REMEMBERING A BRUSH WITH EVIL

Chicago has the largest Polish population of any city in the world, including Warsaw. For that reason, Gacy's Polish connections were played down for fear of offending readers.

Gacy had been the director of the Polish Constitution Day parade for the previous three years, a fact which never appeared in any Chicago newspaper to my knowledge. That is how Gacy obtained the Secret Service clearance that earned him a spot on the reviewing stand with First Lady Rosalyn Carter and an invitation to attend a reception with her later. A photo of Gacy and Mrs. Carter achieved worldwide syndication.

Gacy also performed regularly as a clown at picnics during the summer months. Gacy explained that his clown name, Pogo, was derived from the fact that he was Polish and always on the go.

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A few days after his arrest, Gacy sat down in jail and wrote the following note to his mother:

"Please forgive me for what I am about to tell you. I have been very sick for a long time."
He also confided to Ron Rhode, a friend, who later revealed:
"He walked up and put his hands on my shoulders, and he starts crying and he says, 'Ron, I've been a bad boy. I've killed 30 people, give or take a few.'" Police theorized that during the years Gacy was roaming the Chicago streets at night cruising for victims, he had approximately 1,500 relationships. Gacy claimed he only killed the male hustlers who attempted to raise their prices at the last minute.

There is no tape recording of Gacy's confession. Police questioned him over a period of three days, but were afraid if they showed they were making a record that Gacy would stop talking.

It was during these days that Gacy revealed how he killed his victims. Here is how Terry Sullivan, one of the prosecutors, and Peter T. Maiken explained it in their book Killer Clown: "All but one he killed by looping a rope around their necks, knotting it twice, then tightening it, like a tourniquet, with a stick. Some of the victims, he said, convulsed for an hour or two after his rope trick. When he put the bodies into the crawlspace, he either soaked the bodies with acid or put lime on them and buried them under a foot of earth. Sometimes he buried one on top of the other. He disposed of their personal effects in the garbage. "The Piest boy, he said, wanted to make easy money. He had run up to Gacy's car asking for a summer job. He said he would do almost anything for money--but he lied, Gacy said ominously. Rob asked why Gacy was putting the rope around his neck. Why did he ask? Gacy said rhetorically. He was stupid, that's why. Gacy related how he was interrupted by a phone call from a contractor while strangling the boy. When Gacy returned, the boy was already dead."

Gacy said he slept next to the boy's body that night and then put it up in the attic, where it was when the police came to question him. When the police left, Gacy took the body in his car and tossed it into the river. It wasn't found until five months later--on April 9. During his time in Menard prison, Gacy has done dozens of paintings, many of them of clowns. They will soon go on sale for a minimum price of $2,500.

Gacy often attempted to exhibit a wry wit about his murderous spree. "The only crime I'm guilty of," he says, "is operating a cemetery without a license." He used the same line for years.

Piest's father has six scrapbooks containing clippings of stories about the Gacy case. The parents finally divorced.

Mrs. Piest won't talk to the press. "I think of him every day," the father says. Now living alone, he says: "It's been such a lousy 14 years." The misery remained constant for the survivors.

Meanwhile, Gacy kept himself busy in prison with puttering, his painting and small hobbies. He was like a man who had made enough money to retire early.

He maintained a diary for every meal in prison. He kept a record of the score of every Cubs game, and a record of visitors that came to more than 400. He claimed he received more than 27,000 letters. He also kept a brief record of the daily weather report for every day he was in prison.

Gacy spoke earlier this year to Alec Wilkinson of the New Yorker magazine. Previously, Gacy said he had turned down the late Truman Capote, author of In Cold Blood, and Oprah Winfrey.

Wilkinson wrote of Gacy, "He has a haughty manner suggesting that he thinks he is smarter than anyone he is talking to at the moment."

Gacy told Wilkinson he has made no friends in the prison. But he is famous and is quite aware that his deeds have set him apart from the rest of ordinary men.

Gacy spoke of his prison routine.
"I go to bed and say three Hail Marys and the Our Father. I dream about the life I used to have. (He planned at one time to become a Roman Catholic priest.) I dream about being in construction. For a while, I would tape newspaper pictures of the victims to the wall beside my bed and go to sleep seeing if I could dream about them or if I could recall if I ever met them. I would look at them and say, 'Who the hell are you, and how did you die?'"
Gacy's cell at Menard was large, but there were no windows.
"I don't know," he told Wilkinson, "whether it's night or day. I can't tell you if it's raining. Being in prison is like being in Las Vegas, where you're gambling and you don't know what's going on outside."
In order to satisfy Gacy for the interview, Wilkinson had to fill out an application which listed the enthusiams of his life.

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