Monday, 29 December 2014

Killer Clown, by Terry Sullivan

3 stars

Proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, inside the shrieking, tabloid style cover of Killer Clown lies a sober account of the investigation into and prosecution of John Wayne Gacy for the murders of at least 33 young men and boys. Co-written by Terry Sullivan, a State Attorney who was involved in the case from the very beginning when the case simply appeared to be the disappearance of 15 year old Robert Piest, he then lead the investigation which eventually saw the recovery of the bodies of Gacy’s victims (26 of which were discovered in the crawl space beneath his home), before serving as a member of the prosecution team at his trial.

Clear and precise (no doubt thanks to Sullivan’s experience in front of juries), we get lots of information on legalities such as what to specify in search warrants to ensure that any evidence recovered is admissible in court, the painful process of retrieving records pre-computers, how to make someone think they can’t leave a police station without ever actually detaining them, the effects of constant, overt surveillance on both the surveillance teams and the suspect, the bizarre behaviour exhibited by a manipulator who thinks he’s far cleverer than he actually is, and the legal chess games played by both sides (Gacy would first try (and fail) to exhibit signs of multiple personality disorder, and then his legal team attempt to have him found not guilty by reason of insanity - he’d apparently been temporarily insane on 33 different occasions, slipping back out of insanity once the murders were committed and the bodies buried, alternatively they would also claim that the deaths were 33 cases of accidental auto-erotic asphyxiation. Thankfully, the jury decided this was all bullshit.)

Mr Sullivan thankfully isn’t interested in trying to put you into the victims’ shoes or into the mind of the killer, thereby saving the material from becoming too harrowing and upsetting (if that’s what you’re after, trying listening to Sufjan Stevens’ John Wayne Gacy Jr instead) and instead presents a clear and detailed illustration of the work that goes into trying to catch and put away terrifying people. 

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