Prestin, Menet’s John Wayne Gacy doc based on new book

The two faces of serial killer John Wayne Gacy

Marc Menet’s father was friends with Gregory Godzik at Taft High School in Norwood Park before Godzik disappeared in 1976.  Godzik’s body was found two years later among 25 other victims in the crawl space of John Wayne Gacy, Godzik’s boss at PDM Contractors.

“My dad still hangs out with the same group of guys from the neighborhood,” Menet says.  “Throughout the years I have heard them talk about Greg.  It reminds me of veterans telling war stories: they get very quiet like they are sharing a memory, then change the subject.”

Along with Scott Prestin, Menet is co-directing and co-producing Defending a Monster, an in-progress documentary about Chicago serial killer Gacy, who murdered at least 33 teen boys and young men in the 1970s.

Prestin and Menet, best known as a DP of films by Prestin and others, are adapting the 2011 nonfiction book John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster, by Gacy’s defense attorney Sam Amirante and attorney and novelist Danny Broderick. 

Amirante unsuccessfully defended Gacy on grounds of insanity—Gacy was executed in 1994.   Defending Gacy was Amirante’s first case in private practice after leaving the public defender’s office.  He went on to serve as an associate judge in the Cook County Circuit Court. 

“This documentary is a chance to set the record straight on a number of issues,” Amirante says in an early video interview for the documentary.

Executive producer and attorney Joseph Klest, who is also EP and host of a cooking show he’s developing with Prestin, was a former colleague of Amirante and Broderick.  He brought the book to Prestin’s attention, and introduced Prestin and Menet to the authors.

Menet and Prestin are directing and producing through their DM Documentary LLC. Director Julian Higgins and producer and Winnetka native Patty West of L.A. production company Leeden Media LLC are also developing a narrative feature based on the book.

Prestin says the documentary will include “never-before-seen video of the Gacy case, as well as never-before-seen photos.”  Another early interviewee is Ernie Marinelli, who, as an investigator for the Cook County Sheriff’s office, led the excavation of bodies from Gacy’s crawl space.

“Most of what has already been done concentrates on the horrific acts and tries to tell the whole story in 45 minutes,” Menet says.  “Our film will be feature length and try and tell the story of the people who were involved.  It is really the Gacy story from the point of view of the people who represented him at trial as well as experts and other witnesses.”

In addition to 50 planned interview subjects, “We are also looking to interview anyone with first hand knowledge of the case or anyone with new stories about Gacy who would be willing to be involved in the project,” Menet says. 

“We have been finding that almost everyone on the North Side of Chicago has a Gacy story.  In killing as many people as he did, Gacy touched the lives of many of the residents of the city of Chicago in one way or another.  In addition to all the boys he killed, there were hundreds of young men that he sexually preyed on and didn’t kill. 

“Whether we like it or not, Gacy has become a chapter in the history of Chicago.”