Gacy Executed in Illinois for Murders of 33 : Crime: He receives lethal injection after last of his appeals is rejected. The serial killer was convicted in 1980 for the slayings of boys and young men.


Serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the part-time clown who killed 33 youths and buried most of them in trenches beneath his suburban Chicago home, was executed early today by lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his final appeal for a stay.

Illinois prison officials and witnesses to the execution said Gacy, 52, was pronounced dead by a prison physician at 12:58 a.m. Illinois Department of Corrections Director Howard A. Peters III said Gacy “took a deep breath and dozed off” as a sedative took effect. Within minutes, synthetic curare slowed his respiration and potassium chloride stopped his heart. “He just laid there and appeared to be asleep,” Peters said.

The execution was delayed for several minutes, Peters said, because of a malfunction in the syringe that pumped pancuronium bromide, a synthetic muscle relaxant, into Gacy’s veins. Technicians shut down the process when they noticed the chemical “gelling or clotting in the line,” Peters said.


The incident marked the second time since Illinois officials reinstituted the death penalty that the lethal injection process has been flawed by malfunctions. In 1990, the execution of Charles Walker was also interrupted by a malfunction in the injection device. Prison officials insisted that the process does not require further scrutiny, insisting that it has worked efficiently in scores of tests. “We had to make some adjustments at this time but the process worked effectively,” Peters said.

Gacy did not struggle and was very cooperative, prison officials said.

Before Gacy was strapped down to the gurney that carried him to the death chamber, he told prison officials that the loss of his life would “not compensate for the loss of all the other lives,” Peters said.

Gacy’s last hours dwindled Monday night in a cinderblock-walled cell at Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet. His night passed in a routine that has become traditional on America’s Death Rows: a final meal (he requested french fries, fried shrimp, fried chicken and fresh strawberries), last rites from a prison chaplain and an hour of solitude.

Gacy was convicted in 1980 for murdering 33 boys and young men after luring them to his ranch-style home near O’Hare International Airport. Some were male prostitutes, but many were high school-age youths who came to his house expecting work with his construction firm.

The remains of 27 victims were found buried in lime under his house. Two other bodies were buried in the back yard and four more were pulled from the Des Plaines River west of Chicago.

In Chicago, a city that had largely forgotten him, television stations interrupted regular programming to carry Gacy updates on the hour.


Reporters vied to land telephone interviews with the killer.

In Daley Plaza, the City Hall courtyard in Chicago’s Loop business district, 1,000 death penalty supporters gathered to celebrate Gacy’s impending execution.

They released balloons and carried placards mocking Gacy’s fascination with clowns and his penchant for appearing as a clown character named Pogo to entertain at charity functions. He also played a clown at children’s parties.