DNA tests have given the mother of Michael Marino new hope that the missing Chicago teenager wasn’t one of serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s 33 victims, her attorney says.
Sherry Marino has always held out hope that her son wasn’t among Gacy’s victims, even though he was identified as one of the 29 boys and men whose bodies were found buried under Gacy’s home in Norwood Park Township in 1978. Four other bodies were found elsewhere.
In 2011, Marino obtained a court order to exhume the remains of the body identified as her son. DNA tests on the body, which was removed from a grave in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, showed the remains weren’t her son’s, according to her attorney, Steven Becker.
Marino then attempted to determine whether her son’s body was mistakenly switched with the remains of a friend, Kenneth Parker. The teens, last seen together, disappeared on Oct. 24, 1976.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified Parker as another one of the victims removed from Gacy’s property. A grave in Rosehill Cemetery on the North Side is marked with Parker’s name.
Sherry Marino exhumed the remains in the Parker grave last year after obtaining a court order from a Cook County judge. The results of DNA tests were recently sent to Becker, who said Friday they showed the body wasn’t that of Michael Marino, either.
“It seems Michael Marino was not a Gacy victim, after all,” Becker said.
He said Parker’s family did not participate in the testing.
Cook County sheriff’s officials and Dr. Edward Pavlik, the dentist who was in charge of identifying Gacy’s victims, strongly disagree with Becker that Marino wasn’t killed by Gacy.
Pavlik insists that he correctly identified “body No. 14” among the Gacy victims as Marino, using the teen’s X-rays and dental records. He said 13 other experts have reviewed the identification and agree.
“Michael Marino is dead,” Pavlik said, adding that he can’t say for certain where the remains were buried because he wasn’t involved in that process.
“The most troubling thing is this woman is going on TV and saying she hopes she can hug him,” he said. “This is giving her false hope.”
Pavlik said he also questions the DNA testing that Becker has conducted.
Marino and Parker were identified as Gacy victims in March 1980 — more than a year after police discovered 29 bodies in a crawlspace under the front door of Gacy’s home.
Gacy was executed for the murders in 1994.
Sherry Marino regularly visited the Hillside grave marked with her son’s name but always hoped he was somehow still alive and that the body buried there wasn’t his.
She didn’t think the description of the clothing on the victim identified as her son matched what she thought he was wearing when he went missing.
Becker said he will continue to investigate, hoping to locate Marino’s son, dead or alive.
“But this may be a dead end,” he said.