Detective who led John Wayne Gacy investigation dies

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DES PLAINES — Joseph Kozenczak, the suburban Chicago police detective credited with leading the investigation that nabbed serial killer John Wayne Gacy, has died. He was 75.

G.L. Hills Funeral Home owner Graham Hills confirmed that the former Des Plaines police chief and 27-year veteran of the department died Wednesday. Kozenczak had been feeling ill for a while, but his health had significantly declined within the past two weeks, his wife, Karen, told the Daily Herald.

Kozenczak’s experience as a military police officer and continued education helped him become a great police officer, but his natural aptitude for police work really caused him to excel, according to Karen Kozenczak.

“Good policemen just have innate abilities, and he was one of those,” she said. “He was a great friend, soul mate, husband, father and someone dedicated to the pursuit of justice.”

Joe Kozenczak served as chief investigator on the Gacy case that began in 1978 with the disappearance of Des Plaines teenager Robert Piest. Gacy, a building contractor and amateur clown, ultimately was arrested and convicted of luring 33 young men and boys to his Chicago-area home and strangling them between 1972 and 1978. He was executed in 1994.

Kozenczak was honored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for his work on the case.

A memorial gathering and Mass for Kozenczak will be held next Friday in Des Plaines.

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