UPDATED: 10/12/2011 – 10:45 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The remains of eight unknown victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy have been exhumed in the hopes that DNA technology will determine their identity.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Tuesday that the remains of the eight bodies all contained enough DNA to find a match with a relative.
Now, Dart is asking any family member who may have a connection to a missing person at the time to come forward so that investigators can try to match the relative’s DNA with the victim’s.
Gacy was arrested on Dec. 20, 1978, after police discovered 29 bodies buried in a crawl space of his house and the surrounding yard of his house in unincorporated Norwood Park Township. They were covered with lime and encased with plastic.
Another four bodies were found in the Des Plaines River.
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After the bodies were recovered, the Cook County Medical Examiner kept the jaw bones of the eight unknown victims. Back then, investigators kept those bones because dental records were typically used to identify remains. In 2009, for some unknown reason, those jaw bones were buried in Homewood Memorial Cemetery.
In June, the jaw bones of four of the victims exhumed from Homewood Memorial Cemetery contained enough DNA to provide a potential match. In the other four cases, authorities needed to exhume the bodies–buried in various places in Cook County–to obtain enough DNA.
The remains were sent to a lab at the University of North Texas, where the DNA profiles were created. Profiles for the final two victims should be complete in the next few weeks, Dart said.
Most of Gacy’s victims were from Chicago but also in other parts of Midwest, Michigan and Iowa, Dart said. All of the victims were white males between the ages of 14 to 21.
“The net should be relatively broad,” said Dart, who added the Gacy was known to travel to places like Denver and Las Vegas.
“Technology has changed so dramatically,” said Dart, who also noted that some missing persons cases were mistakenly closed at the time.
The reasons were varied, but they were mostly closed when a witness may have said they saw a missing person in another location, and the case was then closed. However, those witness accounts may never have been substantiated.
Some people who thought their relatives were victims also did not have dental records, so authorities were unable to ID bodies. Now with DNA, they might be able to do it, Dart said.
Gacy killed his first victim in 1972 and was still seeking victims up until his arrest in 1978.
“John Gacy was a master manipulator,” Dart said.
When CBS 2’s Walter Jacobson interviewed Gacy for a May 1992 story, Gacy claimed all he did was to help dispose of two bodies.
Never showing remorse for his crimes, Gacy instead presented himself as a victim for being convicted of a crime he claimed he did not commit. He blamed the murders on employees of the P.D.M. Construction Company, for which his house doubled as headquarters.
He maintained that the smell of decomposing bodies coming from his house was because his dog was locked in the kitchen all day and had been urinating and defecating. Or if not that, maybe the sump-pump.
All of these alibis and excuses were the basis of his appeals, all of which failed. When he was executed on May 10, 1994, his notorious last words were, “Kiss my ass.”
Authorities are asking the family members of anyone who disappeared between 1970 and 1978 and who is still missing to undergo saliva tests to compare their DNA to that of Gacy’s victims.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has set up a hotline for people to make arrangements for DNA tests: 800-942-1950.
Anyone looking for information also can visit the sheriff’s website by clicking here. The website has general descriptions of the eight unidentified victims and the approximate date those victims would have disappeared.