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Crime Causation

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Crime Causation
Sharon Semien
BUS303
August 9, 2011
Katina Douglas

Crime Causation
In 1980, an Illinois jury convicted John Wayne Gacy for killing 33 young boys and men. Sarcastically, after his conviction, the infamous killer (also known as “The Killer Clown”) said “I should have never been convicted of anything more serious than running a cemetery without a license” (Star Quotes, 2009, p. 1). Obviously, something intrusively wrong resonated in Gacy for him to make such a statement that negated the intensity of his actions. Gacy buried majority of his victims under the crawl space of his home and discarded other victims in the Des Plaines River (Bell & Bardsley, 2011). People often question what would make someone do such vicious and torturous acts on another person. Criminologists developed theories explaining the reasons people deviate from societal norms and commit immoral acts laws prohibit (Schmallenger, 2003). Particularly, in this case, John Wayne Gacy is a person suitable to study. Certainly, a few crime causation theories explain how his upbringing, life experiences, and other deep, underlying issues led him to committing crimes to the extent he did.
Gacy’s Background Information
Gacy was the only son of three children born to Marion and John Gacy. He had an older sister (Joanne) and younger sister (Karen). The Gacy’s were a middle-classed, Catholic family who lived on the north side of Chicago. As a young boy in middle school, Gacy kept busy by working part-time as a bag boy, delivering newspapers, and participating in Boy Scouts. Even though he was not popular, his teachers liked him, and he had many friends (Lohr, n.d.). To people on the outside of Gacy’s home, it appeared he had an awesome childhood. However, many people did not know Gacy’s relationship with his father was far from normal. Gacy’s father physically abused his mother and verbally assaulted Gacy by calling him a “queer” and a “sissy.” Additionally, a family friend molested Gacy as well (Lohr, n.d.).
Between the ages of 11 and 16, Gacy suffered blackouts resulting from an incident doctors learned occurred years earlier. At the age of 11, a swing struck Gacy on the head and caused a blood clot in his brain. Once doctors prescribed medication for the blood clot, the blackouts ceased (Lohr, n.d.). However, almost a year later, doctors diagnosed Gacy with a heart ailment, which caused frequent hospitalization for him. After doctors stabilized Gacy, it became evident his relationship with his father diminished significantly because his father believed Gacy was faking to obtain attention. Therefore, Gacy’s relationship with his mother and sisters was solid because they pampered him (Bell & Bardsley, 2011). As an adult, Gacy graduated from a business school and perfected his talent as a salesman. Almost immediately, he secured a job and in a short time received a promotion as manager. Shortly afterwards, Gacy again experienced heart problems, suffered a spinal injury, and gained weight excessively. However, Gacy overcame his health issues, and just as he did as a child, he kept himself busy (Lohr, n.d.). Gacy involved himself in many activities to serve the community. To name a few, Gacy had membership in Catholic Inter-Club Council, the Holy Name Society, and the Federal Civil Defense for Illinois. In those organizations, Gacy reached high statuses and in one he received the “Man of the Year” award. Friends and family believed Gacy devoted himself to community and everyone loved him dearly for it (Bell & Bardsley, 2011).
His successes led him to Marlynn Myers who became his wife. Myers’ parents owned a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) stores in Iowa. Because Gacy was such a good salesman who possessed high motivations, Myers’ father offered Gacy a job in one of the franchises. Gacy accepted the job, and he and his wife relocated to Iowa. Even in Iowa, Gacy became involved in the community and even sought presidency for the Jaycees Organization. However, people began to spread rumors concerning Gacy’s sexual preference. The rumors consisted of Gacy making sexual advancements at young boys who worked in the KFC franchise (Bell & Bardsley, 2011).
Criminal Activities
Although many of his friends and family rejected the rumors, in 1968, a grand jury indicted Gacy for sodomy of a teenage boy (Mark Miller). After indictment, Gacy paid an 18-year-old (Dwight Anderson) $310 to beat Miller up. Gladly, Anderson attacked Miller but Miller broke free and acquired assistance from the local police. During questioning, Anderson admitted Gacy paid him to assault Miller. As a result of his actions, a judge ordered a psychological evaluation for Gacy (Lohr, n.d.). Ironically, the evaluation deemed Gacy had an antisocial personality disorder and the report indicated no known medical practice would cure him. At the age of 26, Gacy pled guilty to sodomy and a judge sentenced him to 10 years in the Iowa State Reformatory. Soon after, his wife divorced him (Bell & Bardsley, 2011).
