FAQ: What we’ve learned so far

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 Several young men were questioned by police. 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.

No one else was ever charged or given plea deals. One was the grandson of a powerful local politician. He continues to live in the Chicago area. Another 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 that place already investigated?

That depends on how you define “investigated.” The Chicago Police conducted a brief operation there in 1998 using evidence supplied by Dorsch, including a report by a ground-scanning-radar company that indicated anomalies underground in the yard. Despite the police’s stated confidence that they’d find bodies, investigators examined only one spot in the yard under a tent. The spot was nowhere near the anomalies the radar expert had seen, nor the place the witnesses had seen Gacy dig trenches. 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 Anita Alvarez, Dart finally visited the property in the spring of 2013. No one in the press or public was notified of the search, and his extremely unpersuasive report was: 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 is using DNA technology not available in the late 70s try to name the eight victims who weren’t identified at the time of Gacy’s arrest.

After he put out a national call to try to locate potential victims’ relatives, more than 100 came forward. The sheriff’s office narrowed the field of likely matches to 30 or so, whom they said fit the profile of Gacy’s victims. Those relatives were invited to submit DNA, and one victim was matched.

Meanwhile, Sherry Marino, the mother of one previously identified victim, who’d always been suspicious of the identification of her son and his friend as two of Gacy’s victims, partly because the identifications were made so long after the others, and years after she’d supplied her son’s dental records. Using her own funds and the services of an attorney working pro bono, she had the remains in her son’s grave exhumed and proved that he had been identified in error.

Sheriff 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 as well, in case the bodies had been switched. She received a court order allowing that as well.

What about the other missing persons who Dart concedes fit the profile of Gacy’s victims? 

The DNA Dart obtained was entered into a national database and has led to the identification of other people, living and dead, not associated with the Gacy case. This feel-good story has generated lots of press attention. The other families’ DNA is still on file, and though there are locations in Chicago that may well hold victims, including but not exclusively the house on Miami, and witnesses who can testify as to why, Dart hasn’t indicated that he has any intention of looking at them.

Why? And now what?

Stay tuned.

An Open Letter: Bill Dorsch appeals to the “real police”

DorschFor the last year and half Tracy Ullman and I have been working with Bill Dorsch to make public his pro bono detective work on perplexing loose ends in the case of John Wayne Gacy. For more than 15 years Dorsch has been gathering evidence that suggests Gacy may have killed additional victims and that some of them may lie buried at 6114 W. Miami, on Chicago’s northwest side.

Along the way we’ve discovered some secrets about the case that help explain why there’s been so much resistance over the years to doing a thorough investigation of that property.

In response to Dorsch’s findings, Sheriff Tom Dart obtained a search warrant and pledged to investigate. But Dorsch remains skeptical that local authorities are making a sincere effort to find out the truth. We know Dart is in contact with one local reporter about the impending investigation. Is that person being granted exclusive access? What kind of pressure does that put on that person to report only the aspects of the story Dart wants told? What if no one else is there to see?

Anticipating the possibility that Dart may not be completely transparent about any upcoming search, Dorsch has written this letter appealing to current police officers for help.

I am Bill Dorsch the retired Chicago Police detective who has been responsible for pushing the Gacy investigation for the last 14 years. I am writing this to you because spring is upon us and Dart has said that he plans to search the site that I have identified at Miami and Elston. I learned in 1998 that I should not trust the Chicago Police and State’s Attorney.

For 20 years before that I had been talking about that location based on my early morning encounter with Gacy, but I knew just like all of you do that suspicion alone does not allow the police to dig up your property to search for bodies. More was needed and I understood that. In 1998 I was already retired for 4 years. I brought information about new technology that could be used to search the property to my old boss, also retired from the police, and he encouraged me to act on it. With him and other retired command personnel turned our information over to the Chicago Police. I was told that the Chicago Police were willing to assist us in any way possible.

A meeting was arranged by my old boss and held in his office. The first meeting went well but there were a few questions that raised some flags as it was made known that the city was worried about the participation of the Better Government Association. I told them that they need not worry as the BGA was only interested as we all were in finding out if bodies were buried at this site. It was at the second meeting that I knew something was wrong as I saw my old boss and several others backing away from the project. They began attending meetings with the police and SA office and I was not included. It was being said that I had never told anyone in the police department about knowing Gacy, about having dinner at his home, or about seeing him one morning with a shovel. Imagine, you wake up one day and for the next year or more you see John Gacy in the news and don’t tell anyone. Bullshit!

