MANCHESTER, IA. — Delving into the story of a serial killer with ties to Iowa kicked off a Manchester brewery’s monthly True Crime Thursdays.
Franklin Street Brewing Co. hosted Manchester resident Kelli Berens-Brink to do a live recording of her podcast, “True Crime iRL,” this time focusing on John Wayne Gacy. On the second Thursday of each month, she will discuss a new true crime topic at the brewery.
“We chose the (Gacy) case because we wanted to keep it local,” Berens-Brink said. “Waterloo (Iowa) is not too far from here.”
Gacy, the first subject, was born in 1942. He lived in Illinois and in Waterloo, where Berens-Brink said he was once named “man of the year” — and where he was convicted of a sodomy charge.
Audience member Amanda Fisher, of Winthrop, said she was surprised by how close of ties Gacy had to Iowa. She came with a group of co-workers to the event.
Two of them, Lee White and Glen Unwin, previously had the chance to purchase Gacy paintings from an auction.
“I thought it would have been a good investment,” Unwin said about the paintings.
The group laughed, and White said he ultimately chose not to buy the items.
Berens-Brink was joined by sidekicks Kyle Sands — owner of the brewery — and Kevin Ostrander. They started by discussing Gacy’s abusive father, John Gacy Sr.
“You can feel sorry for the child he was,” Berens-Brink said. “(John Sr.) constantly mentally tortured his son.”
The 1968 sodomy charge of two teenage boys is what landed Gacy in Anamosa State Penitentiary. He took up his painting hobby there.
He was released after serving 18 months of his 10-year sentence, and he returned to Illinois.
No strangers to true crime, Braxton Weber and Abby Becker, of Manchester, said they were excited for the conversation as they enjoy binging true crime documentaries and podcasts.
Gacy’s acts as Pogo the clown stuck out to the women. He would dress up as the clown and entertain at children’s parties.
“Gacy is fascinating because he had this whole other persona,” Becker said.
“The clown aspect scares me,” Weber added.
While living in Norwood Park Township, Ill., 27 bodies of the believed 32 Gacy victims were found in the crawlspace of his house.
Bob Motta, the son of Gacy’s criminal defense lawyer, called in for the show. He said police planted a receipt of one of Gacy’s victims to gain probable cause to search his house.
“They went to the crawlspace and started digging,” Motta said. “They found bones, and the rest is history.”
There was a comic relief aspect to the night, but Unwin said the Gacy story was still “unsettling” and “unnerving” to hear.
Ostrander recalled growing up when the news of Gacy spread.
“I remember my mom and dad being freakishly overprotective,” he said. “It was a freaky time.”