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Crime News Serial Killers

The 33 Known And Unknown Murder Victims Of 'Killer Clown' John Wayne Gacy

When detectives asked Gacy if there were more victims, he replied, "That's for you guys to find out."

By Benjamin H. Smith

From 1972 to 1978, serial killer John Wayne Gacy abducted and murdered 33 teenage boys and young men in and around Chicago. In addition to those he killed, Gacy had a history of sexual violence going back to the ‘60s, when he was arrested for sexually assaulting two teenage boys and sentenced to 10 years in prison for sodomy, for which he only served 18 months. When not slaking his thirst for rape and murder, Gacy passed himself off as an upstanding member of his community. He was known as a successful businessman, served as a precinct captain in the local Democratic Party and performed for children at charity events as “Pogo The Clown,” earning him the nickname, “The Killer Clown.” 

To ensnare his victims, Gacy would pose as a police officer, offer to pay for sex or simply invite young men to come over to smoke pot and drink beers at his home in the northwestern Chicago suburbs. Once there, he would handcuff and subdue them, rape and torture them throughout the night and ultimately strangle them. In most cases, he buried them in the crawl space underneath the house. Twenty-six of his victims were found there, neatly buried on top of each other, when he was finally arrested on December 21, 1978.

While most of those Gacy killed have been identified through dental records and DNA, police continue to search for the identities of six of his victims. This is a list of his victims, both those identified as well as those unknown. The possibility also exists that Gacy is responsible for murders police are unaware of. Following the discovery of the bodies on his property, Detective Rafael Tovar asked Gacy if there were more victims, to which he replied, "That's for you guys to find out."

Police searching the crawl space of John Wayne Gacy's home.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Timothy McCoy (January 3, 1972)

Gacy told investigators his first murder victim was a teenage boy he picked up outside Chicago’s Greyhound Bus Station in the winter of 1972. Unlike his later victims, who were strangled, Gacy said he stabbed the boy in the chest. He was also the first of his victims to be buried in the crawl space beneath his house. In 1986, dental records identified him as 15-year-old McCoy, who had been traveling for the holidays, and had a bus layover in Chicago.

Unidentified Victim (1974)

Gacy said he next murdered in 1974, and it is assumed his second victim was an unidentified white male, whose body was found buried in his backyard. The victim was between 14 and 18 years of age and it’s estimated he died between 1972 and 1975.

John Butkovitch (July 31, 1975)

Butkovitch, 17, was one of several employees of Gacy’s construction company, PDM Contractors, who fell victim to his boss’ bloodthirsty desires. He went missing after going to Gacy’s to pick up a paycheck, and his remains were later found underneath the concrete floor of his garage.  

Darrell Sampson (April 6, 1976)

In March 1976, Gacy’s divorce from his second wife, Carole Hoff, was finalized. With the house all to himself, his murderous impulses were unchecked. Sampson, 18, was the first victim of this two year blood-run. His body was later found buried underneath the dining room of Gacy’s house.

Randall Reffett (May 14, 1976)

Reffett, 15, was last seen walking home from school. His body was later found in Gacy’s crawl space, dead from asphyxiation.

Sam Stapleton (May 14, 1976)

Gacy’s second victim in a single day, Sam Stapleton was just 14 when he disappeared on the way home from his sister’s apartment. He was buried with Randall Reffett in Gacy’s crawl space.

Michael Bonnin (June 3, 1976)

Bonnin, 17, was found buried in the crawl space with the ligature that was used to strangle him still around his neck.

William Carroll (June 13, 1976)

Known to his friends as “Billy,” the 16-year-old was found buried in Gacy’s crawl space.

Unidentified Victim (Summer 1976)

It’s assumed this victim was murdered between June and August 1976 due to his burial location in the crawl space. He was a white male between 23 and 30 years of age, who was missing his top two front teeth and wore a removable denture. 

James Haakenson (August 5, 1976)

Long one of Gacy’s unknown victims, 16-year-old “Jimmy” Haakenson was identified in July 2017 thanks to DNA evidence. He had run away from his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the summer of 1976, but called them on August 5 of that year to tell them he was in Chicago. It was the last they would ever hear from him.

Rick Johnston (August 6, 1976)

Johnston, 17, was last seen going to a rock concert at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. Afterwards, he was supposed to call his mother for a ride home, but she never heard from him. His dead body was found in a stack with Haakenson and another unidentified victim.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Unidentified Victim (Summer or fall 1976)

This unknown victim was between 18 to 22 years old and had dental problems at the time of his death.

