WAUKEGAN, Ill. -- Authorities call Larry Eyler, the prime suspect in the sex slayings of 20 young men in Illinois and Indiana, a 'homosexual with a hate for himself' and compare him to mass murderer John Wayne Gacy.
But the attorney for Eyler, a Chicago housepainter charged in one of 20 murders that have terrorized the homosexual community, said Eyler is more like a little boy.
'When I was a kid there were always kids who were picked on. Larry's that type of kid,' attorney Kenneth Ditkowsky said in an interview.
Eyler was arrested by Lake County sheriff's police Oct. 29 in Chicago's Federal Building, where he filed suit to claim his contitutional rights were violated during a two-state task force probe into the yearlong murder spree.
Illinois and Indiana authorities linked forces in August after a total of 20 bodies were found in each state. The bodies belonged to young men who had been stabbed numerous times in homosexual-related attacks, authorities said.
'We honestly believe this man is 100 percent innocent,' Ditkowsky said. 'This is one case where a defendant has nothing to hide. He is totally innocent and he's being railroaded.'
To give the news media 'a chance to see that he's not the type of individual that's being portrayed' by authorities, Ditkowsky said he asked Eyler, 30, to appear at a news conference last week in the Sheriff Robert Babcox's office.
Eyler, whose family resides in Terre Haute, Ind., appeared disoriented as television lights and tape-recorders surrounded him.
'I don't think I can do it. I just want to go,' he said. 'I don't want to be on the air, on TV. I can't even think of what to say. I'm sorry.'
But Eyler did pull himself together long enough to declare his innocence.
'I am not guilty,' he said. 'I just want you to know that.'
Despite Eyler's claim of innocence, however, authorities believe they have in custody a man who could be responsible for the 20 murders. So far, he's been charged in only one slaying, the August murder of Chicagoan Ralph Calise, 28.
'He's a prime suspect' in the other 19 murders, Babcox said, adding Eyler fits the FBI portrait of a mass murderer.
'He has a macho image -- a beer-drinking homosexual with a hate for himself for being a homosexual,' Babcox said. 'He puts on a fatigue uniform, boots and a square cap -- then he's a different person.'
Most of the murders involved some type of bondage, detailed for authorities by two men who claimed they were attacked by Eyler but escaped with their lives.
'This type of sordid crime can be compared with the sadistic gratification that John Wayne Gacy must have enjoyed in his vicious crimes, which I believe are unsurpassed in the annals of recorded sexual murders and degradation,' Babcox said.
Gacy was convicted in March 1980 in the sex-slayings of 33 young men and boys, making him the worst mass murderer in U.S. history.
Whether Eyler even comes close to matching Gacy's infamous niche in history could be revealed in the Lake County courthouse next month when he stands trial for the murder of Calise, whose body was found in a Lake County field.
In the meantime, Eyler, who was being held on a $1 million bond, will turn to God for answers, his attorney said.
'He's like most of us,' Ditkowsky said. 'When there's trouble he becomes religious. When things are going well, God's forgotten. Right now, he's looking for some type of solace and hoping the truth will out and he won't be persecuted for crimes he had nothing to do with.'