CHICAGO — A Chicago-area sheriff announced Wednesday that it has identified a teenager who vanished in the 1970s as a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
The Cook County Sheriff's Department said in a news release that the victim was James Byron Haakenson, a 16-year-old who ran away from Minnesota. The teenager's remains were among those of more than two dozen young men found in the crawl space of Gacy's Chicago area home in 1978 and one of eight who were buried without being identified.
Haakenson's mother suspected her son was one of Gacy's victims and even went to Chicago to talk to investigators in 1979.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said at the time the only way to identify bodies was with dental records, which Haakenson's mother didn't have.
Dart says the dead teen's nephew always wondered what had happened.
Earlier this year he saw a news clip of Dart talking about his effort to identify the victims.
Dart says the nephew persuaded his father and his aunt to submit saliva samples for testing.
The sheriff says investigators "got an immediate hit" when they ran tests this spring.
The teen's mother is dead, officials said.
Haakenson is the second of the eight to be identified.
According to the Associated Press, months after the exhumations, Dart announced that one of the victims had been identified as William George Bundy, a 19-year-old construction worker.
Gacy was arrested in December 1978, and about 14 months later, he went on trial. It ended with his conviction for raping and killing 33 boys and young men who he had lured into his home over a span of six years. To get them there, he’d promised them construction jobs, drugs and alcohol or by posing as a police officer or by offering money for sex.
Twenty-eight bodies were found in and around the serial killer’s Chicago home, most of them in a 40-foot crawl space beneath his house and garage. Four others had been thrown into the Des Plaines River.
He was executed in 1994.