The disappearing witness

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 9.52.41 AMOne of the aspects of the Gacy case is that there are witnesses to crimes Gacy was charged with who never testified at his trial. One such witness was Robert Young. Continue reading

What the neighbors saw at Miami

In 1998, the Better Government Association, a Chicago watchdog group, began investigating evidence presented by William Dorsch that showed that while John Wayne Gacy was working as a caretaker at a building at the corner of Miami and Elston, he may have buried additional victims there.

The BGA interviewed Lynn Troester, who had occupied the basement apartment 6114 W. Miami. She describes Gacy’s strange behavior and what she thought it meant after he was arrested.

Here Troester talks about large holes Gacy dug in the yard and then inexplicably left open.

After seeing the Troester interview, the Chicago Police concurred that the property deserved scrutiny, and conducted an investigation of it in 1998. Now cited by authorities as proof there are no bodies there, the search in fact raised more questions than it answered. Primarily, why did the police dig only at the single spot in the yard where the neighbors told them not to bother with, as they remembered an evergreen in that spot?

In 2011, encouraged by interest from me and Tracy Ullman in his story, Dorsch began tracking down other people who’d lived near the property in the 70s. Ullman recorded interviews with some of them. One, neighbor Mike Nelson describes his recollections of Gacy and his frustration with the search in 1998. He mentions similar mysterious holes in the yard.

Another neighbor, who lived across the street, saw the same holes and describes how they’d randomly appear and disappear. He also says he saw Gacy dragging large heavy bags across the yard in the middle of the night.

Troester’s former husband Bruno Muczynski remembers the holes too. And Gacy working in the basement during the wee hours.

After Gacy was arrested, Muczynski, a Chicago police officer, called his superiors to report his suspicions. The reply he received: “We don’t want no more bodies.”

In response to these interviews and other evidence presented to him by Dorsch, Sheriff Tom Dart appears to agree that the property deserves another look.

Next, after Dart’s own investigators concluded there was no cause for a search, Dorsch submitted further evidence: affidavits, letters, and other materials that indicated the likely presence of human remains at 6114 W. Miami.

Then in March 2013, Dart did conduct a survey of the property, but his methods suggest that it shouldn’t be considered conclusive.

Vito Marzullo and Gacy: the biggest open secret in Chicago history?

Vito Marzullo in a 1982 Chicago Tribune photo auctioned on eBay

Vito Marzullo in a 1982 Chicago Tribune photo auctioned on eBay

Private detective Bill Dorsch has uncovered evidence that the number of people John Wayne Gacy murdered is more than 33. He’s pinpointed at least one likely location for burials, and he’s gathered witnesses, affidavits, and testimony and turned them over to law enforcement.

One problem he had getting people to pay attention to his theory is that no one could understand why the authorities would bother with a coverup.

But when you look at the Gacy situation through the prism of Chicago politics, the choices made during his arrests and interrogations begin to make sense.

Gacy, a contractor living on the city’s northwest side, often detained his victims Bughouse Square and in Boystown by impersonating a police officer. During the early and mid 1970s he was accused of a series of violent crimes and–possibly because he was a precinct captain with friends in politics, possibly because the crimes were homosexual in nature–was always released by police.

When Gacy abducted a young man from the northwest suburb of Des Plaines, the suburban police looking for him crossed into Chicago and stumbled on Gacy and his troubled history.

There were several young men living with Gacy on and off through the 70s, and the one who answered the door when the Des Plaines police knocked turned out to be related to one of the most powerful political figures in Chicago.

He and another kid, David Cram, were brought in for questioning. They both revealed information about the scene at Gacy’s house, and about the crawlspace under it, where Gacy had placed the bodies of his victims.

In recent interviews with three law enforcement officials present at the time, Dorsch’s colleague Tracy Ullman was told that the mother of one of the young men arrived at the Des Plaines police station where he was being interviewed and announced something along the lines of “I am the daughter of Vito Marzullo and I’m here to take my son home.” She demanded that the questioning end, saying a lawyer was on the way.

This scene was reported exactly the same way in Killer Clown, the book on the case by Gacy prosecutor Terry Sullivan, but Sullivan doesn’t name Marzullo or his grandson

Next, the attorney who showed up to represent Marzullo’s grandson was none other than Ed Hanrahan, the former Cook County state’s attorney.

