Who’s John Wayne Gacy again?
He was a Chicagoan with a small construction company and one of the world’s most prolific serial killers. In 1978 he was arrested, and in short order he confessed to dozens of murders and to having buried most of the victims in the crawlspace under his house. Eventually 25 victims were identified and the remains of 8 others were interred without ID.
What happened to him?
He was executed by lethal injection in 1994.
Were there witnesses?
Two young men who worked for Gacy and lived with him at times were questioned. When asked where Gacy might have put the bodies, one of them said to look under the house. He also admitted to having a sexual relationship with Gacy and to having spread lime in the crawlspace to disguise the horrible smell. One survivor said another person was involved when he was kidnapped and brutally attacked.
What happened to those two?
Neither was ever charged with anything to do with Gacy. One was the grandson of a powerful local politician. He continues to live in the Chicago area. The other committed suicide.
So what’s up with that place at Miami and Elston?
In the mid 1970s Gacy was the building’s caretaker. After his arrest neighbors called police because they’d seen Gacy engaged in activities that now, in light of the murders, acquired awful new meaning. One called to report having seen him digging long, deep trenches in the yard. Another recalled him working in the basement late at night at making loud banging sounds. Another saw him dragging heavy objects, possibly garbage bags, across the yard in the dark. One caller, a police officer, was told by the police to forget about it.
Who’s still on the case?
Bill Dorsch. He’s a retired Chicago homicide detective who had his own disturbing recollection of a an encounter with Gacy. Alison True and Tracy Ullman have been working on the investigation with him.
Wasn’t there already an investigation there?
There was a brief search in 1998 using evidence supplied by Dorsch, including a report by a ground-scanning-radar company. Despite the police’s apparent confidence that they’d find bodies, investigators dug in only one spot in the yard, and it was where a witness told them not to bother because he’d never seen a trench there. The upshot? Move along, nothing to see here.
More recently, in response to evidence presented by Dorsch and company, Cook County sheriff Tom Dart agreed in the spring of 2012 that it would be worth it to take another look at the property. After waiting for months for a search warrant from the Cook County State’s Attorney, Dart finally did an investigation in the spring of 2013. No one in the press or public was notified of the search, and his results: Nothing to see here, move along. When pressed, Dart’s own expert admitted that the search had been inconclusive, but Dart closed the case anyway.
So now what?
Dart said that now that DNA technology has improved, to try to give names to the eight victims who weren’t identified at the time of Gacy’s arrest, and he put out a national call to try to locate potential victims’ families.
More than 100 families came forward. The sheriff’s office narrowed the field of likely matches to 30 or so who fit the profile of Gacy’s victims. Those people were invited to submit DNA, and one match was made to a victim.
Meanwhile, Sherry Marino, the mother of one previously identified victim, who’d always been suspicious of the remains identified as her son’s, won the right to have them exhumed and tested. Using her own funds and the services of an attorney working pro bono, she managed to prove that they were identified in error.
Dart chose not to concede the error and Marino had to go back to court to ask for the right to exhume the remains of his friend exhumed as well, in case the bodies were switched. She now has that court order as well.
What about the other families of missing persons? They weren’t matched to the known victims but their relatives match the profile of Gacy’s victims.
Dart hasn’t indicated that there’s any effort to locate the bodies of other victims.
What’s happening now?