Execution Eve Letter
from Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy

This is a letter from convicted (and since executed) serial killer JOHN WAYNE GACY, dated 5/9/94. This is a handwritten, single page letter addressed to me on Gacy letterhead. It is dated the day before his execution. 

The letter arrived 2 or 3 days after he was executed, and included a copy of his flyer, "They Called Him The Killer Clown: But Is JW Gacy a Mass Murderer or Another Victim?" and a copy of a Chicago Tribune clipping, "Gacy lawyers tell of new evidence."

The letter states: 

"Daniel Hancock 5/9/94 Dan, got your letter just that with all that is going on I never got back to you maybe next time. Thanks for all you help and being a friend. Justice will not have been served with my passing. The fact sheet still needs to be gotten out to enlighten a gullible public. I never gave up the fight for truth. Peace and good health be with you and your always Sincerely J. W. Gacy A Friend."

In February 1993, as a collector of notoriety, and knowing that Gacy was running low on appeals, I began corresponding with him. We corresponded until his death in 1994. I never sympathized with his situation, nor was I critical of him. Mostly we wrote about current events, and Gacy would provide interesting newpaper articles and other information on his appeals.

The Background

An affable building contractor and local Democratic precinct captain, Gacy had risen to a position of respect in his neighborhood in the Chicago suburb of Norwood Township in the 1970's.

He threw summer barbecues for local politicos. He helped organize the annual Polish Day Parade in Chicago. He even posed with first lady Rosalynn Carter during one parade and kept the framed photograph proudly displayed in his home.

He was known as a fatherly sort, a decent, if boastful man who liked to take teen-agers under his wing and hire them to do painting and light construction for his small company, PDM Contractors.

That changed on December 21, 1978, when police investigators decided to take a look inside his simple red brick rancher.

They were searching for 15-year-old Robert Piest, who had vanished not long after telling his mother he was meeting with Gacy to discuss a possible construction job.

Notified of Piest's disappearance, police ran a check on Gacy and discovered he had a few run-ins with the law -- a sodomy conviction in Iowa, a complaint of kidnapping by a gay man, and a police visit one night when a neighbor said she heard screams emanating from Gacy's house.

Once inside Gacy's house, police found some ominous signs: wallets of several teen-age boys and a recent high school class ring. Then someone thought to check the crawl space beneath the house, a dank, flooded area just 2-1/2 feet high.

Digging with a shovel in one corner, an investigator hit an arm bone, then a shovelful of putrid flesh, then the remains of another body, then another.

Within days, Gacy had confessed to killing 33 boys and young men. He drew a meticulous map for police, identifying the locations of the 27 bodies he had buried in his crawl space. Two more victims were buried beneath his garage. Four more bodies -- including Piest's -- had been tossed from a bridge into a nearby river, Gacy told police.

Prosecutors said Gacy lured his victims, many of them runaways, to his house with promises of construction jobs or payments for sex. Once in his home, Gacy would handcuff them, saying it was just part of a ''neat trick.''

''The trick is you can't get out,'' Gacy would then laugh.

Gacy's typical victim was sexually assaulted, tortured and eventually strangled with rope slowly tightened with a hammer handle. Almost all died between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. at Gacy's home. All except for the first victim had allowed Gacy to handcuff them as part of the magic trick demonstration.

Sometimes, Gacy would be dressed as his alter ego, Pogo the Clown.

Gacy told police the killings were committed by his alternate personality, Jack Hanson. His real personality, he said, was the friendly, eager-to-please man who had married two women and fathered two children, and built a contracting business from scratch.

At his 1980 trial, 13 psychiatrists testified Gacy was many things, but not a multiple personality. He ultimately was convicted of all 33 deaths by a Cook County jury. In March 1980, he was sentenced to serve 12 death sentences and 21 natural life sentences for the killings, all of which occurred between 1972 and 1978.

He spent the bulk of his prison sentence at the Menard Correctional Center near Chester, IL.

Gacy had the dubious distinction of being the worst serial murderer in the United States. Ted Bundy, who was executed several years ago, killed 23 during a five-year spree; David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, serving a life sentence in New York, killed 13 people from 1975 to 1977 and Jeffrey Dahmer, who partially consumed some of his victims, killed 17.

On May 9, 1994 Gacy was transferred by helicopter from Menard Correctional Center in Southern Illinois, arriving before 8 a.m. at Stateville Correctional Center, where he was scheduled to die by lethal injection shortly after midnight. He took only two boxes of legal papers.

The transfer occurred amid a last-minute flurry of legal maneuvering aimed at averting Illinois' first involuntary execution in 32 years.

Prison officials at Menard Correctional Center, where Gacy was incarcerated for 14 years, threw all of the killer's personal possessions into the trash.

Gacy's attorneys said their client's mental condition was so poor, he could not comprehend what would happen to him when he is strapped down at midnight and the executioner begins the flow of lethal drugs.

His lawyers fought to delay the execution by a lethal injection of drugs scheduled for 12:01 a.m.

Gacy's lawyers described him as a sick man unable to accept what was about to happen to him. His plea that he was mentally incompetent went nowhere with a jury that in March of 1980 deliberated less than two hours before finding him guilty of the 33 deaths.

John Wayne Gacy, at the time the worst serial killer in U.S. history, was executed at Illinois' Stateville Correction Center on May 10, 1994. He was 52 years old.

He died shortly before 1 a.m. local time when a medical catheter was inserted into his hand and three lethal chemicals administered.

Death by lethal injection consists of injecting three chemicals into a person. Evidently in Gacy's case a congealing in the tube administering the second chemical - pancuronium bromide - resulted in Gacy still remaining alive after about 10 minutes.

"He lived six minutes longer than he should have," said Bill Kunkle, who helped prosecute Gacy and witnessed the execution.

Gacy was an avid letter writer, and may have written thousands of letters during his 14 year stay on death row. This letter is unique in that it was handwritten (Gacy always typed his letters) and composed on the day before he died, probably one of the last tasks he completed before leaving Menard.

Return to Collecting History