Forty-one years ago, John Wayne Gacy was convicted of killing 33 young men and boys. But a new documentary series raises questions about whether he might have killed even more people during his horrific series of killings in the 1970s.
“John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise,” a six-part series that premieres March 25 on Peacock, features an interview with a retired Illinois police detective who claims the serial killer once alluded to slaying more than 33 people. (Peacock is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)
The docuseries also contains an audio recording of Gacy, who was convicted in 1980 and executed by lethal injection in 1994, recalling that he disposed of at least one additional body.
“If there are more victims out there and they could be connected to him, it would give resolution to any families who are still searching for answers,” said Alexa Danner, one of the executive producers of the series.
“John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” features a lengthy prison interview with Gacy, only minutes of which have ever been seen by the public, as well as exclusive interviews with people who knew him, including a close confidante and his second ex-wife.
Gacy, a building contractor who performed as a clown at children’s parties, lured young men and boys to his home outside of Chicago for sex, where many were handcuffed and raped; most of his victims were strangled and buried in the crawl space under his home.
In the fourth episode, former Des Plaines Police Department investigator Rafael Tovar recalls a conversation with Gacy while the two were driving to the Cook County Jail. Tovar, referring to Gacy’s victims, says he asked: “Are there more?”
“[Gacy] says, ‘45 sounds like a good number.’ I said, ‘Well, where are they?’ He said, ‘No, that’s your job. You got to find out.’ We had 33 [victims], so that would mean, obviously, there’s 12 more somewhere,” Tovar says.
Tovar, who reportedly retired from the police department in 2009, says in an interview recorded for the series that he spoke with Gacy enough times to feel confident that he was being truthful during their car conversation.
“I firmly believe there’s more,” Tovar says at one point. “He was the kind of guy that would be totally honest with you if he knew you already knew or were going to find out,” Tovar says at another point.
Danner said investigators have varying opinions on the question of whether Gacy had more victims. No killings beyond the 33 for which Gacy was convicted have been officially attributed to him by law enforcement.
The sixth episode features an audio recording of Gacy talking with an attorney, during which he claims he disposed of at least one more body in a wooded area by a high school. (He does not admit on tape to committing murder.)
The series is careful to point out that Gacy often played mind games with interlocutors, raising doubts about whether he should be seen as a reliable narrator of his own crimes.
The series explores the possibility that additional victims might have been buried at a property in Chicago where he once worked.
Gacy’s neighbors at the property claim they saw bizarre behavior, including Gacy carrying what appeared to be heavy garbage bags across a lawn in the middle of the night as well as digging or filling up trenches.
Gacy has previously been the subject of various movies and documentaries, and his crimes shadow fictional works such as "The Silence of the Lambs" and Netflix's "Mindhunter."