CHICAGO -- A sheriff whose office exhumed the skeletal remains of eight of serial killer John Wayne Gacy's never-identified victims said Monday that dozens of families of men who disappeared during the 1970s have come forward for DNA testing.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said about 70 families contacted the department through its website or by calling detectives since last week's announcement that the remains had been exhumed. He said the descriptions of their loved ones – young white males who lived or worked in the Chicago area – could have put them in the path of Gacy, who killed at least 33 young men between 1972 and his arrest in late 1978.
Two Chicago-area families had by Monday afternoon provided DNA samples to compare to the skeletal remains, and another family was set to be tested. DNA swab kits also had been mailed to Minnesota and Iowa authorities to test a family in each of those states.
Both families already tested gave accounts that would explain how their loved ones could have gone unidentified at a time when dental records provided the only scientific means of identifying remains, Dart said.
"In one case the young man had perfect teeth (and) never went to a dentist," the sheriff said. In another instance, the man's parents had tracked down their son's retired dentist only to find the records had been destroyed.
Dart said in both those cases, the families' descriptions did not suggest young men who would have willingly disappeared.
"One young man went to a wedding and dropped his date off and was never seen again," he said. "(That is) not the behavior of someone taking off to start a new life somewhere."
The other family told detectives their loved one had talked about working construction and being paid cash – a chilling similarity to some of Gacy's known victims, who were killed after agreeing to work for Gacy in exchange for cash.
Dart said it will be weeks before the laboratory can complete the tests to determine if the DNA of the victims match the DNA of the families.
Detectives who worked for months reviewing unidentified remains cases discovered that eight of the 33 people Gacy was convicted of murdering never were identified. They quietly obtained exhumation orders over the past few months and took jaws, teeth and in some cases femur bones to a Texas lab.
Dart said he hoped that families who always wondered what happened to their loved ones or who perhaps never reported their loved ones missing would come forward to help solve the last mystery of one of the most grisly crimes in American history.
Most of Gacy's victims were buried in a crawl space under Gacy's home, though detectives said four of them were dumped in an area river after he ran out of room at his house. Gacy admitted his crimes to detectives before he was convicted and was executed in 1994.