Even though his wife ended the marriage, Gacy thought mostly about his estranged relationship with his father. Despite the fact his father was a violent man, Gacy loved his father very much, had a high level of devotion to him, and desired his attention. Gacy aspired to improve his relationship with his father, but his father died during his incarceration. Therefore, Gacy resented himself and reserved deep regrets because he did not reconcile with his father. In retrospect, his resentment affected him negatively in his future endeavors (Lohr, n.d.).
After serving 18 months, the parole board released Gacy for good behavior. After his release, he obtained a job, moved into his mother’s home for a short while. Eventually, Gacy moved in his own place (8213 West Summerdale Avenue in Norwood Park Township). Months after he moved into his home, police brought charges against Gacy for soliciting sex from a young boy at a bus terminal (Lohr, n.d.). However, because the victim did not appear in court, the prosecutor dismissed the case. Even though Gacy served time in prison for sodomy, had charges brought against him for disorderly conduct, he still managed to win the love of Carole Hoff (divorced mother of two girls) who he married in June 1972. Hoff accepted Gacy with his faults because she believed he changed. Shortly afterwards, Gacy started his own home-based business (PDM Incorporated) and hired young boys. Unknown to others and his wife, he hired young boys so he could seduce them. Additionally, Gacy worked part-time as a clown performing for young children to grow close. Obviously, Hoff could not have been more wrong Gacy changed his life. In fact, when they married, Gacy had just gotten started (Bell & Bardsley, 2011).
Many times Hoff complained about a strong unpleasant odor in their home, and Gacy would tell her the odor was moisture buildup. Little did she know the gruesome odor emanating inside their home was the decomposed bodies of Gacy’s victims hidden under their house. Even with the horrible smell, Gacy threw huge parties at his home because he loved others to love him, and always wanted to be the center of attention. After a few years of marriage, Hoff knew Gacy lost interest in her because she found Gacy’s pornographic magazines with naked young boys pictured in them. Furthermore, she knew his old urges returned because he told her he preferred to have sex with boys. As a result, they divorced in March 1976 (Lohr, n.d.).
Between 1972 and 1978, Gacy lured more than 30 young boys and men to his home/construction shop. Notably, he committed most of the murders after his second wife moved out the residence because he had the house to himself. Prior to the deaths of his victims, Gacy handcuffed them, lodged pieces of cloths in their throats, raped, tortured, and sodomized them victims with oversized objects. After a lengthy police investigation, detectives executed a search warrant and found human bones in the crawl space of Gacy’s house. Armed with new evidence, Gacy confessed to killing more than 30 people. According to Gacy’s confession, most of his victims died because he squeezed a rope around their necks, lodged cloths in their throats, or placed a board on their necks as he sodomized/raped them (Lohr, n.d.). Sometimes, Gacy said he let the deceased bodies lie under his bed until he felt like burying them. Gacy even suggested there were days he killed and buried multiple victims. Because he ran out of room under his house, Gacy informed he tossed his last five victims into the Des Plaines River (Lohr, n.d.).
Eventually, police charged Gacy with 33 murders (Bell & Bardsley, 2011). After the trial, the jury deliberated for less than two hours and convicted Gacy on all counts. Later, the judge sentenced Gacy to death, and he remained on death row for 14 years at Menard Correctional Center located in Chester, Illinois. For execution, Gacy transferred to Stateville Correctional Center. Gacy did not show any remorse and told his defense attorney “killing him would not compensate for the loss of others, and that this was the state murdering him” (Bell & Bardsley, 2011, p. 5). To further support Gacy’s lack of remorse, his last words before execution were “kiss my ass” (Lohr, n.d.).
Crime Causation Theories (Why?)
