But you may be confused: Why is this still a thing? First, let me ask you to consider how you’d feel if your son or brother disappeared a long time ago. Remains of soldiers from the Korean war are being returned to families even now because it still matters to them. Even if you’re lucky enough never to have lost a loved one under mysterious circumstances, there are reasons to care about this one, and they have to do with how you can be best served by your elected officials. Let me explain.
There are older posts below with more detailed discussions of the facts, but briefly: Michael Marino and his friend Kenny Parker disappeared in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon in October 1976.
Most of Gacy’s known victims were identified in the winter of 1979, using X rays, dental records, clothing, tattoos, and other visible clues. But after Gacy’s conviction, in 1980, police told the Marino and Parker families that their bodies had been identified as two buried together in the crawlspace under Gacy’s house.
Michael’s mother, Sherry, was perplexed. She had given Michael’s dental records to police after Gacy’s arrest in 1978. Why had it taken so long to ID Michael and Kenny?
Marino developed a lingering sense of unease and a hope that there was some mistake, that one day her son might return home. This hope has consumed her, and by extension, her daughters’ lives, ever since.
In 2011, Marino met former Chicago police homicide detective Bill Dorsch, who agreed to help her try to determine once and for all if Michael had been properly identified.
He introduced her to his friend and colleague attorney Steve Becker, who took her through the legal channels to obtain a court order for an exhumation and ultimately a DNA sample from the remains in Michael’s grave. In 2012 Marino got the results of DNA tests proving that there was no match.
She had been right all along: the grave she had visited constantly for almost 40 years held someone else’s remains.
But whose? Well, it was reasonable to suspect that Michael and Kenny Parker’s remains might have been switched. Though she had proven that the county had identified her son in error, she had to go to court again, and though the Parker family declined to participate, she received permission to exhume Kenny’s grave and have a DNA sample extracted from those remains as well.
That DNA didn’t match Marino’s either.
Michael Marino might have been killed by John Wayne Gacy, but his remains have yet to be found. Kenny Parker may have been too, but the un-identification of Michael, if you will, casts some doubt on the identification of his remains as well. (As I explained here, the investigation of Parker’s remains was never concluded.)
You may be wondering why she can’t let it go? That kid is gone.
If you don’t understand her, let’s take a look at how law enforcement feels about it.
The Sheriff of Cook County Wants to Get to the Bottom of This Too.
You’re thinking, maybe Cook County sheriff Tom Dart has his hands full. Maybe 40-year-old murders are a low priority compared to other stuff he has to do, like manage the Cook County Jail, aka America’s largest mental hospital.
But Sheriff Tom Dart himself is clearly focused on the case.
When my partners, Dorsch and Tracy Ullman, and I demonstrated why he should look for additional victims at a certain location in Chicago, he agreed. In addition, his efforts to identify the remaining Gacy victims have solved 11 other unrelated cold cases. His program and Jason Moran, his lieutenant in charge of it, have been celebrated in long congratulatory features at Buzzfeed and the Associated Press. His own website invites the families of people who may have been Gacy victims to get in touch and participate.
But so far, Dart and Moran haven’t acknowledged Marino’s test results.
Now that Dart has reopened the case, he’ll have to deal with them. And “Where is Michael Marino?” is only one of a huge set of questions raised by this case, many of them explored on this blog over the last five years.
Now, my partners and I challenge Tom Dart to take the next logical step in his investigation: Take DNA from all of the known Gacy victims and place the results in the national database for missing persons known as NamUs.
As gruesome as it sounds, this wouldn’t involve mass exhumations: Dart is in possession of the mandibles from all of the Gacy victims. Back during the original investigation, they set aside, possibly illegally and presumably in anticipation of of a time when future testing would be possible.
Considering how much uncertainty continues to swirl around Gacy’s heinous crimes, that time is now.