John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer from Chicago, Illinois, convicted of the rape and murder of 33 boys and young men. He is also known as the Killer Clown, due to his enjoyment of entertaining children in a clown outfit.
In December 1978, a 15-year-old boy named Robert Priest went missing. The boy had disappeared from a local pharmacy, where he had heard a man talking about hiring teenage boys to help him out with some work. Apparently Priest heard this and told his mother that he wanted to go back later because “some contractor wants to talk to me about a job”. After leaving home to meet with this man, the boy failed to return home. Upon being questioned, the owner of the pharmacy identified Gacy as the man the boy was referring to.
Police checked out Gacy’s record and discovered he had previously served 18 months in prison on child molestation charges, though was released for good behaviour. This was enough to further their suspicions, and so they brought him in for questioning. Gacy began confessing, and his house at 8213 Summerdale Avenue was searched. His neighbours had complained of an awful smell around the man’s house, and soon police discovered why. As the floorboards of the house were taken up, remains were discovered in various states of decay, and more corpses were pulled from a river nearby. Once the bones were confirmed to be those of human origin, forensic anthropologists Charles Warren and Clyde Snow were brought in to examine the bones.
The anthropologists began by sorting and separating the bones, examining them closely for any distinguishing features that may help identify the victims. In total there were 33 victims, most of whom were teenage runaways or male prostitutes. Snow compiled a chart for every skull found including 35 points of reference to compare to missing person reports. Many victims were identified in this way, but soon the specialists found themselves stumped on the identification of 9 of the victims. Forensic artist Betty Pat Gatliff was called in. Using facial reconstruction methods, as described here, she was able to reconstruct the faces so that images could be distributed to members of the public. Unfortunately no one came forward to identify the victims, and they remained unnamed.
John Wayne Gacy was convicted and executed on 10 May 1994.