Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Murder By Numbers

By Susan Murphy-Milano

Over the summer of 1976, friends and acquaintances from the neighborhood gathered one last time before returning for our final year of high school. Several of us sat around a bonfire talking about our plans for the future. I was working as a cashier at a drug store in the neighborhood trying to save money for college and my first apartment. Greg Godzik, who was 17 at the time, spoke of what he was going to do with great conviction. “I’m going to go into the Navy and then apply to aviation school. I want to work on airplanes.” Then Greg boasted that he'd landed a job at a construction outfit called PDM Contractors because he didn't mind doing the odd jobs that his boss required such as heavy lifting and cleaning work. The money was good, and he needed parts for his rusted-out 1966 Pontiac.

Greg had grown up and matured into a responsible young adult. I would see him in the hallway at school every so often , or he would stop in by the drug store where I worked as a cashier from time to time with his employer, John Wayne Gacy, for cans of soda and chips. Greg looked fantastic.

After the Thanksgiving holiday a group including Greg made plans to ring in the New Year in the basement of a friend’s house.

Fourteen days before Christmas there was a small blurb in the neighborhood newspaper that Greg had disappeared and police found his car abandoned in a nearby Chicago suburb. Something was terribly wrong. Greg lived and breathed for that car. He treated like it was his baby. There was no way in hell he would have just left it. News of Greg’s disappearance was all anyone could talk about at school. Detectives interviewed kids, asking if they knew where he could have gone. I learned a month earlier Greg had taken the exam for the Navy and planned to go immediately after graduation.

Months passed without a word. From time to time a story would be written offering a reward and asking the public’s help with any information that could direct authorities to the missing young man.

 On December 11, 1978, a 15-year-old Des Plaines high school sophomore, Robert Piest, disappeared shortly after leaving work at a pharmacy where Gacy had recently completed a remodeling job. Police put Gacy under surveillance, and when it was learned that two teenage employees of Gacy, Gregory Godzik and John Butkovich, also had recently disappeared, the police obtained a search warrant for Gacy's home. A roll of film belonging to Piest was seized in the ensuing search. A second search warrant was executed and three lime-covered bodies were found in the crawl space. Gacy pointed Chicago police detectives to the precise locations of certain bodies in the crawl space and stated that he had lured the victims to his home, either expressly for sex or through the promise of employment, and then strangled or asphyxiated them.

On December 30, 1978, a dozen of us from the neighborhood gathered across the street from the home of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. One by one we each began to cry, silently. I wanted to ask if anyone knew what number they marked Greg’s body, but I was paralyzed by the horror of the makeshift grave markers. The police marked each body recovered by number (photo left).  A total of 29 bodies were unearthed on the property. Four more were discovered in a nearby river.

Greg Godzik's murder will be forever associated with the worst serial killer in history. But for those of us who knew Greg, the image we will always remember is of him driving his 1966 rusted-out Pontiac around the neighborhood or racing on a Saturday night against someone from another part of town on an old dirt road.

John Wayne Gacy was convicted of 33 murders of mostly teenage boys. He was sentenced to death for only 12 of the murders (12 proved to have been committed after Illinois had passed post-Furman death penalty), and he was sentenced to natural life in prison for the others.

Gacy was executed May 10, 1994 by lethal injection.


www.helpfindthemissing.org said...

Cases like this where all these teenage boys went missing should have changed how authorities handle missung persons cases, but it did not. The chicago police still tag these cases today as potential run-a-ways.

How one person created so much pain to others and was able to hide it for so long without being suspected was tragic.

Thanks for giving victims aa voice.

Anonymous said...

Meredith Hope Emerson:Blood Mountain(AT)GA Hiker, singlehandedly brought Gary Michael Hilton: Prolific Serial Killer's Trail of Terror to an abrupt end, on 01/04/08. GMH, had been active for over four decades oblivious to Law Enforcement due to antiquated strategies and ignoring a very valuable resource: 'The American Public'....

Here's their story:


Here's actually what happened: http://glennindawson.blogspot.com