Updated 09/20/12 – 12:45 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Sheriff’s investigators trying to identify victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy have solved the unrelated case of a missing man from Peoria, whose body was found on a mountainside in Utah two years ago.
After Daniel Noe vanished in 1978, his family feared he might have been a victim of Gacy’s murder spree. The Gacy case had been on their minds since 1978, when police discovered the bodies of 29 boys and young men in a crawlspace under Gacy’s house, at 8213 W. Summerdale Ave. in unincorporated Norwood Park Township. Four more bodies were found in the Des Plaines River.
While DNA samples collected from Noe’s parents did not match any of Gacy’s unidentified victims, police were able to match them to the body of a hiker found on a mountainside in Utah in 2010.
“The fact that they were informed once and for all that he was not killed at the hands of this monster John Gacy was a reassuring thing for them,” Sheriff Tom Dart said Thursday.
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The Cook County Sheriff’s office said Noe left his home in Peoria in 1977 at the age of 21 to work in Washington state, where he lived with a fellow Peoria native. Then, in September 1978, Noe called his father to say he was planning to complete his college education at Northwestern University in Evanston, and would hitchhike back to the Chicago area.
Noe was not heard from or seen again. His family reached out to friends, relatives and Northwestern University to find out if anyone had seen or heard from him, since it was unusual for Noe not to tell them where he was. They reported him missing in December 1978.
His family accepted he was most likely dead, and over the next 30 years they submitted dental records to various police departments when they would learn about an unidentified deceased person.
Eventually, while trying to identify eight bodies belonging to Gacy victims who had not yet been identified, sheriff’s investigators reached out to the Noe family for DNA samples to match against the unidentified victims.
The sheriff’s office said investigators had determined Noe fit the profile of a possible Gacy victim: a white male in his teens or early 20s, who might have been traveling through the northern part of Cook County at the time of Gacy’s crimes.
Although the DNA samples from Noe’s parents did not match any of the Gacy victims, they did match the DNA from an unidentified body found on a steep mountainside of Mt. Olympus in Salt Lake County, Utah, in 2010. Hikers had found the body, and officials said Noe was an avid hiker.
Further investigation found that Noe’s roommate in Washington had dropped him off on Highway 5 for his trip back to the Chicago area. Highway 5 connects to Interstate 80, which passes Mt. Olympus and continues to Chicago.
In a statement provided by the sheriff’s office, Noe’s family said “The family of Daniel Noe would like to express our sincere gratitude to Sheriff Tom Dart, Detective Jason Moran and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department and the Unified Police Department in Utah for their diligence in locating our loved one after a 34 year absence. Without their help we would not have closure, and Daniel would not be coming home to finally be laid to rest.”
Memorial services for Noe will be held Monday and Tuesday in Washington, Ill.
Last year, the Cook County Sheriff’s office made it a mission to identify eight unknown Gacy victims.
In addition to Noe’s family, many families submitted DNA samples in hopes of finding out the fate of missing young men, and DNA evidence later confirmed that another young man – William George Bundy, 19 – worked for Gacy’s construction company and was indeed one of his victims.