Anyway the dig that was done in Nov. 1998 took a total of two hours. Everyone walked away from that site after the city said there was nothing there. I had only been retired for 4 years so I still had friends at Area 5 and they were calling to tell me that there were problems, that the city did not want this done and that only a handful of people in Area 5 really knew what was going on.

Years went by and during that time always thought that I would get back to this one day as I wanted the answers. Was it just because more bodies found at the Miami location were going to need to be explained or was there much more? Believe me when I tell you there is much more, and now they know that I and others also know why they didn’t and still don’t want this done.

After I started talking about the case again in 2010, I did several interviews in local media. It resulted in my being contacted by Mrs. Sherry Marino, who said she needed my help. She said that her son, Michael, had been identified as one of Gacy’s victims but it had taken three years to identify his body. She said she did not think the body she was given was that of her son. I told her that I would help her get the answer and I took her to the Medical Examiner’s Office. I helped her fill out the forms and I was told that she would receive a reply in about 3 weeks. That was on June 1, 2011, and seven days later I called to give additional info to Nancy Jones, who was still the head of the ME office at that time. Nancy told me that there was no need to have Mrs. Marino review the file because she herself had already reviewed it and verified the identification of her son. She said she had already sent Mrs. Marino a letter. I told Nancy Jones that by law Mrs. Marino had a right to review the file herself.

Not getting help there I asked two very good attorneys, who I knew through my work as a private detective, to assist Mrs. Marino and try to get the remains exhumed so they could be tested. They did and on Oct 6, 2011, the court ruled that Mrs. Marino had the right to exhume the remains for positive identification. You may have heard that the DNA testing which was done proved that the body she had been visiting at the cemetery for more then 30 years was not the body of her son, Michael.

Shortly after that, Oct 12, 2011, Sheriff Dart announced for the very first time that he was interested in identifying the remains of the 8 yet-unidentified victims of John Gacy. He obtained a court order to exhume the remains, but I don’t have the details of that process because like most of the FOIA requests that I have submitted to his office, the request I submitted for that court order has been refused.

People have told me what a great guy Sheriff Dart is and I have no doubt that he is a good family man and I applaud some of the work that I have seen his department do over the years that he has been in charge. However I am more worried about his being a politician then a good man. The two don’t always go well together.

Let me explain why I worry. On June 1, 2011, I was contacted by Dart’s investigator. He said that they had seen my interviews in the press and wanted to speak to me. I told him that I would be happy to do that but I wanted to bring an attorney with me. They did not want me to do that. Days turned into weeks and I did not hear back from them.

On June 14, 2011, I contacted the sheriff’s team myself and was invited to meet with an investigator. At that meeting I turned over the materials that I knew would be helpful to them and the investigation. No questions were asked of me at that meeting.

At the meeting I had given them the same materials that I had given to the Chicago Police and SA in 1998 plus other materials that I had gathered over the following 12 years. I gave them a letter from the radar company that scanned the Miami property, which said that despite provocative preliminary findings, the Chicago police had not allowed them to conduct a proper search of the property.

I also gave the sheriff’s people updated addresses of the same people whose names I given them in 1998 plus a video interview with one of the witnesses that the BGA and I did in 1998 after she contacted us to tell us that she had been interviewed but was concerned that they really did not want her info.

So I waited and waited but never heard back from Dart’s team. It was not until March 19, 2012, that I saw Dart talking about Gacy again in the news. He said that he had presented the evidence that I had given to his investigators to SA Anita Alvarez but she had declined to sign the application for a search warrant stating that it was old news and she needed more evidence to grant a search.It was not until May 18, 2012, that I received a phone call from the Cook County investigator again. He told me that Dart had done all he could and that Alvarez had denied the warrant and they could not continue the investigation without new information. He asked me, “Is there anything else you can give us that would keep this investigation alive?”

I told him that I did have more info and we set up a meeting at their office. On May 24, 2012, I met with Dart’s team of investigators and attorneys. I brought an attorney with me to witness the meeting. I asked them what they had done in the eleven months since I gave them the info. I learned that they had done NOTHING. They had not interviewed a single witness. With that said I presented to them affidavits and videos from five of the witnesses whose names I’d already given them but who they had failed to interview. I asked a lot of questions but most of them went unanswered. Some of their stories have been posted on this blog.

Two days later I received a phone call from one of Dart’s attorneys who said that he had seen the videos and he felt the evidence was compelling. He said we have to do something.

On July 13, 2012, I received a request from Dart’s team asking if I could contact the witnesses and arrange a meeting at the Miami location. They had the same contact information for the witnesses I did, as I had given it to them, but I was happy to oblige.

