03/30/2012 01:17 pm ET

Gacy Victim Search Stopped: Cook County Sheriff's Dig Request Blocked By States' Attorney

The Cook County States' Attorney's Office has blocked the Cook County Sheriff's latest effort to search for additional victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, citing a lack of probable cause.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart had sought to revisit the backyard of an apartment on Chicago's Northwest Side which, in 1998, was dug up when authorities acted on a tip from a retired Chicago homicide detective who said he once saw Gacy in the yard with a shovel, the Associated Press reports.

The 1998 excavation of the site in the 6100 block of West Miami Avenue entailed looking into 17 underground anomalies detected in the yard that were said to suggest bodies were buried there, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. When no bodies were found after two spots were in the yard were dug up, the excavation was called off.

Frank Bilecki, a spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff, said that "a lot of people believe a lot of these anomalies should be searched" again, using imaging technology that has advanced considerably since 1998, according to the Daily Herald.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, however, denied that Dart's office had probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the property. Sally Daly, an Alvarez spokeswoman, told the Chicago Tribune that the office is "open to reviewing any new information that the sheriff's office may currently have or obtain in the future."

The tenants of the apartment also declined the sheriff's office's request to dig there. They politely cited the atmosphere of "media frenzy" that surrounded the 1998 excavation there, the Sun-Times reports.

Bilecki described the Northwest Side Chicago site as "another piece of the Gacy puzzle." Eight unidentified young men previously found under Gacy's home were recently exhumed, and the sheriff's office has been able to identify a previously unknown Gacy victim, William George Bundy. Other apparent survivors of Gacy attacks have also come forward in recent months.

Gacy, known to have killed 33 young men between 1972 and 1978, was executed in 1994. Gacy himself once estimated his body count at "well past 50."

Two Chicago lawyers earlier this year announced that they were re-examining the Gacy case and believe that the "killer clown" did not act alone. A new feature film, and possibly a documentary, about Gacy are also said to be in development.

Gacy Victims Exhumed