John Wayne Gacy-Did He Use the Wrong Type of Lime?

A good cop friend of mine and I were kicking it recently, and we got to talking about body disposal. Lime, as a solvent was referenced, and he said that John Wayne Gacy was discovered as a murderer because the lime that he used was not ‘the right type’ to dispose of bodies, while there were, in fact, other types that would have let him get away scot-free. (The stench of the bodies under his house was what helped investigators track down some of his victims’ bodies.)
My friend isn’t a forensic investigator, by any means, and wouldn’t swear to any of this, but, he believes it.

I had to turn to the SDMB. Is my friend correct, and did Gacy use an inferior type of lime for his grisly purposes?


Quicklime vs slaked lime.

calcium carbonate → *with heat *→ calcium oxide + carbon dioxide
CaCO3 → with heat→ CaO + CO2
This is a thermal decomposition reaction.

calcium oxide + water → calcium hydroxide
CaO + H2O → Ca(OH)2

Slaked lime is what you get after the above reaction.

The former will help with body decomposition; the latter will be more likely to preseve it.

Not surprisingly, this subject has come up on the Dope before.

While quicklime according to legend speeds decomposition, the truth appears to be that it actually retards it. And I haven’t seen any Authoritative References suggesting that any sort of lime is good for concealing the results of one’s murder spree.

Too bad Breaking Bad wasn’t around then to educate him. I would think hydrofluoric acid would be a better way to handle it.

We used lime to control the odor of our dead chicken pile. We’d collect 8 or 10 dead ones from the chicken house pens every day during hot summers. Once it got over a 100 degrees those pens were just too hot for the chickens and the people that worked in them. We’d get 14 or more dead ones a day when it got over 103… Thats a pretty good pile to take to the dump every three or four days. Lime seemed to help with the flies and stench.

Eventually the hatchery made all the farms install fans throughout the barns. Cutting losses significantly. My uncle had 10,000 layers and 1500 roosters. We usually gathered 4000 to 5000 eggs every day that went to the hatchery.

Lime works. Don’t know what it does, but it helped a lot in controlling the problem.

Link to an article.

Thanks for the info, guys!

As the chicken farmer noted, lime does not help with the decomposition but retards the putrefaction and subsequent smell. Well into the investigation of Gacy a detective noticed a smell coming from heat vent of Gacy’s house. This was not the reason Gacy was a suspect or why his house was searched but it was a piece of the puzzle. He was identified as having been the last person to see a missing person and a prior conviction for sodomy made him the primary suspect in the disappearance. Items were found in his house which police were able to tie to the missing youth and the police found some people who Gacy had used to dig holes in his crawl space and basement as well as spread lime. If he had not spread the lime, the smell would have likely alerted police earlier in the investigation but they would have found the bodies at some point anyway.

In the movies they shovel or dump “lime” over corpses shown in movies, which is followed by a nice puff of talcum powder-like particles. IRL no way, right, without coughing, gagging, etc?
Since it came up, the following can be referenced also.

Feasibility of body disposal with acid and plastic barrel a la ‘Breaking Bad’: NEED ANSWER FAST

The topic also is discussed beginning post #34 in:
Factual Question about Breaking Bad: Blue Meth?

Which lime do they put the chicken eggs into that become Chinese “thousand-year-old eggs?”

Something about potash and the tree you get Shiso leaves (nice in plates of sushi and sashimi) as well as Szechuan peppers basic to Szechuan (duh) Chinese cooking?

And doesn’t lime come up in this in Lutefisk (which I imagine has a touch of the smell/taste of those Chinese preserved eggs, which are commonly eaten, unlike the special-occasion Lutefisk.

Quicklime is used to make century eggs.

Lye is used to make lutefisk.

If I remember my high school chemistry correctly, I believe lye is water-soluble, while quicklime is not (or rather, mixing with water causes a chemical reaction which turns it into calcium hydroxide).

Lutefisk is made with lye. It is delicious with melted butter and potatoes. Yum!

Well, this just showed up, and I must say it never occurred to me:

Wife accused of killing her husband in a ‘perfect murder’ may have ‘vacuum packed’ his body as police found it wrapped in plastic and perfectly preserved after 18 years

Does the method sound plausible, despite the headline? I call bullshit, based on evidence easily available on any given day in my refrigerator. Not the “perfect” part, which is massively debatable, but I doubt the woman had a vacuum sealer (hey, sous-vide cannibalism!), but even still, anaerobic processes are significant post-mortem.

[FTR, as a relatively new sous-vider, and like most people someone who consults tech comparisons for temps on-line, I am proud of introducing a new random search result for future cooks.]

The clown made one mistake. He should have came out of the closet instead of suppressing the urge before rape and following murders took place.

There is evidence that he hired 2-3 teenagers to help bury the bodies. He never revealed who they were to police.

As for lime, I think he buried way too many people two feet under the basement floor for any sort of lime to work

The sick guy had two bodies buried under the bathtub, and he took bathes fine for years. That’s deranged.

On side note, he was introduced to weed by those teenagers he often didn’t pay and chose to murder instead…

Drano works much better than lime.

personal experience much?

No expert. But I read “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by Mary Roach and I’d say you’re correct. IIRC, bacterial decomposition really takes off in your digestive organs and I wouldn’t see how vacuum sealing would make a difference there.

**DO NOT **get that stuff on you.

Need answer fast?