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