EDITORIAL: Dart delves into darkest Chicago past to solve Gacy mysteries

SHARE EDITORIAL: Dart delves into darkest Chicago past to solve Gacy mysteries

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Wednesday announced that another victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been identified. This victim was a 16-year-old runaway from Minnesota, James Byron Haakenson. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

To lose a brother so horribly must tear at you for life.

“One of the worst people in the world that walked the earth murdered my brother,” Lori Sisterman told a Sun-Times reporter, talking about her brother, Jimmie Haakenson.

But to know, finally, how he was lost. To end the uncertainty. That has to count for something.

“I’m so glad to know where my brother is,” she said.


This week, thanks to a remarkably compassionate delve into Chicago’s darkest history by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, 16-year-old James Byron Haakenson was identified, 40 years after the fact, as one of the 33 victims of John Wayne Gacy.

Haakenson’s identification brings no further justice. Gacy was executed for his crimes 23 years ago. And it does not bring Jimmie back.

But Dart’s effort to put a name to every Gacy victim — six remain unidentified — is profoundly important work all the same. The most agonizing of all cold cases are those that involve missing children and young people. Parents go to their grave, as Jimmie’s mother did, in grief.

Just two weeks ago, in an unrelated case of missing persons, a family on Chicago’s South side held a memorial vigil to grieve the loss of two sisters, Tionda and Diamond Bradley, ages 10 and 3 respectively. They went missing 16 years ago this month. The loss, unresolved, haunts them.

“Some days,” a great-uncle told a WBBM reporter, “I have dreams that I’m seeing them walking down the street.”

Dart has identified two previously unidentified Gacy victims, and along the way helped solve several other unrelated missing person cases, by comparing DNA samples from relatives of missing people to the remains of the bodies buried in the crawlspace of Gacy’s house. And the work continues.

“We’re asking people please come forward,” he said.

The number to call is 708/865-6244. Or go online to: cookcountysheriff.com/sheriffs_police/gacy/gacy.html.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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