FAQ: the investigation so far

What is this site and where are the posts I’ve read here before?

This is the home of an investigation by Alison True and Tracy Ullman begun in October 2011. Posts have been taken down while we work on bringing attention to the case through other platforms. We began to tell this story in the NBC Universal documentary Devil in Disguise, which began streaming in March 2021. But there’s more.

Who’s John Wayne Gacy?

He was a Chicagoan with a small construction company and one of the world’s most prolific serial killers. He was suspected in the disappearance of a suburban teenager in 1978 and arrested, whereupon the police found the remains of dozens of victims in the crawlspace under his house. By the time Gacy was executed in 1994, 25 victims had been identified and the remains of 8 others were interred without ID.

Why is he called the “Killer Clown”?

People often say that Gacy lured victims dressed as a clown, but this is false. He occasionally dressed as a clown for parties, but he kidnapped victims other ways: by offering them construction work or by offering them money for sex or simply inviting them to party with him. He also posed as law enforcement as a way of forcing kids into his car and then overpowered them by covering their mouths with chloroform-soaked rags.

Were there witnesses to the crimes?

While they were trailing him, investigators followed him into a bar and overheard him and friends apparently discussing how to dispose of bodies. Before and after Gacy’s arrest, several young men of his acquaintance were questioned by police, while others appear to have disappeared. One survivor said at least one other person was involved when he was kidnapped and brutally attacked.

No one else given immunity through a plea deal, but no one else was ever charged.

So what’s up with that place at Miami and Elston?

In the mid 1970s Gacy had a maintence contract there, and for a time his mother occupied one of the five apartments. After his arrest, several neighbors of that building called police saying they might have witnessed Gacy burying victims without realizing it.

Wasn’t that place investigated recently?

That depends on how you define “investigated.” In 1998, after a ground-scanning-radar company found anomalies in the yard, the Chicago police obtained a search warrant and expressed a strong conviction that they’d find human remains there. In the event, though, investigators ignored what eyewitnesses said about where to dig and kept their operations restricted to a small tent set up in a different place in the yard.

In response to our inquiries, along with our witness interviews and new evidence, Cook County sheriff Tom Dart made a new search of the property in the spring of 2013. Dart later announced that the site was clean, but when pressed, his technician admitted that the search wasn’t thorough enough to produce any solid conclusions.

Though Dart has stated that he is committed to tying up the loose ends in the case, Dart has not explained why he doesn’t want to excavate the site. His refusal raises questions about why he insists on preserving the dubious narrative portrayed at trial: that Gacy worked alone and that all of his victims were recovered.

How so?

Much has been made of Dart’s announced intention to use modern technology to try to bring closure to the families of the victims who weren’t identified at the time of Gacy’s arrest.

Dart invited people to submit profiles of potential victims, and said he heard from more than 100. He said his office narrowed the field to 30 or so based on their similarity to the profiles of Gacy’s known victims, and their relatives were invited to submit DNA. Since then only three of the eight additional victims have been identified.

What about all those other families whose victim profiles seemed likely?

At the time of Gacy’s arrest witnesses reported suspicions about multiple other locations in Chicago, including but not limited to the house on Miami, The sheriff has not shown any interest in investigating them. He does, however, readily admit that Gacy traveled frequently for work and may well have murdered boys elsewhere.

Proof that there are more victims?

Sherry Marino’s son, Michael, was identified in 1980, along with his friend Kenny Parker, as a Gacy victim, but she was supsicious of the news. After we began publicizing problems with the case, criminal defense attorney Stephen Becker petitioned the court on her behalf for permission to exhume the purported remains of her son. Over the county’s objections, she prevailed, and subsequent tests proved that her DNA did not match that of the victim. There was speculation that Michael’s and Kenny Parker’s remains had mingled and their identities had gotten switched. So she obtained permission, going to court once again, to exhume Parker’s remains. There was no match between her DNA and that of the second victim either. So neither victim is her son, and it’s possible, considering the circumstances, that the friend was misidentified as well.

The sheriff doesn’t accept her legitimate test results, nor does he acknowledge that he now has at least one, maybe two, and possibly even more additional victims to contend with.


Sheriff Dart’s insistence that the case remains “open” means that he has grounds to refuse to permit public examination of the case files. At least two of Gacy’s young employees were linked to known child sex traffickers, and like the famous child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, Gacy had an address book packed with the names of powerbrokers, politicians, and businesspeople. His sister told us he called it his “blackmail book.”

One last tweet thread?

Hey followers–

Just fyi, on the occasion of the death of the lead prosecutor in Gacy, William J. Kunkle, I posted a thread on Twitter outlining some of the problems with the case. It may be my one last blast there before Twitter goes down for good. Thanks for reading and sharing. You never know what might prompt an important lead.