Karen Conti was a fledgling lawyer in the early 1990s when she was asked to defend John Wayne Gacy, but she wanted “to look evil in the eye,” so she took the case.

As a fierce opponent of the death penalty, Conti became the only female lawyer on his death row defense team, which led to hours of talks with the “Killer Clown.”

“Gacy wasn’t scary,” Conti said during a March 10 segment on WGN Radio in Chicago, when asked if it was like a “Silence of Lambs” scene. “Gacy wasn’t scary… He was such an average guy, and he appeared to be friendly and glib and intelligent and engaging, and that’s obviously why he got away with so many (murders).

“Nobody could rectify who he was. In his one life, his normal, church-going business, charitable, political life. And then that horrible side of him that did some of the most evil acts I’ve ever even imagined.”

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Gacy was primarily a contractor during his killing spree, which included the rape, torture and murders of at least 33 young men and boys in the Chicago suburb of Norwood Park Township. 

He was finally arrested in December 1978, and police found dozens of bodies buried in his home and throughout his property, but Conti believes there are likely dozens more. 

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Gacy hunted at a time when digital law enforcement databases didn’t exist. “Why would he have stopped (killing) when he was out of town?” Conti told the U.S. Sun during a March interview. 

“Today, it’s different, but connecting the dots from Gacy’s travels would require extensive effort.”

John Wayne Gacy in his clown costume

Conti, who was 29 at the time and six years into her career, as well as her partner were first called to defend Gacy in a First Amendment civil rights case.

She thought it was a “strange call,” considering his execution was just seven months away, but she saw this as an opportunity “to stand up to the death penalty.”

Conti was part of Gacy’s defense team through his final appeals from 1993 to his execution by lethal injection on May 4, 1994.

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One thing that stuck out to Conti during her final talks with Gacy was the serial killer’s humor, she said during an April 2 interview on “The Fuzzy Mic.” He still cracked jokes as he was being put to death.

“At one point he said something like he wished they had the electric chair, and the guards were like, ‘Why?’ And he was like, ‘Because then I’d ask you to hold my hand,'” Conti said. 

Karen Conti, a renowned lawyer in the Chicago area and author of "Killing Time with John Wayne Gacy," talks about what it was like to represent one of the most prolific serial killers in history.

During his final few months of life, Gacy “just wouldn’t deal with (his impending death),” Conti said on the YouTube show. 

“I would talk to him about it. I would say, ‘Are you OK? Do you need to get your affairs in order? Is there something I can do?’ That’s what I do as a lawyer. I’m supposed to help that person legally. 

“And he did not want to talk about it, and I think that probably saved him from a lot of mental agony.”

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Gacy victims headshots

Gacy killed more than 33

Although Gacy was officially convicted of 33 murders, Conti believes there are more victims and potentially politically connected figures who may have turned a blind eye.

“While there are hints and suspicions, definitive evidence is elusive. Gacy’s records show he was out of town during certain disappearances, and there could be more co-conspirators involved,” Conti told the U.S. Sun.

“How many more bodies could there be? I could guess another 20.”

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While there’s no definitive proof that Gacy committed the crimes with someone, Conti told the Sun, “There’s no question in my mind there were co-conspirators.”

Body removed from Gacy home

She said during Gacy’s trial, prosecutors didn’t want to “dirty up” the case by bringing other suspects into the picture. 

Death threats and Conti’s ‘amiable relationship’ with Gacy

During her time as Gacy’s lawyer, Conti and her partners on the defense team were sent death threats, faced bomb threats and were heavily scrutinized, even by judges, Conti said. 

“My reputation took a plummet,” Conti said on “The Fuzzy Mic.” “After Gacy was executed, things changed completely. I think there was a societal relief that he was dead… and then it became a novelty to this day. When I get introduced, ‘It’s Karen Conti. She represented Gacy.'”

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A photo of John Wayne Gacy's painted self-portrait in clown costume

Read John Wayne Gacy’s self-produced ‘propaganda’ pamphlet (Mobile users go here)

Conti said she had an “amiable relationship” with Gacy, whom she referred to as a sociopath and a narcissist. “He doesn’t have any real feelings for anyone or anything, so even if he says the right thing, it’s because he knows he should say it.”

“But there was a sense of humanity in him, and he and I exchanged pleasantries, we talked about family and different experiences,” Conti said, which she elaborates on in her new book “Killing Time with John Wayne Gacy.”

“I bonded with him to do my job,” the renowned lawyer said. “And since I was the only female on the team, I was able to get work done with him because he was very difficult to deal with, he was confrontational and oppositional, especially with men.”

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A barren plot of land is an uncomfortable reminder of the "house of horrors" home of John Wayne Gacy that once stood there.

But she got the impression that he wanted to be caught by police, and he was “relieved” to be behind bars, otherwise he would kill again. 

“He was in a frenzy (when he was arrested),” Conti said. “A lot of serial killers, they start out killing once a year, then it ramps up, and they need more violence, they need more victims,” Conti said. “So I think Gacy, at the end, it was just wearing at him.

“And I think he knew if he was ever out again, he would go back to killing.”

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She said he was sexually abused, had head injuries as a kid and had repressed homosexual tendencies. 

With the murders, “I think he was trying to almost kill himself over and over,” she said. 

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