five weeks. The jury took only two hours to find him guilty on all 33 counts of murder.
The next day, Gacy was sentenced to death by electrocution and sent to Menard Correctional Center, a prison located in southern Illinois. He would remain there for 14 years until he was transported to Stateville Correctional Center for execution.
Gacy, who began a campaign of innocence after his trial, spent much of his time in prison working on appeals, playing cards, writing letters and painting.
His works – which brought in sales of over $100,000 from such collectors as Johnny Depp and John Waters – included clowns, the Seven Dwarfs, Jesus, Hitler, Elvis and fellow serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
A Gacy painting of Pogo the Clown
During his time on death row, Gacy never expressed a hint of remorse for his crimes and called his victims “a bunch of worthless little queers and punks,” and joked, “I should never have been convicted of anything more serious than running a cemetery without a license.”
Robert Ressler, a retired FBI profiler who has interviewed more than 50 serial killers including Gacy, said in his book, I Have Lived In The Monster (St. Martin’s Press 1997), he found it perverse that Gacy was allowed to keep a scrapbook of his victims while in prison.
“The authorities permitted Gacy to collect photos of the murdered young men as part of gathering material for his own defense,” said Ressler, who coined the term “serial killer” in the 1970s. “But the way he kept these photos in his cell, in a scrapbook, had – to me – far darker implications.
“For Gacy, these photos were pornographic,” Ressler continued in his book. “He could look at them and relive his crimes, the way he had killed each and every one of them, and become sexually excited. His having these materials in his cell was one last instance in which this paranoid murderer was able to con the authorities.”
On May 9, 1994, the 52 year-old diehard Cubs fan sat down for his final meal: a dozen deep-fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe KFC chicken, French fries, a Coke and a pound of fresh strawberries.
As midnight approached, a crowd had gathered outside the Stateville prison – located about 40 miles southwest of Chicago – and chanted slogans such as “Death to the clown” and “We want the body.”
Inside, there were 41 witnesses to the execution. None of the victims’ families were allowed to attend.
British journalist William Cash, one of the 41 in attendance, described the last moments of Gacy’s life for a story in the Daily Mail:
As he was wheeled into the chamber, he made no eye contact. Almost his last sight of this world was an Exit sign over the door. As the poison began to work – a deadly cocktail of sodium pentathol, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride – there was a reflex jerk of his head, followed by a loud snort. For three minutes, his puggish, wide-open eyes bulged in their sockets. His flabby belly heaved in and out.
Then, as if in a surreal black pantomime, an official stepped calmly forward and closed the theatre-like curtains.
What had happened, it seems, is that the Illinois State death machine had malfunctioned. A technician had to replace the tubing because some of the poison had ‘gelled.’ When the curtains reopened, Gacy had turned purple and was still twitching. Instead of taking 10 minutes to execute him, it took nearly 20. He was finally pronounced dead at 12:58 am.
But even after Gacy’s execution, the case is not closed in the minds of many criminal experts who are convinced Gacy left undiscovered victims.
Chapter 4: More Victims?
“There’s no reason to believe Gacy didn’t kill 100 people,” says former Gacy prosecutor Terry Sullivan, who called Gacy the “worst of all murderers” and “an evil, vile, diabolical, cunning man” at his 1980 trial. “We knew there were 33, but in my mind I’m pretty certain he had other victims.”
According to Rafael Tovar, a former Des Plaines police officer who helped break the case in 1978, Gacy would only give up information authorities already knew about or were going to find out anyway.
“Once he knew that we found bodies in the crawl space, he said, ‘I don’t want you guys to mess up my house. I’ll draw you a map where they all are.’ And he did,” Tovar recalls. “But if you asked Gacy about something he didn’t think you knew about, he was coy and would not cooperate.”
Tovar – who was the liaison for the Des Plaines Police Department when the Cook County Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation – says he remembers his last conversation with Gacy, which took place during a 45-minute car ride while he was transferring Gacy from the Des Plaines police station to a Cook County jail:
Tovar: John, we’ve been running around and I don’t want to be running around forever. How many bodies are we looking for?
Gacy: Well, you know, I told my lawyers there’s about 30, 30 some odd. You know what, the number 45 sounds really good.
Gacy: Yeah, sounds really good.
Tovar: Well, where are the rest of them?
Gacy: That’s for you to find out.
“So, I honestly believe there are more victims,” Tovar says. “But, where and how many? Who knows?”
Gacy himself challenged investigators when he scrawled the haunting message, “Find the bodies if you can,” on the back of a death-row painting depicting an Arkansas farmhouse.
Joe Kozenczak, the former Des Plaines police lieutenant who was in charge of the 1978 Gacy investigation, says he viewed the painting and doesn’t doubt the sincerity of Gacy’s words.
“I am convinced Gacy killed a lot more than 33 people,” says Kozenczak, who served on a federal task force that was responsible for establishing the first set of guidelines for investigating serial killings in the U.S. “I think there are other victims out there, not only in the Chicago area but other parts of the country.”
Legendary FBI profiler and Chicago native Robert Ressler – whose real life experiences have been the inspiration for several books and movies including Silence of the Lambs and Copycat – said in his book, I Have Lived In The Monster (St. Martin’s Press 1997), “Gacy is responsible for far more homicides, in many more locations throughout the country, than those for which he was convicted. But the prosecutorial authorities in Illinois refuse to acknowledge this possibility.”
Ressler, who had several interviews with Gacy over the years, also said in the book, The Chicago Killer (Xlibris 2003), that Gacy’s final statement to him was, “Why should I play ball with the State of Illinois that wants to kill me.”
For the record, Gacy, “a brilliant manipulator” and a “serial liar” according to Ressler, never admitted or denied committing other homicides.
And remarkably, Gacy claimed his 1978 confession at the Des Plaines police station never happened and often called himself, “the 34th victim.”
“People don’t want to know the truth,” Gacy told Chicago CBS 2 television news anchor Walter Jacobson in a 1992 death-row interview. “Then fine, then go ahead and kill me, but vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, because you will have executed somebody that didn’t commit the crime.”
Serial killer expert Mark Safarik – a former FBI profiler and current executive director of Forensic Behavioral Services International in Virginia – says such denials are common among serial killers.
“It’s the ultimate control when you’re obviously guilty to say you’re innocent, that you’re executing the wrong person,” explains Safarik, who also serves as a consultant for CSI: Las Vegas. “Gacy was playing with people. It’s what he liked to do. It was all part of the game. It was a way for him to continue his control and manipulate the system.”
Safarik, who spent 12 of his 23 years at the FBI working as a senior profiler, also says most serial killers don’t give up all their victims and if Gacy had committed other murders it makes sense he didn’t talk about them.
“Not giving up other victims runs true to his pattern because Gacy denied guilt for the original homicides, so why would he admit to additional ones that are unknown. His behavior was consistent,” Safarik says.
Gacy’s defense attorney Robert Motta told Newsweek in 1998 that hypothetically speaking about someone with a personality like Gacy’s, “It’s certainly possible there are more victims, not only here but in other parts of the country.”
So, if the experts are correct in believing Gacy was responsible for more than 33 murders, where did he dispose of the bodies?
Chapter 5: Gacy-Miami Part One
Over the years, criminal specialists and amateur detectives have tried to pinpoint the location of additional Gacy victims without success. And with Gacy’s execution in 1994, it seemed a hopeless pursuit.
But, in November of 1998, the Chicago Police Department – acting on a tip from the Chicago-watchdog group Better Government Association (BGA) – investigated a property located in a quiet blue-collar neighborhood near O’Hare Airport.
According to several 1998 media reports, the West Miami Avenue apartment building property seemed like a logical site for more Gacy victims – former Chicago police detective Bill Dorsch saw Gacy there in 1975 carrying a shovel at 3 a.m; Gacy’s mom, Marion Elaine Gacy, had lived in the building for a period of time in the ’70s; and a Better Government Association partial radar scan of the parking lot and front yard, suggested possible human remains.
So, on the morning of Monday, November 23, 1998 – with a sky full of helicopters and camera crews perched on nearby rooftops – the CPD sealed off the area around the Miami Avenue residential building, erected a white tent in the front yard, and began a ground scan radar survey of the property.
“We are not taking a position that there is anything here, or there isn’t,” CPD Cmdr. John Thomas told a CNN reporter covering the event. “Rather we’re taking a position that it is our obligation as police officers to conduct this investigation as responsibly as we can.”
CNN and other news outlets would broadcast live reports throughout the day. And Thomas would provide updates to the 75 or so media members standing outside the barricade – about 35 yards away from the fenced-in yard.
In the afternoon – based on the results of the morning ground scan, which Thomas said found two key spots in the soft earth – the CPD dug two holes. And although the dig was sheltered from public view by the tent, the crowd anxiously awaited the results.
