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Updated 10/06/11 – 4:41 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – A Cook County judge has ordered that the remains of a boy, identified decades ago as one of John Wayne Gacy’s victims, be exhumed so that his mother can learn whether it’s really her son.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports that, for 35 years, Sheri Marino has visited the grave with nagging doubts about whether her son, Michael, is buried there.
“She visits the grave faithfully and always asks ‘Is this you, Michael?’” said Steve Becker, one of Marino’s attorneys.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Michael went missing on Oct. 24, 1976, at the age of 14, but wasn’t identified as one of Gacy’s 33 victims until 3 1/2 years later. Over the years, Marino has suspected the body was not really Michael.
“She has always had doubts about the identification,” Becker said.
Michael and one of his friends, Kenneth Parker, were reported missing the same day in 1976. In 1980, investigators identified the boys as two of Gacy’s victims, saying their bodies were found next to each other. They were Gacy’s youngest victims.
The delay in identification seemed odd to Marino. She also was concerned that the description of the clothing on the victim’s body didn’t match what she thought her son was wearing when he went missing.
Judge Rita Nowak noted that there are discrepancies between the medical examiner’s report and Michael’s own medical and dental records. Nowak said Michael’s mother deserves to know the truth.
Becker’s partner, Robert Stephenson said “The main discrepancy is that Body 14 had a tooth, a permanent molar, that Michael Marino did not have.”
A review of dental records revealed a puzzling discrepancy, Stephenson said. The autopsy showed the victim had all of his second molars. But one of Michael’s adult molars hadn’t come in yet, according to a dental chart created about seven months before he disappeared in October 1976.
A dentist told Stephenson it’s unlikely the missing molar would have erupted in the seven months before he disappeared. Those teeth typically come in sometime between ages 12 and 13, he said.
The autopsy also indicated the victim had, at one point, had a broken collarbone and that it had healed. Marino does not remember her son breaking his collarbone, her lawyer said.
Also, the autopsy indicated that the body was white with “possibly some slight to moderate” mixture of Native American, but, according to Marino, her son did not have any Native American heritage.
Stephenson said the discrepancies also leave open the question of who is buried in the grave if the body is not Michael Marino’s.
“A lot of the questions are, if not him, then who? But to her, the main question is, ‘Is it him?’” Stephenson said.
Becker acknowledged that Sheri Marino still holds out hope her son could be alive.
Asked why it took 35 years to get to the point of exhuming the body to determine if it is indeed Michael Marino, Stephenson said, “That’s a complicated answer. She has tried many times. She has not sat by, waiting.”
Sheri Marino hugged Stephenson after they left the courtroom at the Daley Center on Thursday.
“I think she’s relieved. I think this is a big moment for her. It’s almost 35 years to the day that her son disappeared,” Stephenson said.
Sheri Marino is 67 years old now. She didn’t want to talk after court. She appeared visibly shaken.
Her lawyers said there are eight unidentified Gacy victims whose remains have been preserved. It appears DNA testing on those remains is possible.
Marino told her lawyers that her greatest fear is that Michael’s body is among the eight unidentified victims.
After Gacy was arrested in 1978, police found 29 bodies of boys and men on his property, many of them in the crawlspaces of his home in unincorporated Norwood Park Township. Four other bodies were found in the Des Plaines River.
Gacy was convicted of 33 murders and was executed in 1994.