A new doc series based on our investigation drops March 25

The investigation Tracy Ullman and I have been working on since the fall of 2011, when we met retired homicide detective William Dorsch, served as the basis for a new documentary series airing on Peacock TV beginning March 25, 2021.

Rod Blackhurst, who also produced the documentary Amanda Knox, serves as executive producer on the series, as does Tracy Ullman. I’m credited as an executive consultant. The series includes interviews with journalists and former police officers who were present at the time of Gacy’s arrest in 1978. But its focus is the problems we’ve raised as well as evidence discovered by Dorsch, us, and attorney Stephen Becker, working on behalf of the mother of an alleged victim. The series also addresses the question of whether or not some of Gacy’s employees knew about or even participated in the murders, the misidentification of at least one of Gacy’s victims, and the Cook County sheriff’s mysterious refusal to acknowledge this evidence or to thoroughly investigate other locations where Gacy may have buried victims.

If you were following along here when I was posting updates to the investigation, you know that’s only the tip of the iceberg. For the whole megillah, you’ll have to wait for my book.

The effects of the tragic kidnapping and murders of 33 boys in Chicago in the 1970s rippled through devastated families across the country, but they concentrated particularly hard on the city’s northwest side, where Tracy and I both lived with our respective families when we began working together. As things progressed, we were struck not only by the number of victims’ friends and family members who were hurt by these crimes, but by how many of them were our own acquaintances and neighbors.

The story everyone knows about John Wayne Gacy-the saga of his arrest and trial, the horrific fates of his victims, has been written mainly by law enforcement and the prosecutors who got Gacy convicted.

Now there’s a rewrite, one that incorporates the testimony of witnesses whose tips fell on deaf ears, family members who were ignored by the Chicago Police, and scientific evidence that indicates the possible presence of victims in new uninvestigated locations.

The new story contradicts the public record in significant ways, and we fear this is not an accident.

Victims’ families deserve the truth

Since 2011, my investigative partner, Tracy Ullman, and I have been trying to determine why the official Gacy story contradicts so much available evidence. Gacy was accused of 33 murders, but we have reason to believe there are sites with additional victims and that the story behind the murders is a lot more complicated than the official lone-wolf narrative.

The reaction of law enforcement to revelations we’ve shared with them, including the Cook County sheriff’s office, the Chicago Police Department, and the FBI suggests that the oversights were not accidental and that in fact they are engaged in an ongoing effort to maintain the integrity of the original case, as flawed as it clearly was.

Among the threads we’ve developed over the past decade are:

  • Proof that the forensic anthropologist on the case identified other likely victims
  • An official reinvestigation of a site that may contain Gacy victims
  • Proof that that search was flawed and inconclusive
  • Proof that at least one Gacy victim was misidentified
  • The identification of additional likely sites of burials

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people who still believe that someone they love was kidnapped and murdered by John Wayne Gacy. Many cling to the hope of one day discovering what happened. Their hopes were raised when Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart pledged to use DNA testing to match the victims with their families. In the past ten years he has identified two out of eight sets of remains. But the six that remain are not the only Gacy victims whose stories have never been told. The mother of one identified victim has proved through DNA testing that her son had been misidentified. The sheriff refuses to acknowledge her legitimate test results. He also refuses to respond to any of the incontrovertible evidence we’ve presented that demolishes the state’s official case against Gacy. Our investigation is ongoing.

If you are one of the many people whose life was affected by this tragedy, and you’d like to share information with me, please post a comment. It will be invisible to anyone else unless you request that I post it publicly, and related requests for privacy will be honored.


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.

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 inviting them to party with him, and also by plucking them off the street while posing as an undercover police officer.

Were there witnesses to the crimes?

While they were trailing him, police followed him into a bar and overheard what seemed to be a discussion about disposing of bodies. Before and after the arrest, several young men of his acquaintance were questioned by police, while others may have taken off. One survivor said at least one other person was involved when he was kidnapped and brutally attacked.

No one else was ever charged, nor given plea deals for immunity.

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 diagrams drawn by the witnesses and kept their operations restricted to a small tent set up in a different place in the yard.

In response to our inquiries, and our proffered 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 expert admitted that the search would not have been thorough enough to produce any solid conclusions.

Though he 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 conclusions of the original, 1978 investigation.

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 two 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.

Anything else going on?

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, fighting Cook County in court once again, to exhume Parker’s remains. There was no match between her DNA and that of the second victim either. So for certain, 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.