However, after a two-week Super Bowl type media circus, Cmdr. Thomas ended the late-afternoon drama with his last progress report.
“We found a glass marble, a flattened sauce pan, a two and a half-foot length of wire, a large chunk of concrete and a preponderance of roots in both holes,” said Thomas, who would later hold the No. 2 job in the department. “We are done. This part of the investigation is now closed.”
Asked if the search represented the final chapter in the Gacy story, Thomas – who passed away unexpectedly in 2003 at age 53 – said, “It does as far as the Miami address is concerned.”
The media and the crowds present at the dig on that cold November day, and the millions around the world who followed the investigation on TV and in the papers, couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed – the whole thing was much ado about nothing.
But years later – amid allegations that the CPD was “committed to not finding anything,” and the investigation was simply a “dog and pony show to satisfy the media,” and after taking a closer look at the days leading up to the CPD Miami dig on November 23, 1998 – questions still linger about the significance of the Miami Avenue site and its role in the possibly unfinished horror story authored by John Wayne Gacy.
Chapter 6: Gacy-Miami Part Two
Coincidentally, the origins of the 1998 CPD Gacy-Miami investigation are connected with another famous Chicago-area mass murder known as the Brown’s Chicken massacre.
On January 8, 1993, two men robbed and murdered seven employees at the Brown’s Chicken restaurant in Palatine, Illinois, a Chicago northwest suburb.
The case remained unsolved for nearly nine years until Juan Luna and James Degorski were charged with the crimes in 2002. Both were eventually found guilty and received life sentences.
In 1997, the Better Government Association – concerned about the Palatine Police Department’s inability to solve the crimes – commissioned a study into the department’s progress and later released a report that determined police “radically mishandled the case.”
But before the Brown’s Chicken report was finalized, the BGA met with private investigator Bill Dorsch to discuss its findings.
Dorsch, who served as a CPD officer from 1970-1994, remembers meeting with BGA chief investigator Mike Lyons and CBS investigative producer Doug Longhini at the BGA’s downtown Chicago office.
“After a while, we went across the street on Michigan Avenue and had something to eat,” recalls Dorsch, who currently heads Chicago-based NLIS Investigations. “We talked about some cases I’d worked on over the years and I eventually got around to telling them about knowing Gacy and seeing him in 1975 at the Miami address around 3 a.m. holding a shovel.
“I told them I reported the information to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office after Gacy’s arrest in 1978, but found out many years later that they never investigated the site,” Dorsch says.
Intrigued by Dorsch’s story, the BGA eventually decided to hire US Radar, a New Jersey-based company that specialized in ground-penetrating radar.
On October 7, 1998, US Radar president Ron LaBarca used a sub-surface radar device, which resembles a snow blower, to conduct a non-invasive partial ground scan of the small blacktop parking lot and front yard at the Miami Avenue apartment building.
After receiving the results of the earth X-ray, which LaBarca said were “compelling,” the BGA turned the information over to the CPD.
Dorsch, who was now the main contact between the BGA and the CPD, also put together a four-page report that summarized events to that point and included notes on Gacy’s suspicious activity at the Miami address back in the ’70s.
Dorsch says he intended his report to be used as a starting point for the CPD to obtain a search warrant if necessary for the Miami property.
After receiving the information from the BGA and Dorsch, the CPD set up a meeting with Dorsch at IFPC Worldwide, a private security and investigation services firm in Chicago.
IFPC was run by Jim Fruin, a 30-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who retired as a detective division commander in 1991.
Dorsch, who had worked as a homicide detective under Fruin, joined IFPC in June of 1998 as a private detective.
Fruin says he encouraged Dorsch to work with the CPD on the Gacy-Miami investigation because he thought it was a high-profile case that would be good publicity for IFPC.
Fruin also told Dorsch he spoke with his friend – CPD First Deputy Supt. John Townsend, the department’s second-in-command – about the BGA’s preliminary investigation of the Miami site, and Townsend, who passed away in 2004, was very supportive.
Dorsch, who has boxes of files from previous cases he’s worked on over the years, kept detailed notes of the meeting – which was held on Wednesday, October 28, 1998.
The following account – which also includes subsequent meetings and events leading up to the CPD dig on November 23, 1998, at the Miami Avenue property – is based primarily on Dorsch reading his notes over the course of several interviews.
Present at the first meeting were Dorsch and Chicago Police Department officers Sgt. Frank Cappitelli, Detective Bob Rutherford, Detective Eddie Dickinson, Lt. Ralph Barganski and Cmdr. John Thomas.
IFPC president Jim Fruin, BGA chief investigator Mike Lyons and Rocky Rinaldi, a former CPD homicide sergeant who worked at IFPC and was involved with the case, stayed downstairs while Dorsch and the others met in a second floor IFPC conference room.
“We all took our seat at a large table,” says Dorsch, who received the Police Officer of the Year award twice from the Chicago Chamber of Commerce. “I had a four-page report which I distributed to each of them. This included all the information I considered pertinent to bringing them up to speed on the new Gacy information.”
After about 10 minutes, Dorsch asked if there were any questions. And based on his notes, Dorsch says he had the following conversation with Sgt. Cappitelli:
Cappitelli: Who else knows about this?
Dorsch: If you mean who else have I told this to over the past 20 years, then a lot of people have heard the story Frank.
Cappitelli: No, I mean who else knows about our meeting with you?
Dorsch: No one, except the BGA and our IFPC office.
Cappitelli: What do you intend to do now?
Dorsch: I’m just giving you the information for your review and you can contact the radar company to discuss the findings. This is possibly very important evidence that may necessitate that the site be scanned in the future.
Cappitelli: What’s the agenda of the BGA?
Dorsch: They’re not a threat. They’re merely assisting by paying for the radar scan and we are presenting this as new evidence for your review. They do not have any agenda and are not looking to create a problem for anyone.
“At that, Frank, speaking for the others, arose and said that they would be in touch with me,” recalls Dorsch, who now began to sense there might be a problem.
Around noon on Monday, November 9, a second meeting was held. And again it took place at the IFPC office.
Present were Dorsch, Cappitelli, Rutherford, Dickinson, Barganski, and Cook County assistant state’s attorney Anna Demacopoulos. Cmdr. John Thomas, who was at the first meeting, did not attend.
Dorsch says he looked forward to talking with assistant state’s attorney Demacopoulos because the pair had worked together on past homicide cases that resulted in convictions.
But before entering the second floor conference room, Dorsch’s optimism quickly faded.
“I pulled Rutherford aside before we went up and asked him to fill me in on what they had learned. Rutherford said, ‘Bill, we are here to take notes. We were told not to talk to you.’ Dickinson stood next to us and said nothing. Now I really knew there was a problem,” says Dorsch, who received 12 department commendations and 148 honorable mentions during his 25-year career with the CPD.
“After we sat down in the conference room, I asked Anna Demacopoulos where she wanted to start,” Dorsch says. “She said I should start wherever I wanted. So I said why don’t we start with the four-page report that I’d given the police. She said, ‘I’ve already seen that bullshit. What I want to know is what was the date you called the Cook County Sheriff’s Department and who did you talk to?’”
Dorsch says that Demacopoulos’s tone, body language and her question along with the fact that the others sat there silently told him that he was in for trouble. “It was obvious to me that someone, somewhere was having a big problem with this Gacy information,” Dorsch recalls.
Dorsch says he took a deep breath and looked around the table and said, “‘Anna, this happened in December of ’78. The news was reporting a man, who lived on Summerdale, had been arrested for murder. In the first few days, reports were coming in that this man was an independent contractor. And my wife and I realized this was John Gacy.’”
Dorsch, who once had dinner at Gacy’s house because his wife was a business associate of Gacy’s, says he told Demacopoulos that he called the Cook County Sheriff’s Department within a few days after Gacy’s arrest to report the 1975 late-night shovel encounter at the Miami address – but he didn’t remember the exact date of the call and could only confirm that he spoke with a male officer.
Dorsch says Demacopoulos, currently a Cook County Circuit Court judge, pressed him on the name of the person he spoke with and the date of the call.
“I said something like, ‘Anna in the mid ’80s, I had two guys come to my house every day. They tore up my old roof and replaced it with a new one. They were up there for days. I wrote them a check for $5,000 and I don’t remember their names. There’s no reason to treat me like this,’” Dorsch said to Demacopoulos, who did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
After the meeting, Dorsch says he had a sick feeling in his stomach as he felt things were turning against him.
“I had thought – as Jim Fruin had already told me – that Townsend said we could expect nothing but cooperation from the Chicago Police Department,” Dorsch says. “And I’m not just an average citizen giving this information, I had been one of them. And Rutherford was a friend. He had stayed at my house in Wisconsin with his family for two weeks. And now, he won’t even talk to me?”
A request to interview Rutherford, who is a detective with the Chicago Police Department, was declined by the CPD’s Office of News Affairs.