The Des Plaines police let the two young men go. But not before they admitted to having dug holes under Gacy’s house, to having spread lime around to suppress the smell, and to having brought young men back to Gacy’s house for work or parties.

According to documents Bill Dorsch obtained from the Des Plaines police department after filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act, when Gacy was questioned by the police about whether the two young men knew what was buried in those holes, Gacy said they never spoke about it, “but if they didn’t know what was down there they were fucking stupid.”

Cram committed suicide in 2001. The other has been arrested for violent crimes over the years, most recently in 2001 in an FBI probe of mafia- and union-related incidents involving movie theaters around the country. He now lives in a northwest suburb of Chicago.

In a 1978 documentary on Marzullo by Media Burn Archives’ Tom Weinberg, political reformer and alderman Leon Despres describes the Chicago Democratic Machine as being composed of 35,000 people who make a living off politics. In a voiceover, historian Milton Rakove says that politics at the ward level “is not about issues. It’s about garbage cans, street holes, can you get someone a job. . . . For them politics is basically taking care of people, doing favors for people, getting a job themselves out of it, so they can make a living themselves.”

One remarkable sequence shows Marzullo sitting in his ward office, dispensing favors as constituents approach one at a time to ask for help with asphalt, pothole fixes, and city jobs.

In Boss, the iconic Chicago columnist Mike Royko describes Marzullo like this:

A short, erect, tough, and likable man, he has had a Republican opponent only once in four elections to the City Council. Marzullo has about four hundred patronage jobs given to him by the Democratic Central Committee to fill. . . . Marzullo can tick off the jobs he fills:

“I got an assistant state’s attorney, and I got an assistant attorney general, I got an electrical inspector at twelve thousand dollars a year, and I got street inspectors and surveyors, and a county highway inspector. I got an adminis­trative assistant to the zoning board and some people in the secretary of state’s office. I got fifty-nine precinct captains and they all got assistants, and they all got good jobs. The lawyers I got in jobs don’t have to work precincts, but they have to come to my ward office and give free legal advice to the people in the ward.”

Service and favors, the staples of the precinct captain and his ward boss.

Even before Gacy was arrested for murder, several other young men accused him of kidnapping and abuse. Their complaints received little sympathy from the police. As one high-ranking member of the police told Ullman and me recently, “It was just one butt fucker’s word against another’s.”

In March 1978 one badly wounded but determined survivor, Jeffrey Rignall, told police he’d been kidnapped, subdued with chloroform, and brutally raped by Gacy, and that another man had been present. Police refused to investigate, but later Rignall rented a car and, using details he remembered as he’d floated in and out of consciousness, tracked down Gacy on his own. Then he returned to the police and made the positive ID. Gacy was charged with misdemeanor battery but released on bail.

Cook Country Sheriff Tom Dart has submitted Gacy DNA to a national database in hopes of establishing a connection to murders in other states. More important, though with less fanfare, he has pledged to investigate the property at Miami and Elston on Chicago’s northwest side where Gacy worked as a handyman. What he means by “investigate” remains to be seen.

Bill Dorsch found witnesses who established good reasons to believe there are bodies buried there. A previous investigation of the property in 1998 was suspiciously brief.

This time around, the families of people who disappeared in the 1970s, whose names are on record, deserve a thorough search.

Video: The view from the garden apartment

As I mentioned earlier, Sheriff Tom Dart’s investigators recently spent a day interviewing people who lived near the intersection of Miami and Elston when John Wayne Gacy had access to a small apartment building there.

Bill Dorsch had collected their testimony over the years and presented it to the sheriff in the form of videos and signed affidavits. Their stories helped persuade Dart that an investigation is in order, and he’s pledged to file an application for a search warrant. Then about a week ago he sent his investigators to meet with the witnesses.

One of the people Dorsch introduced them to was Lynn Troester, who lived in the building from 1967 to 1974. She lived in the garden apartment (that’s Chicagoese for the one below ground level) with her husband at the time, Bruno Muczynski. Dorsch, Tracy Ullman, and I spoke to Muczynski not long ago about what he had witnessed there (here’s video from that interview). He and Troester are among the many residents of the neighborhood who had “aha moments” when Gacy was arrested.

