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The Elephant in the Room

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The Chicago Reader's Michael Miner posted a story on April 17 that provided a nice roundup of some of the issues in the still-unfolding case of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

He pointed to the blog his former boss, Alison True, is writing as we research the documentary we're making about the case and its troubling mysteries. In particular Miner examines the possibility that a search Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he undertook was conducted improperly. The location was the property on Chicago's northwest side where we have long contended may well hold the remains of additional Gacy victims.

Years-old evidence did persuade Dart to obtain a search warrant, explaining that in a radar scan of the property made in 1998, there had been "more than a dozen underground anomalies located." Dart says he teamed up with the FBI and sniffer dogs flown in for the job.

The problem is that Dart announced that he'd done the search almost a week after he said he did it. And the day he chose to search was March 20, when the high temperature was 26 degrees Farenheit.

Veteran Sun-Times reporter Michael Sneed, who often is the first to receive announcements from the sheriff's office, told Miner, "I was quite shocked to find out they had done it without any sources calling to let me know. She had been in touch with sheriff's office spokesperson Frank Bilecki, but no call had come. I, too, had spoken to Bilecki about receiving notification before the search, as had at least one other reporter I know of, but Dart kept his decision to inspect the property very quiet.

Bilecki tells Miner that the company used to inspect the frozen ground, Infrared Diagnostics, Inc., is "a Saint Louis firm that frequently works with the FBI." But a half dozen calls to Infrared Diagnostics immediately after the search connected only with an answering machine voiced by owner, Rich Graf.

In my last post here, law enforcement sources dispute the effectiveness of both ground-penetrating radar and cadaver-sniffing dogs. When I asked noted forensic pathologist Michael Baden about Dart's methods, he e-mailed, "Digging is the best way to determine if remains are present, and [if] there is good reason to believe burial has occurred some time ago."

But there's another elephant in the room. One of Gacy's live-in associates was the grandson of powerful alderman Vito Marzullo, and after being detained in the Gacy investigation he was represented by former Cook County state's attorney, Ed Hanrahan. These connections suggest another reason local authorities might not be interested in digging up the past.

Even Gacy prosecutor Terry Sullivan, in Killer Clown, his book on the Gacy case, admits that he agreed to "protect [the grandson] as best we could on cross-examination."

How well was John Wayne Gacy "connected" and what do those connections mean now that legitimate reasons to continue looking for his victims have been presented? It's hard to tell. Many of the people who were active on the case are still active in law enforcement and politics.

For starters, you'll find two prominent players from the 1978 investigation, Bob Egan and Greg Bedoe alongside Tom Dart, at the Cook County sheriff's office.