The next day – Tuesday, November 10, 1998 – Dorsch says things went from bad to worse after receiving a 9:30 p.m. phone call from Jim Fruin’s wife, Gloria.
And based on his notes, Dorsch says he had the following conversation with Gloria Fruin:
Gloria: Jim wanted me to call you to warn you.
Dorsch: Warn me about what?
Gloria: The Tribune is running the O’Brien Gacy story tomorrow.
Dorsch: Gloria, I told Jim we didn’t want this made public yet. It’s not good for my reputation, Jim’s reputation and his company.
Gloria: Jim said that he and the company aren’t going to be mentioned.
John O’Brien, a well-known Chicago Tribune crime reporter who passed away in 2003, met with Jim Fruin at IFPC’s office on November 5th.
The pair were good friends and Fruin says he might have shared some details of the Gacy-Miami investigation with O’Brien. But if he did, it was with the understanding that O’Brien would sit on the news until he gave him the OK.
However, before Fruin gave him the OK, the Tribune ran O’Brien’s story six days later on November 11, 1998.
Dorsch says he was furious.
“I wanted to keep things quiet because I didn’t want to create a problem for the Miami building owner and I didn’t want the search to become like the Geraldo Rivera Al Capone’s vault fiasco,” Dorsch says. “But after the Tribune story comes out, all hell breaks loose.
“The media goes to the Chicago Police Department and the CPD tells them ‘Bill Dorsch is an experienced detective. He never told us about the incident with Gacy. Why did he keep it a secret all these years?’ Bullshit. Bullshit all the way. Of course, I told everyone back then. And now they’re implying I’m making this up,” Dorsch says.
Mike Lyons, who was the chief investigator for the Better Government Association from 1979-2000, says after the story was leaked to O’Brien, the integrity of the Gacy-Miami investigation was fatally compromised.
“Disaster is an understated word when it comes to the leak,” says Lyons, a former Vietnam combat correspondent. “I didn’t appreciate the magnitude of the problem until a day or two after the story ran because it wasn’t on the front page – it was not that big a story. But it unleashed a media fury, and there was nowhere to go from there. It literally killed the investigation.”
After the Tribune article was published, Dorsch says he was swamped with requests for interviews.
He turned all of them down except two – he spoke with Chicago CBS 2 reporter Carol Marin and Newsweek reporter John McCormick on November 13, 1998.
Dorsch says he told them about the 3 a.m. shovel incident with Gacy in 1975 and how he reported the information to authorities after learning of Gacy’s arrest.
He also said his call probably slipped through the cracks due to the enormity of the Gacy investigation, but at the time he just gave the facts and went on with his life – he had cases of his own to worry about and assumed his tip would be checked out.
Dorsch added it wasn’t until many years later that he learned the Cook County Sheriff’s Office didn’t follow up on his tip.
Meanwhile, the media reported the Gacy-Miami building connection like it was the third-act twist of a James Patterson novel.
And in the 12 days between the O’Brien Tribune story on November 11, and the CPD dig on November 23, serial killer John Wayne Gacy was once again headline news.
And the new story angle, “Are there more Gacy victims?” played not only in Chicago, but across the globe.
The Better Government Association said they received more than 250 calls from news outlets around the world.
“I never thought of it as a huge case, so I was surprised by the media reaction,” says Terry Brunner, the executive director of the BGA at the time. ”I thought that Gacy was kind of a dead issue. I thought we had some interesting information and it seemed like a logical case to get involved with, but I was stunned by the media frenzy.”
The media spotlight was intense and former BGA chief investigator Mike Lyons says there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the CPD to do something.
“We are still interviewing people,” police spokeswoman Lauri Sanders told the Associated Press the day the O’Brien Tribune article came out.
And a week later on November 18, police spokesman Officer Cesar Guzman announced to the media that a dig was planned for Monday, November 23, but the Miami Avenue site would be barricaded from the public.
“If they do find anything that’s down there, it’s a crime scene, and its got to be treated with kid gloves,” Guzman said. “The last thing we want to do is have a circus.”
Lyons, who says he distanced himself from the Gacy-Miami investigation after the Tribune story came out because “nothing was under our control from that point onward,” believes the widespread media coverage backed the CPD into a corner.
“Once the story got into the Tribune, the CPD had no options at all – they had to dig holes,” Lyons says. “The police can’t say ‘Well gee, we’re not going to do anything.’ You can’t take an adversarial position with the media and the BGA and expect that it’s going to work out, especially when we’ve got so much suggestive evidence.
“I think they went and did it because they figured they had to do something. You have to feed the lions no matter what. So that’s what they did,” Lyons says.
Also during this time, Dorsch claims he began receiving indirect threats from CPD officials who would use mutual friends to deliver the warnings.
Dorsch says Rocky Rinaldi – the former CPD homicide sergeant who worked with Dorsch at IFPC – was usually the go-between.
“Rocky and I had a very good friendship through our time working together over the years,” Dorsch says. ”But as good as it was, I always knew that Rocky had friendships that were more important to him because they were with the higher command – Townsend, Daley, that group, the people on top. Those were his better friends.
“One day Rocky told me, ‘If you show up on the day of the dig, they are going to arrest you.’ I said, ‘Arrest me for what? For wanting to help? For being involved in this?’ I guess they didn’t want me to talk to anybody, to reporters,” Dorsch says.
Dorsch adds that he didn’t attend the November 23 Miami dig, but not because of the threats.
“At that point, I felt the investigation had evolved into a dog and pony show to satisfy the media,” Dorsch says. “And I knew what the headlines would be – ‘Waste Of Time,’ ‘CPD Angry That Detective Created Hoax.’ The whole thing was staged.”
Dorsch’s cloak-and-dagger account of the days leading up to the CPD Miami dig might seem a bit exaggerated. And Dorsch’s former CPD boss Sgt. Frank Cappitelli, who was in charge of the Gacy-Miami investigation, says, “Bill Dorsch was a good detective, but he may have bought into the story too much. Sometimes you can lose perspective on a case.”
But a June 6, 2008, email from now retired Rocky Rinaldi to former friend Dorsch, who initially emailed Rinaldi asking about inside information he may possess about the 1998 Gacy-Miami investigation, seems to add weight to Dorsch’s story.
“…I ignored advice from high ranking police department bosses to keep away from you… Information given to me regarding Gacy was privileged and I am not about to compromise my confidentiality that I was entrusted with by my very good friends.”
Rinaldi responded to a request for an interview by sending a February 3, 2010 email that stated in part:
“…Dorsch while he was a fair investigator, had the propensity to embellish his reports, while he never revealed how he obtained the information that Gacy buried bodies at the Miami address location, other than Gacy may have worked at that location as a janitor, however, I am satisfied that there never was any bodies buried and/or secreted at this location.”
“I have spent 34 years on the Chicago Police Department, twenty eight of those years in the homicide division and I stake my reputation on the fact that there were no bodies buried at the Miami address by Gacy or anyone else.”
Former Better Government Association executive director Terry Brunner – who served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago before leading the U.S. Department of Justice organized crime units in Cleveland and Pittsburgh – says he believes Dorsch and feels he was viewed as a potential threat by the CPD and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“The Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office are riddled with politics so their reaction was probably, ‘What does Dorsch really want here? This is an old case – dead and buried – everybody forgot about it – why is he stirring up trouble here?’” Brunner says.
“They can’t believe you have truly independent people that are just calling the shots straight,” Brunner continues. “This is typical to the Chicago Police Department circle-the-wagons mentality. And they don’t need to be told this could hurt politically with the mayor. They know that. It’s like a no-huddle offense.”
But why is Dorsch talking about it now?
“After the thing, I was so fed up with it,” Dorsch says. “I wanted to distance myself from the investigation because the whole thing turned political. And I was being tagged as the cause of everything. But now I want this out there. I’m 67 years old. I could go to my grave and nobody would ever know what happened there. Or I can make it known.”
What Dorsch wants known is not only his story, but information he believes supports his allegations.
US Radar president Ron LaBarca, whose company was brought in by the Chicago Police Department to scan the Miami property for the November 23, 1998 Gacy dig, wrote a letter to Bill Dorsch voicing his frustration with the CPD’s investigation of the site.
It references Dr. Jon Dittmer, a ground scan expert who was working with LaBarca that day, Frank Cappitelli, the CPD sergeant assigned to the investigation, and the executive director of the Better Government Association Terry Brunner.
Below is a copy of the May 10, 1999 letter.
May 10, 1999
Per our conversation, I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss some of the questions that remain unanswered and what information we can offer should the West Miami Street site become available for a proper investigation.
I have looked at the archived radar data twice since that debacle. The first time was a week later when I learned it was on that famous day in Chicago (November 23, 1998) when Jon Dittmer told Frank Cappitelli and later, Terence Bruner that we should “forget it,” he said that because “it was really no way to conduct a proper investigation” and the Chicago authorities were “committed to not finding anything.”