Dorsch’s own concerns about the property eventually came to the attention of the Better Government Association, and in 1998, 20 years after Gacy had been arrested and four years after his execution, the police did conduct a brief investigation of the property. What happened at that dig–and what inside sources related to him about it–led Dorsch to conclude that their efforts had been less than serious.

What Troester told the BGA’s Mike Lyons in 1998 suggests that the basement should be investigated.

She also describes him digging mysterious large trenches in the yard, with the assistance of his young workers.

Note in this clip  how Troester describes the randomness of the locations for the holes–and the evergeen on the corner that prevented him from digging there. That’s the same spot Nelson told them in 1998 not to bother to dig–and yet in 1998 it’s the only place the police did dig.

Once Dart submits his search warrant application, the decision lies with state’s attorney Anita Alvarez. And as a commenter on a story Eric Zorn published in the Chicago Tribune noted, “The State’s Attorney doesn’t get to decide the cops’ enforcement priorities. Only whether the warrant application states probable cause.”

Video: “We don’t want no more bodies”

When John Wayne Gacy was arrested in 1978 and the excavations began that would reveal the remains of dozens of victims buried in and around his home, something clicked for Bruno Muczynski.

Muczynski lived for a time at 6114 W. Miami, in the small apartment building where Gacy worked as caretaker. Though he and his wife, Lynn, had already moved away when the news about Gacy’s hideous killing spree took over the headlines, they vividly remembered his strange activities in the basement, and they knew they needed to make a call.

Muczynski, a Chicago police officer at the time, knew that Cook County was conducting the investigation on Gacy, but he called the police–his own people–to report what he’d seen. In this video he describes what happened.

Video: A neighbor’s chilling “aha” moment

Police officer Bruno Muczynski lived in the garden apartment of the five-flat at Miami and Elston for part of the time John Wayne Gacy worked there as a caretaker.

Though Muczynski and his wife, Lynn, had moved away by the time Gacy was arrested in 1978, the ensuing uproar prompted a troubling realization.

They had lived in the garden apartment; the other half of the basement was taken up by a workroom, which Gacy made his base of operations as the building’s maintenance man. When the horror of Gacy’s serial murders was revealed, the Muczynskis recalled that they’d often heard Gacy knocking around in the basement at strange hours. Things got so noisy sometimes that they’d poke their heads out their front door to see what was making such a racket.

In this video Muczynski, now retired and still living on Chicago’s northwest side, recalls how odd it seemed for a maintenance man to be working in the middle of the night.

Witness: Giant holes in the ground

Mike Nelson can point to exactly where the holes were. Running along two sides of the triangular front yard of the building at Miami and Elston, they were dug by John Wayne Gacy as he performed his duties as caretaker of the building in the mid 1970s.  Nelson says they ran along the sidewalks, a couple of feet wide, 3 or 4 feet deep, and several yards long.

Nelson had a good view of the yard: he lived across the street on Miami.

6114 W. Miami, in Chicago, where John Wayne Gacy worked as a caretaker in the mid-70s.

But Nelson got even closer than that to the holes. Gacy had hired Nelson, a young teenager at the time, to help him out with the maintenance he was contracted to perform. Gacy had him collect the tenants’ trash, mow the lawn, do other odd jobs. When those holes, or “trenches,” as Nelson calls them, appeared in the yard, Nelson says he would leap over them every day, cutting across the yard on his way to the bus stop on Elston. He also had to maneuver the lawn mower around them. And he and his friends even jumped into them to “play army.”

Something else he remembers about the holes: how they disappeared. He says he woke up to find that they’d been filled in overnight. A few shrubs were stuck in the new dirt.

Nelson says now that the holes struck him as strange, but that he never thought much about it. He says he didn’t question the behavior of adults–they all seemed strange to kids.

But in 1998, a few years after he’d moved out to the suburbs, Nelson got a call from an old neighbor. Bill Dorsch was looking for other former neighbors to see what they might recollect about Gacy’s activities in the neighborhood.

Eventually, for reasons described in this earlier post, official investigators paid Nelson a visit. He drew them a map and pointed out the spots in the yard parallel to Elston and Miami where he remembered seeing the trenches.

And on November 23, he recalls in the filmed interview posted here, he watched in astonishment as the police erected a tent at the front corner of the triangular yard, “the one spot I told them not to dig.”