Bill Dorsch lived just around the corner from the building at Miami and Elston where John Wayne Gacy worked as caretaker in the mid 1970s. A homicide detective with the Chicago Police Department who’d grown up in the same neighborhood, Dorsch saw Gacy around occasionally and said hello. His wife, who ran the local office of an insurance company, had hired Gacy for some interior construction work, and Gacy had even had the Dorsches to dinner once. They spent the evening with Gacy and his wife at their home, just beyond the city limits in unincorporated Norwood Park. (In retrospect that’s quite a story. We’ll get back to that.)
Back in the 70s, Dorsch says, the corner of Miami and Elston would get so quiet at night that you could lie down in the middle of the intersection. The area was full of civil servants and their families, living in unassuming single- and multi-family homes. Dorsch’s brother and sister lived in different houses just off the intersection. So did Lynn, an old friend from the neighborhood, and her husband, Bruno, another police officer who rented the garden apartment in the six-flat where Gacy worked. Gacy remarried in the early 70s, and after Bruno and Lynn moved out, Gacy moved his mother into their garden apartment to give her and his new family room to breathe.
In the wee hours of one morning in 1975, Dorsch was knocking off after a late shift and heading into the alley behind his house when he was surprised to see Gacy walking across the yard of the building where he worked.
He was carrying a shovel.
When Dorsch asked him what he was doing out in the middle of the night, Gacy replied, “You know me, Bill, never enough hours in the day.”
Three years later, in 1978, when Gacy was arrested and the horrifying cache of bodies began to be exhumed in and around his house, Dorsch did what anyone would: he reported that strange late-night encounter. As a police officer he knew to call the Cook County sheriff’s office, which was handling the investigation. He told the desk man that under the circumstances he had an unpleasant suspicion about what Gacy might have been doing with that shovel.
As far as he knew, his lead was forwarded properly, and Dorsch figured it had led to a dead end.
By then Dorsch had moved away from the neighborhood and didn’t know that other residents had made similar connections and had called the police with their suspicions as well.
He didn’t know that the authorities were given plenty of reasons to be interested in the building at Miami and Elston. Or that none of the tips had been acted upon.