I can’t emphasize enough the fact that we, (Dr. Jon Dittmer and myself) were basically thrown into a situation where the protocols for a proper forensic investigation were clearly thrown out the window.
Because of this, Jon felt we were wasting our time and the longer we spent out there, the worse it could potentially be for us. The main deviation for proper investigation protocol was that any subsurface anomaly from our data should have been excavated no matter how slight. Instead as Jon asked the following, “Do you realize you are standing on a front lawn with well over 100 cameras pointed at you while you negotiated, then pleaded with the Chicago police sergeant to dig for more than two holes.”
In a proper investigation, the authorities would have been more willing to excavate any possibility. It still strikes me as quite odd that we suspect at least seven and as many as seventeen potential targets in the front lawn and the parking area and the Chicago PD would only let us pick two. Hey, maybe all of them are nothing, but at least then they would know. Instead we all are wondering what might have been discovered had they investigated the property properly.
The next time I looked at the data it was several months later when a reporter started asking me some questions that rekindled the frustration we encountered with this investigation. As a result, I have pretty good knowledge of this data as well as more than a few questions I would like answered.
The data reveals some pretty compelling evidence that would send any investigation team to the hardware store for shovels. I can’t help but wonder if this data might fetch a good buck or two somehow on the Internet.
Another question I’d like answered was, “why is it that the Chicago PD personnel nearly jumped out of their skin when we went around the back of the building (opposite W. Miami) and kept repeating over and over that back there was not part of the deal?” What deal?
I have many more questions with respect to this investigation but I suppose the answers lie with members of a political circle somewhere. Should we ever get the opportunity to properly complete this investigation, then and only then will we get the answers.
Bill, you once you told me that you didn’t really care whether there were victims buried at this site or not, you just wanted to know definitely yes or definitely no. Well, like or not, I got caught up in your enthusiasm and with some of the other evidence we were working with, I was anxious to resolve this thing. Well here we are, after all that, we still don’t have any answers, and I find it more than just a little aggravating facing the possibility that we may never know.
Let me say this much, I have the radar data from this investigation and actually Bill, I am about 89 per cent sure that I have the answer, unfortunately it doesn’t mean a thing until someone decides to dig.
I will be standing by to assist you in any way that might bring this investigation to a close once and for all. This company is solidly behind your efforts and will gladly commit any available resources to you for the proper conclusion to the investigation of the West Miami Street property.
LaBarca says US Radar has worked with the FBI and many other law enforcement agencies around the world on forensic investigations including Ground Zero after 9/11, but he and colleague Dr. Jon Dittmer – who has a Ph.D. in geophysics – were baffled by the 1998 CPD Gacy-Miami investigation.
“The CPD did a great job of coordinating the investigation at the Miami site,” LaBarca says. “But, we’ve done many similar type of forensic investigations both before and after the Chicago dig and we’ve never experienced the complications we encountered on that day.”
However, former CPD Sgt. Frank Cappitelli, who received numerous commendations and awards including the Cook County Sheriff’s Police “Award of Merit” during his 31-year career with the CPD, says that US Radar’s allegation that the CPD was “committed to not finding anything” is “absolutely not true.”
“If the US Radar team had a problem with the investigation they never mentioned it to us,” says Cappitelli, who is currently the commander, field services division, for the University of Illinois at Chicago Police Department.
“We conducted a detailed section-by-section grid search of the front yard, and we investigated the two highest anomalies – recommended by US Radar – and we did a careful archaeological dig that was supervised by the Cook County Medical Examiner and a forensic archaeologist,” Cappitelli continues.
“And we found a flattened saucepan and a marble in those two holes…So with the agreement of US Radar, the onsite experts including the medical examiner, the forensic archaeologist and the assistant state’s attorney Anna Demacopoulos, we concluded the search,” Cappitelli says.
US Radar’s LaBarca says that’s not entirely accurate.
“Sgt. Cappitelli asked us how many targets we had and, to the best of my recollection, we flagged 17 areas that merited further investigation,” LaBarca says. “He said pick our best two and if nothing was found that would be the end of the investigation.
“This is where the rub is – all anomalies should have been investigated. The bottom line is, there were 17 areas that merited further investigation and 15 of them didn’t get investigated,” LaBarca says.
LaBarca adds that he and Dittmer didn’t even witness the dig because they were not allowed inside the CPD tent and were taken to the airport immediately after the first hole was dug.
And LaBarca says they found out the result of the second excavation while watching the news in a pub near O’Hare Airport.
The Chicago Tribune reported in a November 24, 1998 story that “several other radar experts said they wouldn’t want to work under the pressure-filled conditions created by the Gacy dig and that an accurate interpretation of the scan results requires at least 24 hours to analyze the data.”
Patrick Jones, a retired Cook County Sheriff’s Office crime scene investigator who has 40 years of law enforcement experience, agrees.
“You can’t do a ground scan survey in the morning, analyze the results over lunch and then start digging in the afternoon,” says Jones, currently the director of the Forensic Science Laboratory at Purdue University.
“Also, to say at the beginning we’re only going to look at two anomalies, that’s not in line with the scientific method,” Jones continues. “If they just searched two of the 17 suspicious areas, then there was only a 12 percent chance that they would find anything.”
But why didn’t LaBarca voice his frustration onsite or talk to the media afterwards?
“I was actually asked by a BGA representative not to go any further with it until he cleared me to do so,” LaBarca says. “And I felt I had an obligation to the BGA. I felt that they would work this thing out. I didn’t think it wasn’t going to end where it did. And we were also strongly advised by a CPD official not to discuss the investigation.”
Former BGA chief investigator Mike Lyons, who didn’t attend the excavation, believes digging two holes was essentially meaningless – but it was a clever maneuver by the media savvy CPD.
“Where is the magic in the number two or three or five,” says Lyons. “There is no magic. They were just doing it to get it out of the way. And that’s exactly what they did – they got it out of the way.
“And if I were their public relations advisor, I would of advised them to do the same thing – which is limit your exposure, take one or two sites and let the whole thing go,” Lyons says.
Gacy prosecutor Terry Sullivan, who attended the dig, says he was under the impression that the CPD conducted a thorough investigation of the Miami site.
“I didn’t know the authorities said pick two spots and we’ll do some digging there,” says Sullivan, who heads The Sullivan Firm and is also a legal analyst for WGN-TV.
“You have experts with the most modern high-tech equipment and they come up with multiple hot spots so to speak,” continues Sullivan. ”And the CPD says investigate two, and then leaves the others? How is the investigation ever closed and how do you know whether or not there were any bodies there?”
In the aftermath of the CPD dig, the Associated Press reported that well-known Chicago personal injury lawyer Robert Clifford called the investigation “a fiasco,” and blamed the Better Government Association for “throwing the media into a frenzy.”
Former CPD Sgt. Cappitelli says attorney Clifford became involved with the case when the CPD advised the Miami apartment building owner to meet with Clifford regarding representation.
And after meeting with Clifford, the building owner agreed to sign a CPD consent to search form. Otherwise, the CPD had to file a search warrant application to conduct the onsite investigation of the Miami property.
According to the November 24, 1998, AP article, Clifford stopped short of threatening a lawsuit against the BGA and Bill Dorsch saying, “We’re throwing a good scare into them and trying to make these people do the right thing and publicly apologize to these people for the trouble they’ve caused.”
Dorsch says he called Clifford and welcomed a lawsuit.
“I wondered why he was not expecting an apology from the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office too,” Dorsch says of Clifford, who declined to be interviewed for the story.
“They had been conveniently left out,” Dorsch continues. “And I found it strange the CPD selected the attorney that they encouraged the owner to use to protect his property rights.
“Most people, including the media, didn’t realize the BGA and myself had no control over this event,” Dorsch explains. “We were only private citizens bringing this information to the CPD and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for review. They are the ones who decided to excavate, not us.”
Chapter 7: Why?
After reviewing the allegations that the CPD was “committed to not finding anything,” and the Gacy-Miami investigation was simply a “dog and pony show to satisfy the media” – and after taking a closer look at the days leading up to the CPD Miami dig on November 23, 1998 – the question, “Why would the CPD conduct such a seemingly incomplete investigation?” is not without merit.
Former executive director of the Better Government Association Terry Brunner says the CPD, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and city officials were concerned about the agenda of the BGA.
“We had been real tough on some past investigations and I think I had a reputation for being really tough,” Brunner says. “The 1997 report on Brown’s Chicken ripped the Palatine Police Department and Cook County State’s Attorney Jack O’Malley.
“I’m sure they look at everything in a political sense and they don’t believe you’re just being up front and honest with them. It’s Chicago and everything is political one way or another,” Brunner says.