Unidentified Victim (Summer or fall 1976)

This unidentified white male was between 15 to 24 years old at the time of his death.

Kenneth Parker and Michael Marino (October 25, 1976)

Friends Parker, 16, and Marino, 14, were last seen hanging out together on Chicago’s North Side, and they were reported missing by their parents the following day. They were strangled and buried together and later identified by their dental records. In 2014, Sherry Marino, Michael’s mother, had both bodies exhumed and claims DNA tests show that the remains given to her are not her sons, who she believes is still alive. Meanwhile, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and medical examiner stand by their findings.   

William Bundy (October 26, 1976)

Bundy, 19, occasionally worked for PDM Contractors and went missing one night after telling his family he was going to a party. Though his family had always suspected he was one of the victims found in Gacy’s crawl space, his remains weren’t identified until 2011 when his surviving siblings provided DNA samples to police.

Gregory Godzik (December 12, 1976)

Godzick, 17, had only worked for PDM for a short time before he went missing after dropping a girl off from a date. His wallet was found during a search of Gacy’s home, and it was later confirmed that his remains were among those found in the crawl space.  

John Szyc (January 20, 1977)

Known as “Johnny” to his friends and family, the 19-year-old was another PDM employee who went missing and whose remains were later found in the crawl space.   

Unidentified Victim (Winter 1977)

This unknown white male was between 22 to 33 years of age and was found in possession of a key fob with the name “Greg” on it.

Jon Prestidge (March 15, 1977)

Michigan native Prestidge was visiting friends in Chicago when he had the misfortune of crossing paths with Gacy. The 20-year-old's body was later found in the crawl space.  

Unidentified Victim (Spring or summer 1977)

At some point before his death, this unknown white male had his left clavicle broken and was between 17 and 21 years old.

Matthew Bowman (July 5, 1977)

Bowman, 19, was found in Gacy’s crawl space with the rope used to strangle him still wrapped around his neck.

Robert Gilroy (September 15, 1977) 

Gilroy, 18, was the son of a sergeant on the Chicago Police Department, who lived four blocks away from Gacy at the time of his disappearance.  

[Photo: Getty Images]

John Mowery (September 25, 1977)

Mowery was a 19-year-old US Marine who was studying to become an accountant. According to CBS Chicago, he had gone to Gacy’s house to inquire about work and never returned.  

Russell Nelson (October 17, 1977)

A 22-year-old University of Minnesota architecture student, Nelson traveled to Chicago with a friend, and he was last seen at a dance club when he went missing. His remains were later found in the crawl space.

Robert Winch (November 10, 1977)

Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Winch was just 16 years old when he was murdered. His remains were later found in the crawl space.

Tommy Boling (November 18, 1977)

A 20-year-old father of one, Boling was found in Gacy’s crawl space, dead from strangulation.

David Talsma (December 9, 1977)

Like John Mowery, Talsma was a 19-year-old US Marine. He was identified on what would have been his 21st birthday.

William Kindred (February 16, 1978)

Kindred was 19 years old and was the last of Gacy’s victims buried in the crawl space beneath his house.

Timothy O'Rourke (June 1978)

Only 20 years old at the time of his death, O’Rourke was the first of four victims Gacy dumped from a bridge into Illinois’ Des Plains River, after his crawl space had become too crowded with dead bodies.

Frank Landingin (November 4, 1978)

Landingin’s body was discovered in the Des Plaines River. The Washington Post reported a pair of underwear had been stuffed in the 19-year-old's mouth, and investigators determined he had died from strangulation, not drowning.

James Mazzara (November 24, 1978)

Mazzara was 20 years old when he went missing on Thanksgiving Day 1978. He was later found in the Des Plaines River, and evidence found in Gacy’s home tied him to the crime, according to The New York Times.

Robert Piest (December 11, 1978)

Gacy’s final victim was 15-year-old Robert Piest. Prior to his disappearance, he had been seen in the pharmacy where he worked talking to Gacy about a summer job at PDM. Police began investigating Gacy after learning about his history of sexual abuse, leading to the search of his home and the discovery of 29 of his 33 victims. Piest, however, was not among those found. His body was eventually pulled from the Illinois River on April 9, 1979.

[Photo: Getty Images]