On July 21 and again two weeks later, the witnesses did meet with Dart’s team at the location. Each witness was interviewed separately and each of them walked the investigators around the site pointing out locations where they had seen trenches that were dug by Gacy and the young boys assisting him. Several of the witnesses also told them about holes that Gacy had dug in the basement.

It was not until the January 11, 2013, that Dart announced that Alvarez had finally approved a search warrant. Of course it was far too cold by then to do anything with the frozen ground.

Now the ground is thawing, and this is why I can use your help. I have been retired since 1994 but I do know that it is you–the beat officers, tactical teams, and regular street cops–that cannot be fooled. You have not sold out to promotions and you probably don’t expect to be promoted anytime soon because you don’t have the clout. I need you to keep an eye on that site.

What I fear is that one Friday afternoon Dart will go on the evening news and announce that the site has already been searched and that they found nothing. Case closed.

You and I know that neither the Chicago Police or the Sheriff’s Dept. has the equipment nor the expertise to do the search. What Dart has repeatedly said is that he believes that more of Gacy’s victims could be buried in other states but he stays away from mentioning the Miami location. His spokesperson has said that he expects that the search will not take more then ONE DAY. Gacy is known to have killed 33 people, we have the bodies, but he always said there are more. ONE DAY is better then the two hours devoted in the Nov 1998 search but who is kidding who here? The spokesperson went on to say that a radar scan would be done (only the FBI has the experience) and then they would push rods into the ground and then allow the rods to be sniffed by a dog. He said that if the dog does not alert then the investigation is over.

I have heard some people who said that we should not be wasting time and resources to find additional victims of John Gacy. I am sure that the families of the still missing young men that suspect that their loved one may be a victim do not feel that way. I personally would never walk away from this as my job as an investigator was always to get the truth no matter where it takes you. Anyone who wants to contact me directly can do with the information provided at my website: http://www.nlisinvestigations.com/contact.

I am asking for your help in keeping an eye on that location and thank you for letting me state my concerns.

Be safe,

Bill Dorsch

The sheriff asks Dorsch for help

Sheriff Tom Dart’s announcement this week that he’s submitted an application for a search warrant to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is good news for anyone hoping the government will try to identify any heretofore unknown victims. He says he’s asking for permission to excavate the property at Miami and Elston on Chicago’s northwest side where Gacy worked as a caretaker. An investigation of the yard in 1998 was inconclusive at best.

Tom Dart agreeing to file a search warrant last summer

Bill Dorsch has been discovering evidence about the property since 1998, and despite his willingness,  and attempts even, to share his findings, local authorities have been slow to act.

By May 2011, news coverage may have forced investigators to act. Dorsch received a call from the sheriff’s office asking if he could supply them with evidence. He gave them some that June, and five months later Dart announced he was reopening the case. This development was reported in the media, but then nothing. There was no further official action until March 2012, when Dart announced he was applying for a search warrant.

State’s attorney Anita Alvarez turned him down, saying he lacked sufficient evidence.

Dorsch had discussed his findings in an interview on WLS radio a full year earlier. National media had reported on Dart’s announcement and the new evidence. You might think the possibility of finding new victims of one of the world’s most notorious serial killers would be treated as an ongoing story. But the media generally prefer to report on things that happen rather than things that don’t.

I began posting about Dorsch’s investigation on this site, and ten days later, in May 2012, a year after Dorsch had last heard from the sheriff, Dart’s people called again. They said if Dorsch could give them more evidence they’d take another look. So far the sheriff had ignored what he’d already told them about the site and yet they wanted him to hand over even more. Dart had his own investigators–and budget. Why didn’t they do their own investigating?

Nevertheless, Dorsch gave them signed affidavits from witnesses he had independently located and interviewed. Dart seemed to be on board. I posted a clip from our interview with him here on June 6.

Dart wanted his team to meet personally with each of those witnesses, and asked Dorsch, without deputizing him officially, to help. Dorsch arranged interviews with each witness separately. Each one led the investigators around the property, pointing out where they’d seen Gacy digging long, deep trenches in the yard, large holes that would remain open for days and then get filled in overnight. That appeared to do the trick. Dart continued to agree with us that their testimony certainly indicated there ought to be a dig.

And then nothing.

Dorsch has turned up evidence suggesting that the police have known all along that there were probably bodies at Miami and Elston. He’s discovered important information about Gacy associates and new details about those involved in the arrests.

We know Dart took a high-level meeting with people involved in the unsuccessful investigation in 1998.

A couple of days ago Dart’s office contacted members of the media (though not us) and told them the search warrant had been filed and is under consideration by Alvarez.