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Gacy horrors retold 40 years later spur fresh tips that may ID remaining bodies

Tom Dart with John Wayne Gacy evidence

Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart looks through evidence found in John Wayne Gacy's home. | Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

Widespread news coverage last month of the 40th anniversary of the arrest of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has resulted in more than two dozen tips for investigators still trying to identify six of the 29 bodies found under his house.

“Of the 25 tips, I’d say 10 are worthwhile,” said Jason Moran, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s lead investigator on the Gacy case.

“We always get a handful of calls and emails when Gacy is in the news, but this was quite a bit,” he said.

Dart, a sophomore at Mount Carmel High School when Gacy was arrested, reopened the case in 2011 and undertook the task that previously had led only to dead ends.

The renewed investigation has so far helped identify two bodies — most recently that of Jimmie Haakenson who, at 16, left his Minnesota home for a cross-country adventure that put him in Gacy’s path.

Dart hopes at least one or two more names of the unidentified victims will come to light.

“But I don’t think there’s a scenario where we can identify all of them,” Dart said earlier this week.

“Gacy purposefully picked young men who were off the grid, often young men who’d left their families and the stigma attached to alternative lifestyles in the ’60s and ’70s, which makes trying to identify them more difficult, especially when you consider the 40-year gap and the likelihood the young man’s mother and father have passed away.”

DNA evidence in the John Wayne Gacy case

DNA evidence is stored in the Cook County Sheriff’s warehouse facility in Chicago. | Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

RELATED: Where John Wayne Gacy buried the bodies, more; key sites tied to serial killer

Gacy’s home in unincorporated Norwood Park Township, just east of O’Hare Airport, became the center of a macabre universe in 1978, as the man who was at that time the country’s most prolific serial killer was unmasked.

Gacy was a general contractor who remodeled homes, an active participant in local Democratic Party politics and a clown who performed at children’s parties.

He was also a monster who abducted young men and teenagers, raped and strangled them.

Body being removed from the home of John Wayne Gacy

Cook County authorities remove the remains of another body found March 17, 1979 at the Des Plaines home of accused serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The body was found under an addition to the Gacy home. Gacy was charged with killing 33 young men and boys and convicted in 1980. He spent 14 years in prison before his execution in 1994. | AP Photo

His body count totaled 33, 29 of them found on his property, mostly in the crawl space. The rest were recovered from the Des Plaines River south of Joliet after they were dumped there by Gacy.

Moran said he’s currently working on a promising lead, but knows not to get his hopes up.

“There have been missing persons that I would have bet a week’s salary were one of Gacy’s unidentified victims,” Moran said. “And I did the work on it — and they’re not.”

Serial killer John Wayne Gacy

Serial killer John Wayne Gacy. | AP