John Wayne Gacy 40 years later

In these photographs, the horrors of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy are portrayed to remind people what his victims endured, and to highlight the six young boys who, 40 years later in 2018, remain unidentified. John Wayne Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in Cook County, Illinois between 1972 and 1978 and spent 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in 1994. In 2010, the case was reopened by the Cook County Sheriff and previously unknown victims William Bundy and James Haakenson were identified by modern DNA testing and other evidence and the efforts of Detective sergeant Jason Moran: “The reason why this case is still on the minds of Chicagoans and throughout the country, is not just the amount of victims Gacy had, it's because Gacy had everybody fooled, and we don't like that feeling. He was a businessman, a local businessman, he worked in politics, being a ward committeeman. He dressed up as a clown and entertained children. He would have huge parties at his residence, where 200 people would come. They would go into the house to use the washroom and there was maybe 15, 16, 17, 18 victims buried in his crawlspace. He had everybody fooled in that way and people don't like that feeling. He wasn't the ghoul that most people would expect from a serial killer.” The blue nylon jacket belonging to Robert Piest, a victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

In these photographs, the horrors of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy are portrayed to remind people what his victims endured, and to highlight the six young boys who, 40 years later in 2018, remain unidentified. John Wayne Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in Cook County, Illinois between 1972 and 1978 and spent 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in 1994. In 2010, the case was reopened by the Cook County Sheriff and previously unknown victims William Bundy and James Haakenson were identified by modern DNA testing and other evidence and the efforts of Detective sergeant Jason Moran: “The reason why this case is still on the minds of Chicagoans and throughout the country, is not just the amount of victims Gacy had, it's because Gacy had everybody fooled, and we don't like that feeling. He was a businessman, a local businessman, he worked in politics, being a ward committeeman. He dressed up as a clown and entertained children. He would have huge parties at his residence, where 200 people would come. They would go into the house to use the washroom and there was maybe 15, 16, 17, 18 victims buried in his crawlspace. He had everybody fooled in that way and people don't like that feeling. He wasn't the ghoul that most people would expect from a serial killer.” The blue nylon jacket belonging to Robert Piest, a victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Mugshots of John Wayne Gacy taken on Dec. 21, 1978, at the Des Plaines Police Department, are attached to a bulletin board at Cook County warehouse Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, in Chicago. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Mugshots of John Wayne Gacy taken on Dec. 21, 1978, at the Des Plaines Police Department, are attached to a bulletin board at Cook County warehouse Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, in Chicago. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A ligature recovered from one of the victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in Cook County between 1972 and 1978 and spent 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in 1994. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A ligature recovered from one of the victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in Cook County between 1972 and 1978 and spent 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in 1994. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A detail from a psychological consultation of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy from 1968, taken prior to any known murders, is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A detail from a psychological consultation of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy from 1968, taken prior to any known murders, is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Detective Sgt. Jason Moran of the Cook County Sheriff's Office stands in the room where evidence from the serial killer John Wayne Gacy murders is kept Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at the Cook County Warehouse in Chicago. Since the case reopened in 2010, Moran has helped identify two previously unknown victims, William George Bundy and James Byron Haakenson. Of the 33 total murders, six still remain unidentified. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Detective Sgt. Jason Moran of the Cook County Sheriff's Office stands in the room where evidence from the serial killer John Wayne Gacy murders is kept Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at the Cook County Warehouse in Chicago. Since the case reopened in 2010, Moran has helped identify two previously unknown victims, William George Bundy and James Byron Haakenson. Of the 33 total murders, six still remain unidentified. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A simple ring recovered from the left ring finger of an unidentified victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy is seen Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at the Cook County Warehouse in Chicago. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A simple ring recovered from the left ring finger of an unidentified victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy is seen Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at the Cook County Warehouse in Chicago. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A pair of handcuffs belonging to serial killer John Wayne Gacy is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A pair of handcuffs belonging to serial killer John Wayne Gacy is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A diagram drawn by the serial killer John Wayne Gacy of the location of the bodies in the crawl space of his home is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

A diagram drawn by the serial killer John Wayne Gacy of the location of the bodies in the crawl space of his home is part of evidence from the 1980 murder trial of Gacy, stored at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Records Storage and Digital Imaging Center Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Cicero, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Two vials of the blood of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy are seen in an evidence room Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at the Cook County Warehouse in Chicago. Although Detective Sgt. Jason Moran of the Cook County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Tom Dart do not believe there are any undiscovered victims of Gacy's, they had his DNA profiled from this blood and entered into modern databases just in case. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Two vials of the blood of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy are seen in an evidence room Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at the Cook County Warehouse in Chicago. Although Detective Sgt. Jason Moran of the Cook County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Tom Dart do not believe there are any undiscovered victims of Gacy's, they had his DNA profiled from this blood and entered into modern databases just in case. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

The gravestone of James Byron Haakenson, a victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was not identified until 2017, is seen Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

The gravestone of James Byron Haakenson, a victim of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was not identified until 2017, is seen Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

This was not an easy assignment.

How do you tell a story 40 years after it happened? And such a gruesome and horrifying one?

In these photographs, the horrors of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy are portrayed to remind people what his victims endured, and to highlight the six young boys who, 40 years later in 2018, remain unidentified. John Wayne Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in Cook County, Illinois between 1972 and 1978 and spent 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in 1994. In 2010, the case was reopened by the Cook County Sheriff and previously unknown victims William Bundy and James Haakenson were identified by modern DNA testing and other evidence and the efforts of Detective sergeant Jason Moran: “The reason why this case is still on the minds of Chicagoans and throughout the country, is not just the amount of victims Gacy had, it's because Gacy had everybody fooled, and we don't like that feeling. He was a businessman, a local businessman, he worked in politics, being a ward committeeman. He dressed up as a clown and entertained children. He would have huge parties at his residence, where 200 people would come. They would go into the house to use the washroom and there was maybe 15, 16, 17, 18 victims buried in his crawlspace. He had everybody fooled in that way and people don't like that feeling. He wasn't the ghoul that most people would expect from a serial killer.”

A team of my extremely hard-working colleagues helped create this project, and you can see the whole thing over here: John Wayne Gacy was arrested 40 years ago in a killing spree that claimed 33 victims and shattered the illusion of the safe suburban community