An Illinois sheriff said on Wednesday, July 19, that one of the victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been identified.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in a news release that James “Jimmie” Byron Haakenson was identified using DNA taken from his two siblings.
Haakenson’s identification means that six of the 33 teenage boys and young men Gacy murdered between 1972 and 1978 remain unidentified.
Gacy was executed for his crimes in 1994.
16-year-old Haakenson left his home in St. Paul, Minnesota in the summer of 1976. He was last heard from on August 5, when he told his mother by phone that he was in Chicago. His family was notified of the identification on Monday.
Tests showed a body found on December 29, 1978 in a grave in Gacy’s crawl space containing three victims’ remains was Haakenson’s. DNA samples from two siblings were collected and analysed by the University of Northern Texas Center for Human Identification. After comparison against unidentified victims’ remains, researchers concluded there was a strong genetic association between Haakenson’s siblings and the remains of Gacy Victim #24.
Dart said detectives also checked Haakenson’s missing person report, social security administration information, post-mortem reports and other information to confirm he was Victim #24.
One other young man found in the same grave as Haakenson – Victim #26 – has yet to be identified. A third person, Rick Johnston, was identified during the original murder investigation. It is believed that Gacy murdered all three at or near the same time based on their position in the crawlspace and their date of last contact. Rick Johnston was last heard from on August 6, 1976, the day after Haakenson spoke to his mother.
Dart reopened the investigation to identify the then eight remaining unknown Gacy victims in 2011. William Bundy was identified using DNA later that year. The investigation has also solved four cold cases, unrelated to Gacy, located five missing persons alive and two missing persons who had died.
The Killer Clown
One of the world’s most notorious serial killers, John Wayne Gacy Jr sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, IL, which is a part of Chicago Metropolitan.
All of his known murders were committed inside his Norwood Park home. He stabbed his first victim to death and the remaining 32 were asphyxiated or strangled with a makeshift tourniquet.
Gacy buried 26 of his victims in the crawl space of his home. Three others were buried elsewhere on his property and his last four known victims were dumped in the Des Plaines River, IL.
After he was convicted of 33 murders, Gacy was sentenced to death on March 13, 1980 for the 12 killings for which the prosecution had sought this penalty. He spent 14 years on death row before being executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center on May 10, 1994.
Gacy became known as the “Killer Clown” because he dressed as “Pogo the Clown” at fundraising events, parades, and children’s parties.