Also during this period, the BGA was heavily involved with another high-profile investigation related to politician George Ryan, who eventually received a six-and-a-half-year sentence for racketeering and fraud while serving as the secretary of state (1990-1998) and governor of Illinois (1998-2002).
“I think they were very wary of me, they were wary of the BGA,” Brunner says. “I don’t think that Daley got involved personally. But the way the system works is they’re constantly circling the wagons and they don’t want any outsiders looking in. They can’t stand the media, the BGA or anybody looking into anything because they’re afraid of being embarrassed.”
Brunner adds that the intense media scrutiny surrounding the case and the potential for negative publicity were certainly factors that influenced the CPD’s investigative efforts.
Clifford Linedecker, author of the book The Man Who Killed Boys (St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1993), agrees that Chicago city officials were probably worried about a potential backlash if anything was found, especially since many people felt the CPD blew the original Gacy investigation – by not conducting an investigation in the first place.
“Shortly after the Gacy crimes were discovered, the media and the parents of some of the victims were looking for someone to blame,” says Linedecker, a former Chicago investigative reporter who now lives in Florida. “It was difficult to understand how so many murders could occur in one place, apparently at the hands of one man, over such a long period of time.
“Even more puzzling was how it could happen under the nose of what was ostensibly one of the largest, most sophisticated, best-equipped, and well-trained police departments in the country,” Linedecker continues. “Chicago police were publicly criticized for negligence, and named in lawsuits.”
However, Cappitelli, who headed the 1998 Gacy-Miami case, says he didn’t receive any pressure on how to conduct the investigation.
“Nobody came to me from anywhere and said ‘Back off’, or, ‘Don’t find anything,’” says Cappitelli, who holds a Ph.D. in public policy analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “This was the straight deal.”
Former BGA official Mike Lyons says the CPD didn’t want to deal with the case or the BGA from the start and adopted an adversarial position early in the investigation.
“Frank Cappitelli is a detective of tremendous intelligence and tremendous integrity, but we were on opposite sides of the issue,” Lyons says. “He believed, or his bosses believed, that we were there to harm the police, which was not true. We were following one damn fine story. And it’s still a damn fine story. A story that has yet to be told.”
Chapter 8: Gacy-Miami Connection
Although it’s been more than 13 years since the CPD officially closed the Gacy-Miami case, the details of the investigation remain murky and have left many questions that resound to this day.
But, the only question that really matters is the one that prompted the investigation – “Did John Wayne Gacy use the Miami property to dispose of other murder victims?”
Despite the fact there may never be a definitive answer, a closer look at the connection between Gacy and the Miami apartment building might help shed some light on the mystery.
Sometime around 1971, Gacy became the maintenance man for the Miami Avenue building according to Lynn Troester – a resident of the Miami apartments from 1967 to April of 1974 – and Mike Nelson – a neighbor who lived across the street from 1959 to the early ’80s.
Troester said during a 1998 videotaped interview with the Better Government Association that she saw Gacy and his crew dig large holes in the yard and other areas near the building.
“They weren’t actually holes, they were just big spaces, more like trenches,” recalled Troester.
“There was no pattern – he would dig and leave them open for several days or even weeks,” Troester continued in the BGA interview. “Then one day, the space would be filled in with a shrub or something. But I don’t remember ever seeing him do the planting. We all thought – the other people in the building – that it was very strange.”
Nelson, who was born in 1959 and served as sort of a junior maintenance man for the Miami apartment building from around 1971 to 1976, says he distinctly remembers the digging because he and his friends used to jump the holes when they were kids.
“The trenches were dug on the outer edges of the yard that followed the sidewalk,” says Nelson, who would mow the lawn, take out the trash, and shovel the drive, as part of his job. “It was one continuous trench that was ‘L’ shaped, but the ‘L’ wasn’t connected. There was a large bush on the corner that they didn’t dig up.”
Looking back, Nelson says he has several questions regarding Gacy’s odd pattern of digging.
“Why would you dig that deep to pull out these little two-foot bushes,” asks Nelson, who has never been interviewed about the case until now. “And why would you dig that deep to plant new ones that were only around a foot tall? Also, why dig trenches anyway since they were spacing the new bushes about four feet apart?”
Nelson, who remembers seeing Gacy at the Miami building quite often, says the holes were left open for a couple of weeks and then one day they would be filled in. And like Troester, he never saw Gacy or his crew do the planting.
Terry Sullivan, who is considered to be one of the foremost experts on Gacy, says the irregular digging was an earmark of Gacy and certainly fit his M.O.
“The fact somebody is saying that he dug holes, and by the way, they didn’t have any rhyme or reason, that certainly is something that hits me in the head because very few people would know what I know about this,” says Sullivan, who spent five years researching Gacy for the trial and his book Killer Clown (Windsor Publishing 1983).
“And why would he be digging in the yard,” Sullivan continues. “That’s the million dollar question because Gacy was not known as a landscaper. I don’t remember anything that he ever did in his business that was related to landscaping.”
Lynn Troester also said on several occasions she and husband Bruno Muczynski, a Chicago Police Department detective, would wake up late at night because of noises coming from the basement.
“Our bedroom wall was against the basement because we lived in the garden apartment,” Troester said during the 1998 BGA videotaped interview.
“Bruno and I would be sleeping and at two or three o’clock in the morning we’d hear the basement door slamming against our bedroom wall,” Troester continued.” And Bruno would get up and look out and say it’s John.
“At the time, you just don’t think he could be doing anything sinister,” Troester said. “But you do think why is he down there, what is he doing? But you never asked. John was just different. He was a different person.”
In June 2012, Bruno Muczynski confirmed Troester’s story in a video interview with documentary producers Alison True and Tracy Ullman of Norwester Productions. The interview is available on the site JohnWayneGacyNews.com.
“He [Gacy] was the maintenance man for the building, but he’d come around at night and he’d go into the laundry room across from my apartment,” said Muczynski. “And I’d hear banging and digging…with a sledgehammer, he’d be pounding the concrete down there.”
Muczynski also said he contacted the detective division handling the Gacy investigation with this information shortly after the bodies were discovered.
“I told them who I was…I said I knew Gacy and I told them the things that were going on around the building,” said Muczynski. “And they said, ‘Bruno, we don’t want any more bodies. We got enough.’ I was sort of shocked. I thought they’d want to do everything…to get closure.”
Mike Nelson says he remembers a couple of unusual things about the basement, which Ron LaBarca says was “never in the equation to be scanned” by US Radar during the CPD Miami dig on November 23, 1998.
“Every week back then, I would take the basement garbage to the curb for trash pickup,” says Nelson. ”One day, I remember noticing a space down there had been filled in with concrete and I thought that was strange. Also, the basement window was blacked out so you couldn’t see in.”
Dr. Louis Schlesinger, a professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who specializes in serial killers, says you can’t overestimate the significance of Gacy’s job as a maintenance man for the Miami apartment building.
“First of all, most maintenance men don’t black out the windows of the buildings they’re working at,” Schlesinger says. “Having said that, in the context of a maintenance man, Gacy had a way to explain what might be seen as unusual behavior.
“For example, somebody may have asked him why he was digging and he could say a pipe broke or something, which would not arouse the suspicion of the residents,” Schlesinger continues. “He may have been viewed as a little different, but he appeared very normal. And so, he could easily give you an explanation and you’d say, ‘Oh, OK.’”
Gacy’s mother also had ties to the Miami property.
Marion Elaine Gacy lived and worked as the superintendent in the apartment building for a period of time in the ’70s, most likely from May 1972 to early 1975.
Robert Ressler said in his book, Whoever Fights Monsters (St. Martin’s Press 1992), that Carole Hoff, Gacy’s second wife – married in 1972, divorced in 1976 – would ask Gacy about the wallets of young men that he had in the house, but Gacy said it was none of her business and she dropped it.
Hoff also told police in 1978 that around November of 1972, she began to notice Gacy bringing young men to their Summerdale garage late at night, sometimes spending hours with them.
Looking in the garage once, after Gacy had driven off with a boy, she found a mattress and a red light on the floor.
Bill Dorsch believes Hoff’s story is significant because Gacy had already committed his first known murder in January 1972, and if Gacy needed a convenient off-property burial site, Miami was a great option.
“He’s bringing kids into his garage late at night, and then he’s leaving with them,” Dorsch says. “How do we know that the kids aren’t brought to that garage – sexually assaulted in that garage – killed in that garage – then the bodies are put into his car and driven to Miami?
“At the time, it was difficult for Gacy to use the crawl space in his home because his family was living with him,” Dorsch continues. “So, Miami was perfect for him – he had a reason to be there and it was only four miles from his house.”
