Dubbed the “Killer Clown,” Gacy murdered 33 people throughout the 1970’s
One of the unidentified victims of John Wayne Gacy, who raped, tortured, and killed 33 boys and young men in the 1970s and stored them in a crawlspace under his home, has been identified thanks to DNA and genealogical data.
Frederick Wayne Alexander was 21 of 22 years old when he was killed by Gacy at his ranch home in the village of Norridge near Chicago.
While most of his victims were identified, six were not. Thanks to a process called genetic genealogy, one more victim has been identified.
Gacy was a prolific killer, known for torturing and raping his victims – all males – before murdering them, often through strangulation or asphyxiation. He hid 26 of his victims’ bodies in a crawlspace in his house, sometimes using quicklime to speed up the bodies’ decomposition. He buried his other victims elsewhere on his property and threw a few in a nearby river.
Most of Gacy’s victims were men from Greyhound bus stops or people he picked up off the street, often offering them drinks, food or money for sex as a way to lure them back to his house. He did physically abduct some of his victims, and tricked others into thinking he was a local sheriff’s deputy using a fake badge and a spotlight on his car.
Prior to his string of murders, Gacy had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy and later trying to have the boy beaten to keep him quiet. Gacy spent 17 months in prison, after which he moved to the ranch home where the majority of his murders would take place.
In public, Gacy was a prolific fundraiser and participated in several charitable organisations. He eventually joined a group of people that performed as clowns, often for free, where he developed his characters of “Pogo” en “Patches”, both clowns. Gacy frequently performed at children’s parties while wearing his clown outfit.
During his murders, after he lured his victims to his home, Gacy would often earn their trust through food or drinks and then offer to teach them a magic trick, sometimes while dressed as his clown characters. He would then proceed to handcuff himself and escape from the handcuffs using a key hidden between his fingers.
Once he showed his victims the trick, he would offer to teach them how to do it. After securing his victims in handcuffs he would reportedly tell them that the “trick is you have to have the key” before raping and torturing them. Eventually he would kill his victims by strangling them with a rope or shoving rags deep into their throats. As a result of his method of killing and dress, he became known as the “Killer Clown”.
Byna 50 years have passed since Gacy’s murders, but thanks to a process called genetic genealogy, another victim was identified by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with a group called the DNA Doe Project.
The DNA Doe Project uses genetic genealogy – combining DNA records with genealogical data like newspaper reports, public records and family trees – to find the family members of people who have died without being identified.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he believed the method will be instrumental in identifying other people who have died without being identified.
The victim identified this week, Mr Alexander, had been estranged from his family when he disappeared, according to the sheriff’s office. They said Mr Alexander left home and seemed as though he wanted no further contact with his family, which is why they never filed a missing person report about him.
They said they were relieved to learn what happened to him, even if his end was at the hands of a horrific serial killer.
“It is hard, even 45 jare later, to know the fate of our beloved Wayne,” Mr Alexander’s sister, Carolyn Sanders wrote in a statement. “He was killed at the hands of a vile and evil man. Our hearts are heavy, and our sympathies go out to the other victims’ families. … We can now lay to rest what happened and move forward by honoring Wayne.”