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John Wayne Gacy was executed by injection early Tuesday, more than 15 years after the stench of bodies buried in the crawl space under his home gave police the break that led to his conviction in 33 sex murders.

Gacy, 52, was pronounced dead at 12:58 a.m., 18 minutes after two anonymous executioners tripped switches to send the chemicals into his bloodstream. The procedure was delayed by a clog in the tubing.His last words were that "taking his life would not compensate for the loss of the others and that this was the state murdering him," said state Corrections Director Howard Peters.

"He got a much easier death than any of his victims," said William Kunkle, who prosecuted Gacy and witnessed the execution at the maximum-security Stateville Correctional Center.

"To the best of my knowledge and the knowledge of the pathologist, he did not suffer any pain," Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil said Tuesday after witnessing the autopsy.

Gacy's body will be cremated at the request of his family, O'Neil said. He wasn't certain but didn't think a funeral was planned.

Gacy confessed to strangling 33 young men and boys he had picked up for sex, and he was convicted of the murders in 1980.

With the help of a map Gacy drew for police, 27 of the bodies were found in the crawl space under Gacy's ranch-style home outside Chicago. Two bodies were found elsewhere on his property, and four were pulled from the Des Plaines River.

For nearly six years, from 1972 to 1978, he methodically killed his victims as he lived an outgoing, seemingly normal life as a successful remodeling contractor, Democratic precinct captain and amateur clown named Pogo.

While Gacy was under surveillance in 1978 in connection with the disappearance of a 15-year-old boy, he invited the officers watching him into his house for dinner.

While using the bathroom, one of the officers caught a scent like rotting flesh coming from a heating duct. That was part of the evidence used to obtain the search warrant that led to the discovery of the bodies.

In more than a decade on death row, Gacy recanted his confession, denying all but one of the killings, and wrote rambling letters blaming his conviction on political conspiracies. Fourteen years of appeals held up the execution.

Nearly two dozen relatives of Gacy's victims, barred from the execution chamber as a security precaution, kept a vigil in an administration building until they received word of the execution.

"We were victims here, too," said Tim Nieder, whose brother, John Mowery, was 19 when Gacy killed him in 1977. "I feel like justice has finally been served, but it's been a long time in the making."