Dorsch’s theory is even more compelling when comparing a timeline of Gacy’s 33 known murders with the dates he worked as the maintenance man for the Miami building:
*Jan. 3, 1972 – March 1976 – Gacy kills three people over a four year, two-month period
Key Fact: When Gacy lives with his family, average time between his known murders – 500 days
*April 1976 – Dec. 1978 – Gacy kills 30 people over two year, eight-month period
Key Fact: When Gacy lives alone, average time between his known murders – 32 days
*1971 – 1976 – Gacy is the maintenance man for Miami apartment building in Chicago, a position he holds from approximately 1971-1976 according to neighbors and former residents
Key Fact: Gacy has access to a site only four miles from his house
“I find it hard to believe that Gacy only used his property and the river to get rid of bodies,” says Patrick Jones, who worked on the original Gacy case as a crime scene investigator with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
“Why couldn’t he have had a third dump site,” Jones continues. “We know Gacy liked to keep his victims close, so if he was the maintenance man for the Miami property that would be ideal for him to use because it was close and he could visit any time he liked.”
Terry Sullivan says the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office investigated several other possible Gacy murder sites, but it had no idea about the connection between Gacy and the Miami location before the 1998 investigation.
And Sullivan, who attended the CPD dig at Miami, says the site piqued his interest.
“It was a very unusual sort of a lot,” recalls Sullivan. “It intrigued me when I got there, especially since it was quite a small place and because it was in the kind of neighborhood that Gacy was from – the working middle class.
“And I thought if he had access to the property or if he had known somebody who lived there, or was doing work there, it would have been very easy for him to use the site. It fit right in to everything,” says Sullivan.
Although the official case reports of the 1998 CPD Gacy-Miami investigation couldn’t be located by the administrative staff of the CPD or the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, below is a copy of the search warrant application for the Miami property dated November 16, 1998.
Written by CPD Detective Eddie Dickinson, the document summarizes the collective work and opinion of the CPD officers who worked on the 1998 Gacy-Miami investigation up to that point.
In addition, the report – which has never been made public until now – concludes that the CPD believed “there are buried human remains located at (address deleted) W. Miami.”
AFFIDAVIT OF DETECTIVE EDWIN M. DICKINSON
I, Edwin M. Dickinson, being duly sworn under oath, hereby state as follows:
1. I am a Chicago Police Officer and have been so employed for the past 25 years. I am currently assigned as a Detective to Area Five Detective Division of the Chicago Police Department.
2. On 28 October 1998, I interviewed Mr. William Dorsch, a retired Chicago Police Officer, who stated that he had information as to the location where numerous victims of John W. Gacy may be buried. Mr. Dorsch indicated that he had suspicions for many years that John W. Gacy may have buried bodies at a residential apartment building at (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Mr. Dorsch related that prior to Gacy’s arrest, trial, and conviction as a serial killer he had seen Gacy with a shovel at (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois at approximately 3:00 A.M. Mr. Dorsch further related that Gacy was a caretaker for (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois during the years of 1972, 1973, and 1974. Mr. Dorsch submitted the name of the owner of this building during the time in question and one of the tenants of this building.
3. Mr. Dorsch also related that he recently contacted U.S. Radar Inc., of Matawan, New Jersey to conduct a ground penetrating radar search of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.
4. On 7 October 1998, in cooperation with the Better Government Association (B.G.A.), Mr. Dorsch and U.S. Radar Inc., conducted a covert non-invasive ground penetrating radar partial search of the yard and blacktop surrounding (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Mr. Dorsch stated that the results of this non-invasive search indicate six anomalous data points that are consistent with buried remains. Mr. LaBarca, of U.S. Radar Inc., has submitted a written report confirming these findings.
5. Mr. (name deleted) was confirmed through Cook County Records to be the owner of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois during the years in question. Mr. (name deleted) was interviewed and confirmed that John W. Gacy had access to the property during the time frame in question and had done maintenance work on this building. Mr. John W. Gacy was confirmed to have done cement work in the basement of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.
6. Ms. Lynn Troester was interviewed and confirms that she rented an apartment in the building located at (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois during the years in question. She further confirmed that John W. Gacy had access to the building and surrounding grounds of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois and acted as a maintenance man during the years in question.
7. Ms. Troester further confirmed that John W. Gacy had been known to conduct nocturnal excavations in the yard and blacktop areas of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.
8. Chicago Police Officer Bruno Muczyniski, currently assigned to the 15th District, was interviewed and stated that during the time in question he was married to Ms. Lynn Troester and resided in an apartment unit located at (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Officer Bruno confirmed that John W. Gacy acted in the capacity of a maintenance man at (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois during the years of 1972, 1973, and 1974. Officer Bruno also confirmed that John W. Gacy was observed excavating on this property during various times of the day and night.
9. Mr. John Ignoffo was interviewed and he stated that during the time in question he lived at (address deleted) W. Miami which provides a direct northerly view of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Mr. Ignoffo stated that he was approximately ten years old at the time in question and remembers that John W. Gacy had dug a three foot deep trench contiguous with the Miami Ave. sidewalks. Additionally, Mr. Ignoffo stated that his mother (deceased) had told him that she had observed John W. Gacy performing nocturnal excavations with plastic bags filled with unknown material. Mr. Ignoffo further related that his mother told him that John W. Gacy performed cement work under the back stairs of the building and in the laundry room of the basement.
10. Mr. Ron LaBarca, U.S. Radar Inc., of P.O. Box 319, Matawan, New Jersey, 07747 was telephonically interviewed and he confirms, that on 7 October 1998, he conducted a noninvasive partial search with remote sensing geophysical instrumentation (commonly referred to as surface or ground penetrating radar), of the yard and blacktop area contiguous to (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Illinois at the request of Mr. Dorsch and the Better Government Association.
11. Pursuant to this technical inspection of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois with remote sensing geophysical instrumentation (commonly referred to as surface or ground penetrating radar) by Mr. Ron LaBarca, of U.S. Radar, discovered that there are six subsurface anomalies that are not consistent with surrounding soil, are similar in size, shape, and dept for the evidence being sought and have a significant expectation for yielding additional forensic evidence. It is necessary to excavate these anomalies to fully evaluate their evidentiary value.
12. Mr. LaBarca further stated that he then had this data evaluated by Geophysicist Dr. Jon Dittmer, of ERA Technology and Michael Blain of U. S. Radar Inc. Mr. LaBarca indicated that his evaluations of the data obtained at (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois were confirmed by Geophysicist Dr. Jon Dittmer and Michael Blain.
13. Based on the facts of my investigation to wit: John W. Gacy had access to (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois and acted as a maintenance man; he had been known to conduct nocturnal excavations; he is the most prolific known serial killer in the State of Illinois; his method of disposing of his victims is identical to actions he was observed to perform at (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; and there is credible scientific evidence to believe that the possibility exists that human remains are buried in the yard and black top contiguous to (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; I believe that there are buried human remains located at (address deleted) W. Miami, Cook County, Chicago, Illinois. Consequently, based on this information I respectfully request that a Search Warrant be issued for the recovery of buried human remains located on the property of (address deleted) W. Miami, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.
Detective Edwin M. Dickinson
Subscribed and Sworn to Before Me This 16th Day of November, 1998, A.D.
Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County
After reviewing Gacy’s ties to the Miami apartment building, the question arises – “Should authorities reopen the Gacy-Miami investigation?”
Ross Gardner, a former felony criminal investigator with the U. S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and currently a crime scene analyst with Bevel Gardner & Associates, believes the connection between Gacy and the Miami building is clear, but conducting a definitive search to determine if any bodies are buried on the property is extremely challenging.
“The real question lies with how much effort the authorities are willing to extend in this closed investigation and how supportive the owners of the Miami building are to such an investigative effort,” Gardner says.
“Even with experienced forensic investigators employing all of the available technologies – magnetometers, ground penetrating radar, or infrared thermography – finding a clandestine grave is not guaranteed,” Gardner continues. “Assuming these non-intrusive search techniques locate areas of interest in the basement, under pavement, or on the grounds – ultimately, it will require an intrusive physical excavation. But, only at a significant cost and with significant effort.”
Chapter 9: Gacy’s Legacy
Although the depths of his crimes may still be unknown, Gacy has had a profound impact on countless lives, including the police officers who broke the case in 1978.
“It was a nightmare that has never gone away,” says former Des Plaines detective Joe Kozenczak, who was 38 when he led the investigation.
“It affected all of us and left scars – emotional and professional scars,” Kozenczak continues. “The horror and the overwhelming anxiety and stress of working the case was very difficult to deal with, even for veteran police officers.”
Rafael Tovar – the last Des Plaines officer who worked on the Gacy investigation before retiring in 2009 – echoes Kozencak’s sentiments.
“Occasionally, I’ll look back at the photos of what we were doing – digging through muck up to our knees, decaying flesh in our bare hands, with no masks or special uniforms,” Tovar recalls.
“We didn’t think it would affect us, but it did,” Tovar continues. “And every year after that, all the guys who were part of the dig would meet once a year for dinner and drinks – that was our therapy to each other in dealing with the horror of the case.”
