When myself, Alison True and Bill Dorsch started working to unearth details behind the John Wayne Gacy case, I had recently been widowed and was working two jobs while raising three kids. Alison had been my late husband’s boss at The Reader in Chicago and came to me about a story that had been submitted to her but didn’t have enough factual underpinning to publish. Over the 10 years we’ve worked together, we got to know each other very well as we spent a lot of time at each other’s houses discussing each new found document and detail we poured over.
For years, all three of us were called “conspiracy nuts”. Our ideas were refuted. We were sworn at and had phones hung up on us. We were roundly and publicly criticized by people who had a PR advantage and - my favorite - Alison and I were mansplained to death by more than one person. My favorite was being on the phone with Edward Pavlik, the odontologist responsible for identifying victims in 1978, where I asked him about the discovery that DNA in one victim's case wasn't related to the mother of that victim (DNA has long displaced odontology as the science of choice for forensic identification). He was serious when he replied, "Maybe she wasn't actually his mother." instead of wondering if maybe the victim hadn't been misidentified...
On the other hand, we had amazing people who contributed to the cause. Randy White of Toronto had been compiling data since the mid-1980s after starting a writing relationship with John Wayne Gacy in prison, after which, Gacy employed him to do research in his case. Craig Bowley, who also knew Gacy personally and recorded the only extensive interview with Gacy in 1992. Karen Kuzma, Gacy’s sister, stood by us for almost all of the 10 years and encouraged us to dig deeper. Ron Dobernic, whose husband, Jeffrey Rignall was kidnapped by Gacy, gave us huge historical insight. Then Rod Blackhurst, the amazing director of documentary, Amanda Knox, jumped in with both feet to get us over the finish line.
The goal for all of us was to inform the case so that victims’ families, families of the still missing and others who had been hurt or maligned by this case got validation for their fear, their loss and their pain, if only in a small way.
On December 22, 1978, police arrested Gacy, but some of his arrest record was not reported in a way that would help provide much needed context. From December 22, 1978, Gacy – who can never be deemed a reliable reporter because of chronic lying and manipulation – tells police that he had “help”. What kind of help, Des Plaines police detectives asked? “Direct help.” Gacy names two young men: David Cram and Michael Rossi. Both had been working and living with Gacy for several years.
In a timeline created by Des Plaines detectives Rafael Tovar and David Sommershield, police had already spoken to David Cram and Michael Rossi in the days preceding Gacy’s arrest. It was documented that Michael Rossi was driving a car belonging to a missing person, John Szyc. David Cram admitted being given items by Gacy that belonged to “dead people”. Cram drew a map of John Wayne Gacy’s crawlspace and admitted he had been working down there. Rossi admitted to digging there, too.
Looking further into the timeline, the name Ed Hefner comes up. Why haven’t we ever heard of Ed Hefner in relationship to this case? Ed Hefner meets up with Gacy while Gacy is being surveilled by Des Plaines PD – he talks to Gacy about opening up a tavern together. Ed Hefner tells police something that’s later verified by Rossi and Cram during interrogations: they each had oral and anal sex with Gacy. Even stranger, before Gacy is arrested, Hefner tells police he believes there are bodies buried at a house that is not Gacy’s home. How does Hefner know and why isn’t he a part of the Cook County Sheriff’s investigation?
Gacy later makes reference to another accomplice: Phillip Paske. It turns out, Paske was one of Gacy’s employees as well. Why don’t we ever hear about Paske? Why does Terry Sullivan, one of the prosecutors from Cook County, have Paske listed in his personal case notes but Paske never appears?
Paske, it turns out, was the right hand man to the leader of the same national sex trafficking ring outlined in the 1977 Congressional Report, John David Norman. I cannot state this alarmingly enough: Gacy, a sociopathic murderer of teen boys, has direct connections into a national sex trafficking ring of teen boys. When Dallas Police seized records that John David Norman kept about his clients, it was tens of thousands of names long and was found to include members of the U.S. State Department.
Another obscured item we were able to locate four decades later was a household inventory Gacy and his lawyers filed shortly thereafter in the Cook County Courthouse. On each page, is an official stamp of acknowledgment, so this is a legal document that shows…Gacy had a whole set of blackmail files for sports figures, politicians and celebrities. The big question is: where did those files go? Because they were never entered into evidence. Why? Other items in Gacy’s extremely detailed household inventory are film cameras, photo cameras, an 8mm editing deck and viewing screen. It might seem like Gacy was a burgeoning amateur filmmaker, but discussions with other living employees make these items seem a little more peculiar than that.
In talking with Marty Zelinski, who was an employee and family photographer for John Gacy, he was asked to photograph pornography by Gacy and turned it down. In Terry Sullivan’s hand-written case notes, they show that Gacy asked several living victims if they’d like to appear in male pornography. And Karen Kuzma, Gacy’s sister, found pornographic photos including John Gacy, Michael Rossi and a third male taped underneath a dresser left in a Cook County Sheriff’s storage warehouse taken from Gacy’s house.
These details make the Gacy’s “Killer Clown” designation seem quaint by comparison because it’s far more likely other people were involved who perpetrated Gacy’s crimes alongside him. It’s not impossible that an official narrative was created to overly-simplify the case so that it could be prosecuted quickly and efficiently. But that still leaves accomplices who were never truly held to account for their roles and people who may have benefitted from Gacy’s crimes - then kept them secret.
And that unsettling thought doesn’t even talk to the idea that Gacy may have had more victims we still don’t know about. I’ll write about that in my next post but if this case isn’t starting to reek of official misconduct, I don’t know what does.