Meet John Wayne Gacy’s Two Ex-Wives & Children
The Chicago-born serial killer was married twice before his crimes were brought to light.
After centering its first season on the notorious murderer Ted Bundy, Netflix’s docuseries Conversations with a Killer shifts its focus to another serial killer for Season 2: John Wayne Gacy, a Midwestern businessman, contractor, and party clown who assaulted and murdered over 30 young men and underaged boys in the 1970s. After Gacy was finally caught, many of the victims’ corpses were recovered from his home, either buried in a crawl space or within the property’s walls.
Gacy was married twice prior to his conviction, and neither of his former wives appear to have known about his violent tendencies. His second wife, Carol Hoff, was living with her two children in Gacy’s house when the first murders occurred. According to The New Yorker, Hoff began smelling strong, “decaying” odors around their home, and would occasionally see her husband descending into their home’s crawl space with a 50-pound bag of lime to empty onto the ground. At one point, per Netflix’s documentary, she confronted Gacy when she found wallets belonging to young men hidden away. Still, she didn’t grasp what he was up to until after his arrest.
Both of Gacy’s ex-wifes, as well as his biological and step-children, have kept very low profiles in the years following his conviction and execution. As of 2022, there is almost no information about their current whereabouts.
Below, everything that’s known about Gacy’s ex-wives and children.
Gacy Had Two Children With First Wife, Marlynn Myers
Gacy met Marlynn Myers in 1964, when they both worked at a men’s clothing store in Springfield, Illinois called Roberts Brothers. According to The New York Times, they married nine months later and moved into a home passed down by Myers’ parents in Waterloo, Iowa. There, Gacy managed a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the area, which were owned by Myers’ father. It was also during this time that Gacy became heavily involved with the Waterloo Jaycees, a branch of the United States Junior Council.
Tim Cahill, who wrote the book Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer, notes that Gacy and Myers had their first child, a son, in Feb. 1966. Just over a year later, in March 1967, Myers gave birth to their daughter.
In 1968, Gacy was indicted and convicted on sodomy charges after sexually assaulting two teenage boys, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, but Gacy only served 18 months of his original sentence. While incarcerated, Myers was granted a divorce from Gacy on grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment.” Cahill writes that she was also given custody of both children, and that Gacy would never see them again; Myers would later change her name to distance herself from him.
When the murder charges became public, Myers claimed she was shocked. By this point, she hadn’t seen Gacy in over nine years. “I just couldn't believe it,” she told The New York Times in 1979. “I never had any fear of him. It's hard for me to relate to these killings. I was never afraid of him.” She also mentioned that Gacy “had never been violent” and was “a good father.”
Gacy’s Second Wife, Carol Hoff, Was His Sister’s High School Friend
Gacy began dating Carol Hoff in 1971; she was a friend of Gacy’s sister, and the two previously went on a date in high school. By the time they reconnected, Hoff was divorced from a previous marriage and had two small daughters, Tammy and April. They married on July 1, 1972. In Buried Dreams, she is quoted saying “He swept me off my feet. I don’t think I loved him, but I was still mixed up about my first marriage, and he treated me well.” Her children also became close to their new stepfather.
Gacy informed his then-fiancée about his same-sex attraction prior to their wedding day. He described himself as “bisexual” to Hoff, and pointedly acknowledged that he wasn’t “gay or anything like that.” During Gacy’s trial, she testified that at the beginning of their marriage, they had normal sexual relations, and that Gacy’s bisexuality “wasn’t of any importance because I knew John.” In archival footage, she states that she was aware of her husband’s ongoing encounters with men while they were married.
The New Yorker reported that nine days before their wedding, Gacy was arrested for posing as a deputy sheriff and coercing a young boy into performing oral sex on him. It is unclear whether or not Hoff knew of his arrest at the time, and the charges were ultimately dropped for unknown reasons.
In the summer of 1975, Hoff temporarily moved to Arkansas to care for Gacy’s mother, who had broken her hip. By October of that year, she asked Gacy for a divorce. Hoff gave a few interviews after Gacy’s crimes made headlines, but aside from that, she’s stayed out of the spotlight.