Gacy, who turned down handwritten requests for interviews from Oprah Winfrey and Truman Capote, is still a pop culture icon of evil today.
British journalist William Cash wrote about Gacy’s cult of personality for a 1994 story in the Daily Mail:
Part of the fascination with Gacy is that his case was one of the first to alter the public consciousness about serial killers. He was one of the first to attract frenzied media coverage, which served almost to turn him into a lone, outcast, folkloric hero. In prison he received more than 27,000 letters, to which he replied to by hand. Like many serial killers, Gacy has enjoyed having his ego massaged by media attention. In this respect, the American media cannot be accused of having let him down.
The Gacy murders struck a blow at the heart of Chicago – the diverse, well-defined, tight-knit communities that make it one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
And Gacy’s legacy of torture and bloodshed will forever stain the Windy City, which has seen more than its fair share of grisly crimes during its famously sordid past.
But the thought that the nightmare is not over – that there may still be other Gacy victims waiting to be discovered in another quiet family neighborhood – is almost too disheartening to imagine.
A current resident at the Miami apartments says she is aware of the building’s link with the nation’s most prolific serial killer.
“My boyfriend and I would definitely prefer to live someplace else,” says the resident, who declined to be named. “But we pray all the time. I do believe that praying will help. And if there are other victims of Gacy here, I don’t think they would hurt us. They would only want help. And I’m willing to help them any way I can.”
Epilogue: Current Gacy-Miami Investigation
In March 2011, several Chicago and national media outlets reported on the new developments in the Gacy case – based on “Unfinished Nightmare” – but most failed to credit ShadowReports or myself as the source.
However, WGN-TV was one of the few news organizations that did credit ShadowReports with breaking the story in its March 17, 2011, report – “More Gacy Victims?”
As a result of the ShadowReports article and related follow-up stories, there was renewed interest in the Gacy case.
In October 2011, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart officially reopened the Gacy case. Below is part of a Nov. 1, 2011, article from USA Today – “Reopened John Wayne Gacy case could lead to more victims.”
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has reopened the Gacy investigation in hopes that DNA testing unavailable at the time of the murders can help identify eight victims whose names were never known. Their remains have been exhumed.
A re-examination of evidence turned up airline tickets and other documents that have prompted new inquiries into unsolved murders in 14 states and Canada where Gacy traveled during his six-year killing spree.
Already, the reopened case has solved one longstanding mystery: Harold Wayne Lovell, whose family concluded he was one of Gacy’s victims after his 1977 disappearance, turned up alive in Florida. He has reunited with his siblings.
…Dart says four or five detectives are working almost full-time on the case.
Terry Sullivan, a Chicago lawyer who helped prosecute Gacy, says that “even in death he’s like an octopus” whose tentacles extend far beyond the suburban Chicago home where he murdered most of his known victims.
…Sullivan says. “I have always said that there is a strong possibility that there were other victims,” he says. “The pressure has got to be kept on law enforcement to continue this.”
According to WGN-TV, Dart says the Cook County Sheriff’s Office is also following up on the 1998 Chicago Police Department Gacy-Miami investigation.
WGN-TV reported the CPD would not comment on the Gacy-Miami investigation and referred inquiries to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office after the ShadowReports article and related follow-up stories were published / broadcast.
In December 2011, Dart told WGN-TV that his office will be presenting new evidence to a judge to get a search warrant at some point in 2012 for a possible new search of the Miami grounds with more advanced radar equipment.
On March 30, 2012, the Chicago Tribune reported Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez denied Dart’s request to seek a search warrant for the property, saying the sheriff’s office does not have probable cause — sufficient information that the search will produce evidence of a crime — to obtain a warrant.
In June 2012, Dart was interviewed by documentary producers Alison True and Tracy Ullman of Norwester Productions for the site JohnWayneGacyNews.com.
“If, at the end of the day, they turn us down again…the public will always wonder whether or not there was bodies there,” said Dart. “Whereas, if we were able to go ahead and do it, we could put it to rest – this has been thoroughly examined, there is nothing here.”
On July 16, 2012, WGN’s Larry Potash reported that Dart has resubmitted his request for a Miami property search warrant to the Cook County State’s Attorney`s office.
On January 11, 2013, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez approved the Cook County Sheriff’s Office request for a search warrant. Details about the new search are pending.
Anyone with additional information about the Gacy case is asked to call the Cook County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-942-1950 or go to their site at http://www.CookCountySheriff.com.
Appendix – Exclusive Gacy Timeline
John Wayne Gacy was convicted of 33 murders – 27 bodies buried under his house, one body each under the concrete in his garage and patio, and four bodies dumped in the river. All his victims were young men in their early teens to early 20s.
Perhaps the most compelling information that can help shed light on the Gacy-Miami mystery is a timeline of Gacy’s life from 1968-1978.
The timeline, an “Unfinished Nightmare” exclusive, suggests that if Gacy committed other murders, he probably committed them between 1971-1975.
And the timeline also suggests that if Gacy used the Miami property to dispose of bodies, he probably used it between 1971-1975.
1968-1978 Gacy Timeline
*March 1968 – Gacy sexually assaults two teenage boys and is sent to prison in Iowa
Key Point: Gacy’s first arrest for violent sex crime, victims live
*June 18, 1970 – Gacy paroled from prison and moves to Chicago to live with his mom
Key Point: Gacy arrives in Chicago
*Feb. 1971 – Chicago teenage boy claims Gacy sexually assaulted him, charges later dropped
Key Point: Gacy’s second arrest for violent sex crime, victim lives
*Aug. 1971 – Gacy and his mom buy Summerdale house located just outside Chicago
Key Point: Gacy has a big-city base of operation, but he lives with his mother
*1971 – Gacy becomes the maintenance man for Miami Ave. apartment building in Chicago, a position he holds until at least 1975
Key Point: Gacy has control of a site that is convenient for him to dispose of bodies, located only four miles from his house
*1971 – According to Miami Ave. building junior maintenance man Mike Nelson, the basement windows at the Miami apartment are blacked out during the time Gacy worked there
Key Point: Gacy has control of a site that is convenient for him to dispose of bodies and he is blacking out the basement windows
*Jan. 3, 1972 – Gacy murders victim #1, Timothy McCoy, in his Summerdale home
Key Point: Gacy’s first known murder, buried on his property
*June 1972 – Gacy charged with battery after a young man says Gacy flashed a sheriff’s badge, lured him into Gacy’s car, and forced him into sex, charges later dropped
Key Point: Gacy’s first arrest for violent sex crime after committing murder, victim lives
*March 1972 – Carole Hoff and her two daughters move in with Gacy and his mom
Key Point: Gacy has four people living with him at his Summerdale house
*May 1972 – Gacy’s mom moves out of Summerdale home and moves into Miami apartments
Key Point: Gacy is not only the maintenance man for Miami building, now his mom lives and works there as the building superintendent until around spring of 1975
*June 1, 1972 – Gacy and Carole Hoff get married, Carole’s mom moves in with the couple
Key Point: Gacy has four people living with him at his Summerdale house
*November 1972 – Carole Hoff begins to notice Gacy bringing young men to their Summerdale garage late at night – garage windows are blacked out and sometimes Gacy spends hours there – Carole also discovers a mattress and a red light on the floor one night after Gacy drives off
Key Point: Gacy uses garage for likely sexual activity and then drives off late at night
*Around 1972 – 1975 – Carole Hoff asks Gacy about the wallets of young men that he has in the house – Gacy tells her it is none of her business and she drops it
Key Point: Possession of wallets is strong circumstantial evidence that Gacy committed a crime to acquire them
*Summer 1973 – Gacy gets a court order to evict his mother-in-law
Key Point: Gacy now has three people living with him at his Summerdale house
*Sometime between 1972 – 1975 – Gacy murders victim #2, body is unidentified
Key Point: Gacy’s second known murder, buried on his property
*1975 – Gacy’s mom moves out of Miami apartment building and moves to Arkansas
Key Point: Gacy loses a family contact at the Miami building
*July 31, 1975 – Gacy murders victim #3, John Butkovich, in his Summerdale home
Key Point: Gacy’s third known murder, buried on his property
*February 1976 – Carole Hoff and her two kids move out of Summerdale home
Key Point: Gacy now lives by himself
*April 1976 – Dec. 11, 1978 – Gacy murders victims #4 through #33, all killed in his Summerdale home
Key Point: Gacy is killing more frequently
*December 1977 – Gacy kidnaps teen boy at gunpoint and commits sexual assault
Key Point: Gacy’s first known violent sex crime after he commits multiple murders, victim lives
*March 1978 – Gacy lures a young man into his car, chloroforms him, takes him back to his Summerdale house, rapes and tortures him, but eventually lets him go
Key Point: Gacy’s second known violent sex crime after he commits multiple murders, victim lives
*Dec. 11, 1978 – Gacy murders victim #33, Robert Piest
Key Point: Gacy’s last known murder
Timeline Summary & Conclusion
*Aug. 1971 – February 1976 – Gacy lives at Summerdale house with family
Conclusion: Gacy has people living with him, so it’s difficult to use house as burial site
*1971 – Gacy becomes the maintenance man for Miami Ave. apartment building in Chicago, a position he holds until at least 1975
Conclusion: Gacy has control of a location to dispose of bodies, only four miles from his house
*Jan. 3, 1972 – Gacy murders victim #1, Timothy McCoy, in his Summerdale home
Conclusion: Although he may have killed earlier, no doubt now that Gacy is a lethal predator
*May 1972 – Gacy’s mom moves out of Summerdale home and moves into Miami apartments
Conclusion: Gacy is not only the maintenance man for Miami building, now his mom lives there and she is also the superintendent for the building
*November 1972 – Carole Hoff begins to notice Gacy bringing young men to their Summerdale garage late at night – garage windows are blacked out and sometimes Gacy spends hours there – Carole also discovers a mattress and a red light on the floor one night after Gacy drives off
Conclusion: Gacy appears to be engaging in sexual behavior that seems to be consistent with his past and future sexual patterns
*Around 1972 – 1975 – Carole Hoff asks Gacy about the wallets of young men that he has in the house – Gacy tells her it is none of her business and she drops it
Conclusion: Possession of wallets is strong circumstantial evidence that Gacy committed a crime to acquire them and fits his future pattern of keeping his murder victim’s wallets
*February 1976 – Carole Hoff and her two kids move out of Summerdale home
Conclusion: Gacy now lives by himself and has more opportunity to kill
*Jan. 3, 1972 – March 1976 – Gacy kills three people over a four-year, 2-month period
Conclusion: When Gacy lives with his family, average time between his murders – 500 days
*April 1976 – Dec. 1978 – Gacy kills 30 people over two-year, 8-month period
Conclusion: When Gacy lives alone, average time between his murders – 32 days
*1971 – 1975 – Gacy is the maintenance man for Miami Ave. apartment building in Chicago, a position he holds until at least 1975
Conclusion: Gacy has the opportunity to dispose of bodies at a low-risk site located five minutes from his house
I would like to thank Roosevelt University professor Anne Marie Cusac, who taught the magazine writing class where the story first took shape – her advice and editing contributions were invaluable.
