Updated 12/21/11 – 8:59 p.m.
BEAVERTON, Ore. (CBS) — Another man who had been believed to be a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been found alive, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced Wednesday.
Theodore “Ted” Szal had been missing since 1977, but was found alive and living in Beaverton, Ore.
Szal, 59, left the Chicago area and the state of Illinois in March 1977 when he was 24, Dart said.
“I figured my family didn’t care,” Szal said in an interview with KOIN-TV in Portland, Ore.
But his family thought he’d been one of the 33 young men killed by Gacy.
He hasn’t talked to his relatives in more than 30 years.
“If they thought I was murdered, well yeah. How do you communicate with a dead man?” Szal said.
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Szal’s sister, Marcia Carlson, contacted the sheriff’s office on Oct. 18, after Dart said he was working to identify the remaining unidentified Gacy victims. On Nov. 4, Carlson told a sheriff’s detective that when her brother disappeared, he was living with his wife in Glen Ellyn and was going through a divorce.
In 1977, Szal simply vanished, not unlike victims whose remains were discovered at Gacy’s home.
Another sister, Judy Morrison of New York, told the detective that Szal’s car was found abandoned at O’Hare International Airport shortly after he disappeared, Dart said.
The detective went on to meet with Szal’s third sister, Gayle Braffett, and his parents, Ted Szal Sr., 87, and Anna Gill, 79. Gill said the last time she’d had contact with her son was in March 1977, when he borrowed some money from her, Dart said.
Szal’s parents had believed he was a Gacy victim, and many facts about his life fit the profile. Like many Gacy victims, was a white male in his 20s, and he worked a construction-related job, just as Gacy recruited many of his victims for construction work.
The sheriff’s office also noted that Szal’s car was found at O’Hare, which is not far away from Gacy’s house in unincorporated Norwood Park Township.
But it turned out that despite those facts, Szal was alive and well in Oregon. He was found through a simple check of his name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
His family just found out on Tuesday that Szal was alive. They’re still figuring out how to reconnect.
Szal said he left Illinois because he was angry over a bitter divorce and family disagreements. He was 24 years old at the time.
He parked his car at O’Hare and jumped on a plane, turning his back his life in Chicago.
“I drove my car to the airport. I threw my keys down a sewer grate so i wouldn’t change my mind,” Szal said.
Szal has a wife and children and grandkids of his own now. As for his thoughts on Gacy, Szal said, “I’m glad he’s burning in hell. That’s where he belongs.”
Another man who had been thought to be a Gacy victim was found alive in October. Harold Wayne Lovell had become separated from his family at the age of 19 after his father left and his mother was under too much pressure. He ended up in a series of foster homes.
It was the spring of 1977 when Lovell, then a teenager, headed to Aurora to try and find work in construction. But he never returned, and his mother became convinced that he was killed by Gacy.
It turned out that Lovell was alive at the age of 53 and living in Alabama.
Dart’s office has also positively identified one of Gacy’s unknown victims. Last month, the unknown victim was identified as William George Bundy, who had last been seen in October 1976.
Seven more victims remain unidentified.
Gacy, an ex-convict with a history of sodomy, worked as a contractor on Chicago’s northwest side and northwest suburbs in the years immediately preceding his arrest. He was a Democratic precinct captain and worked as a clown at children’s parties.
He 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 at 8213 W. Summerdale Ave. in unincorporated Norwood Park Township. They were covered with lime and encased with plastic.
Another four bodies were found in the Des Plaines River.
Gacy was sentenced to death when he was convicted of the murders. When he was executed on May 10, 1994, his notorious last words were, “Kiss my ass.”
The news about Szal comes on the same day as a report about plans for a feature film and a documentary based on Defending a Monster, the book released this summer by Gacy’s defense attorney, retired Cook County Judge Sam Amirante.