How Many Victims Did John Wayne Gacy Actually Have?

Serial killer John Wayne Gacy confessed to killing 33 boys and men from 1972 to 1978 and burying 29 of them in the crawl space under his home in Norwood Park Township near Chicago, per The Chicago Tribune. Once Gacy's crawl space was too full to continue hiding his victims' bodies there, he dumped them. Timothy O'Rourke, 20, was found murdered near the Dresden Island Lock and Dam in the Illinois River, and the final three, whose ages ranged from 15 to 20, were thrown in the Des Plaines River, according to the Chicago Tribune

Gacy found some of his victims at bus stops. Others were hitchhiking. He lured them with promises of construction work or by impersonating a police officer, according to USA Today. Once he got them back to his house, he would show them a "handcuff trick," per NBC Chicago, and get them to cuff themselves behind their backs. Once they were handcuffed, he'd strangle them with a rope. Gacy would also knock some of his victims out with chloroform before raping, torturing and killing them, according to History.

It was an investigation into the whereabouts of Gacy's final victim, 15-year-old Robert Piest, that led to Gacy getting caught. The teen was last seen with the killer under the ruse of their meeting being a job interview, according to NBC Chicago. Piest was never seen alive again after he met with Gacy.

During the investigation into Gacy, police learned he had served 10 years for a sodomy charge in Iowa before moving to the Chicago area.

Six of John Wayne Gacy's victims are still unidentified

That raised more suspicions in the Piest investigation. That, coupled with the smell of death police noticed emanating from Gacy's crawlspace, as well as locating items tied to several missing men found in his home, led to the man who sometimes dressed as a clown to entertain children confessing to dozens of murders, according to NBC Chicago.

Gacy's known victims were all male, and ranged in age from 14 to 32, the Chicago Tribune reported. Six of the bodies found in the crawl space are still unidentified, but in 2018 police released new sketches of two of the unidentified victims, according to USA Today. Initially there were eight unidentified bodies, but in 2011 and in 2017 two more were identified using DNA, USA Today reported. 

Prosecutor William Kunkle told NBC Chicago Gacy was off by one regarding how many people he killed, but Kunkle thinks Gacy just confused where he put the bodies. 

Kunkle said, "There's no evidence of any kind I'm aware of, anywhere else, that suggests any additional victims. And if there were, I don't think there's any question that with his personality, in terms of bragging rights and being in control — when he was facing the death penalty, it's not unusual for these guys to say 'well here's where two more are buried.'"

NBC News reports that the six-part documentary series John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise premieres March 25 on Peacock.