Roosevelt University journalism professors Linda Jones and Shonda Dudlicek, who both helped edit the book.
Alison True for her belief in the story.
Larry Potash and Mike Wilder for their journalistic integrity.
Matt Weller for his encouragement.
Also, others who provided support and advice include: John McCormick, Clifford Linedecker, Marsha Bartel, John Drummond, John Kass, Todd Musburger, John McClelland, Jesse Katz, Tony Kern, Dave Pieper, Tony Pietrczak, Nathan Stange, Tam Dillman, Jeff Kiko, Dave Fischer, Ted Wellman, Tom Wellman, Terry Phillips, Mike Smucker, Kyle Rafferty, Mike Clark and Bryan Smith – his non-fiction features in Chicago magazine have been an inspiration.
A very special thanks to Frank Cappitelli, Bill Dorsch, Ron LaBarca, Mike Lyons, Terry Sullivan and Joseph Kozenczak.
Also, thanks to the men and women of the Chicago Police Department, Cook County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement officers around the country who risk their lives every day.
The Associated Press, “Dig for Gacy victims planned for Monday,” November 19, 1998.
The Associated Press, “List of Gacy’s Victims,” May 9, 1994.
The Associated Press, “Radar Hints Of New Victims Of Mass Killer,” November 12, 1998.
Assuras, Thalia. “Chicago Police Find No More Of John Wayne Gacy’s Victims,”CBS Morning News, November 24, 1998.
Bierschenk,Ed. “Reportrips Palatine police in murder probe,” Copley News Service, November 20, 1997.
Brown, Andrea. “Last Des Plaines investigator on Gacy case stepping down,” Chicago Tribune, September 30, 2009.
Burns, Terry. “Gacy killed dozens, and maybe was ‘good for more than 33,’” 1994.
Cash, William. “Ringside At An Execution,” Daily Mail London, May 11, 1994.
Chamberlain, Charles. “Prosecution Calls Gacy “Worst Of All Murderers,” The Associated Press, March 11, 1980.
Cosgrove-Miller, Bootie. “Inside A Killer’s Mind – Gacy’s Brain And Beyond: A Doctor Explores World Of Serial Killers,” CBS News, May 10, 2004.
Davis Patty. “Chicago Mayor Daley poised to Rush back into office,” CNN, February 23, 1999.
Driscoll, Paul. “Anyone With a Brain Knew This Was Not a Runaway,” The Associated Press, May 9, 1994.
Flock, Jeff and Waters, Lou. “Police Search for More Victims at Gacy’s Mother’s Apartment,” CNN, November 23, 1998.
Flock, Jeff and Lin, Carol. “Police Search Gacy Victims,” CNN, November 23, 1998.
Howlett, Debbie. “Search renewed for Gacy victims,” USA Today, November 23, 1998.
Jacobson, Walter. “John Wayne Gacy: The Mind of a Serial Killer,” WBBM CBS 2, May 1992.
Keen, Judy. “Reopened John Wayne Gacy case could lead to more victims,” USA Today, Nov. 1, 2011.
Kozenczak, Joseph and Henrikson, Karen. The Chicago Killer. Xlibris 2003.
Krishnamurth, Madhu.“Des Plaines police investigator recalls working infamous Gacy case,” Daily Herald, October 1, 2009.
Linedecker. Clifford. The Man Who Killed Boys. St. Martin’s Press 1980.
Lohr, David. “Boy Killer: John Wayne Gacy,”
CrimeMagazine.com, August 5, 2001.
Maier, Frank and Matthews, Tom. “Double Life of a Clown,”Newsweek,January 8, 1979.
Marin, Carol and Wigdahl, Heidi. “John Wayne Gacy’s Final Secret,” NBC Chicago, May 12, 2009.
Mayer, Cynthia. “On Death Row, Time Is Running Out,”The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 17, 1994.
McCormick, John.“Digging Up The Past – Did John Wayne Gacy Kill More Than We Knew?”Newsweek, November 23, 1998.
Miller, John. “Playing With Predators,”ABC News, July 15, 2000.
The Montreal Gazette, “Did Gacy kill more?” November 14, 1998.
Morrison, Helen and Goldberg, Harold. My Life Among Serial Killers. Avon Books 2004. “Police Search Yields Nothing in Gacy Case,” The New York Times, November 24, 1998.
O’Brien, John. “Dig Planned at Chicago Site Tied to Gacy,”Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1998.
Ressler, Robert and Shachtman, Tom. Whoever Fights Monsters. St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1992.
Ressler, Robert and Shachtman, Tom. I Have Lived in the Monsters. St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1997.
Robinson, Mike. “High-tech hunt prompts dig for more Gacy victims,” The Associated Press, November 11, 1998.
Robinson, Mike. “Police Seek Chicago Killer Victims,” The Associated Press,” November 23, 1998.
Robinson, Mike. “Hunt for Gacy victims proves ‘a big case over nothing,’” The Associated Press, November 24, 1998.
Sullivan, Terry with Peter T. Maiken, Peter. Killer Clown – The John Wayne Gacy Murders. Windsor Publishing 1983.
Time, “I Do Rotten, Horrible Things,” January 8, 1979.
Time, “Nation: It’s God’s Will,” March 24, 1980.
Time, “Top 25 Crimes Of The 20th Century – John Wayne Gacy, 1978,” 2007.
UPI, “Retiring detective remembers serial killer,” September 30, 2009.
Wilkinson, Alec. “Conversations With A Killer,” The New Yorker, April 18, 1994.
Wilson, Marc. “Behind the masks of a clown,” The Associated Press, December, 28, 1978.
About the Author
Chris Maloney is a Chicago-based freelance writer and producer. He won the 2009 Golden Key Literary Achievement Award in news writing and has been published in Shape, Hustler,The Huffington Post, PGATour.comand Yahoo! Singapore – a homepage feature story.
In January 2011, he launched ShadowReports.com, a digital media site that publishes original investigative reports and unique feature stories.
Maloney also recently published the eBook, Eaten Alive: Five Killer Croc Attacks (Amazon 2012). In addition, he is writing the hardcover children’s picture book, Bronco the Pizza Delivery Dog, which will be published in 2013.
Previously, Maloney was a writer and producer for Boatyard, Classic Boat and Cruising The Great Lakes – three weekly marine series produced for the national cable networks Outdoor Life (currently NBC Sports) and Speed.
He has an M.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications from Roosevelt University and a B.A. in journalism from the University of Dayton.