Based on the nature of Gacy’s crimes, there must be an explanation for his behavior. Clearly, his estranged relationship with his father, resentment for not reconciling with his father, childhood injury, his personal victimization of child molestation, and desire for attention contributed to the reason he raped, tortured, and killed. Moreover, other underlying reasons may explain why he targeted only on young boys and men (Lohr, n.d.).
This author explored a few theories that may explain the reasons Gacy engaged in heinous crimes. First, Travis Hirschi presented the social control theory in 1969. Hirschi theorized every person has the potential to commit crime, and those who commit crime do so out of fear of what others think about him or her. One cause Hirschi listed as a factor contributing to crime causation is the negative attachment to family. In Gacy’s case, he was close to his mother and sisters, but his relationship with his father severed during Gacy’s adolescent years (Hall, 2010). Keep in mind a close family relative (male) molested Gacy too.
Although Gacy’s father mistreated him and abused his mother, Gacy loved his father deeply, respected him, and desired his approval/acceptance. Therefore, this brings forth the labeling theory created by Howard Becker in the 1960s. This theory suggests a person labeled repeatedly as a “deviant” (gay or queer in Gacy’s case) will live up to his or her label and clash with social norms. It appears the verbal abuse Gacy endured from his father contributed to his homosexuality because his father viewed him as a homosexual (Cramster, n.d).
Another theory possibly applying to Gacy is the behavior trait theory and Albert Bandura presented this theory in the latter part of the 1970s. Bandura suggested people observe and imitate the responses of other people, and stated a person learns crime and aggression from his or her life experiences. In Gacy’s case, his father was a physically and verbally abusive drunk who caused havoc in Gacy’s home. Therefore, the actions of Gacy’s father caused negative family interaction that included violence (Hall, 2010)
Because psychologists diagnosed Gacy with antisocial personality disorder, the psychopathology theory applies to Gacy’s behavior also (Bell, 2007). "The central defining characteristic of a psychopath is poverty of affect, or the inability to accurately imagine how others think and feel. Hence, it becomes possible for a psychopath to inflict pain and engage in cruelty without appreciation for the victim's suffering" (Schmallenger, 2003, p. 23). Evidently, Gacy only appreciated the pleasure he obtained from his behavior rather the acknowledging the suffering of his 33 victims. The last theory this author believes relate to Gacy’s behavior is the classical theory created by Beccaria. The theory suggests a person commits crimes when the benefits or self-interest (Gacy’s pleasure) outweigh the cost. Notably, this theory implies Gacy made a free-willed choice to commit heinous offenses for sexual arousal (Cullen & Agnew, 2002).
In summation, John Wayne Gacy had significant, deep-rooted issues that contributed to his obsession of raping, torturing, and murdering boys. It appears Gacy reached a high-level of satisfaction and pleasure from torturing defenseless (handcuffed) male victims. This author believes the primary issue that contributed the most to Gacy’s obsession was his distant and verbally abusive relationship with his father. Although the theories this author selected may not apply fully to Gacy, this author believes they provide an explanation that helps people understand what lead Gacy to killing for sexual pleasure.

References
Bell, C. (2007, March 27). Determining the cause of crime: The theory on the making of a psychopath. Retrieved from http://www.helium.com/items/426594-determining-the-cause-of-crime-a-theory-on-the-making-of-a-psychopath
Bell, R., & Bardsley, M. (2011). John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Retrieved from http://www.
Cramster. (n.d.). Labeling Theory. Retrieved from http://www.cramster.com/definitions/labeling-theory/828
Hall, E. (2010, March 9). Theory and behavior trait theory related to John Gacy. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/ElizabathHall1198/hall-elizabeth-unit-9-social-control-theory-and-behavior-trait-theory-comparison
Lohr, D. (n.d.). Boy killer: John Wayne Gacy. Retrieved from http://www.crimemagazine.com/boy-killer-john-wayne-gacy
Schmallenger, F. (2003). Criminal justice today: An introductory text for the 21st century (7th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Star Quotes. (2009). John Wayne Gacy quotes. Retrieved from http://www.
UWEC. (2002). Criminological theories summaries. Retrieved from http://www.uwec.edu/patchinj/crmj301/theorysummaries.pdf

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