Victims’ families deserve the truth

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people who still believe that someone they love was kidnapped and murdered by John Wayne Gacy: A young man went to see Gacy about construction work and never came back. A beloved boy playing outdoors disappeared without a trace. A teenager took the bus to Chicago and, after checking in with his mother, was never heard from again. Many of these people cling to the hope of one day finding out what happened.

If you have information about this case or a story about a missing person, please let us know in a comment. It won’t be visible to anyone else, and requests for privacy will be honored.

Since 2011, my investigative partner, Tracy Ullman, and I have been trying to determine why the official Gacy story contradicts so much available evidence. Gacy was accused of 33 murders, but we have reason to believe there are sites with additional victims and that the story behind the murders is more complicated than the official lone-wolf narrative. Our work has so far led to:

  • Proof that the forensic anthropologist on the case identified other likely victims
  • An official reinvestigation of a site that many suspect contains Gacy victims
  • Proof that that search was flawed and inconclusive
  • Proof that at least one Gacy victim was misidentified
  • The identification of additional likely sites of burials
  • The sheriff of Cook County says he’s committed to tying up loose ends in the case, including identifying any remaining victims, but his response to various evidence belies his claim.

Jeff Haakenson and his family members had always been certain that his long-lost uncle had been murdered by Gacy. When Jeff heard about the sheriff’s goal of identifying the remains of eight victims still in his possession, he went to the sheriff’s site and filled out a form describing his uncle and his disappearance. Superficially at least, Jimmy Haakenson seems to fit the profile. He came to Chicago by bus in 1976 at age 16 and, after checking in with his mother to tell her he was safe, was never heard from again.

The sheriff’s team apparently ruled out Jeff’s online submission, so Jeff called the sheriff’s office. He was only able to leave a voicemail message, and he never got a reply. Jeff was about ready to give up when he contacted me through this site, and we encouraged him to push harder. Finally he and his family got results. The sheriff ran DNA tests and in July they announced that Jeff’s uncle Jimmy was indeed a match for an unidentified victim. It wasn’t happy news, but his family finally knew the truth.

The sheriff has the remains of five Gacy victims that have yet to be identified. But they are very likely not the only Gacy victims whose stories have never been told.


About Alison

Chicagoan, journalist
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