The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

December 3, 2012

John Wayne Gacy's blood may help solve old murders

CHICAGO — Detectives have long wondered what secrets serial killer John Wayne Gacy and other condemned murderers took to the grave when they were executed — mostly whether they had other unknown victims.

Now, in a game of scientific catch-up, the Cook County Sheriff's Department is trying to be creative: They've created DNA profiles of Gacy and others and figured out they could get the executed men entered in a national database shared with other law enforcement agencies because the murderers were technically listed as homicide victims when they were put to death by the state.

The department's hope is to find matches of DNA evidence from blood, semen or strands of hair, or skin under the fingernails of victims that link the long-dead killers to the coldest of cold cases. And they're hoping to prompt authorities in other states to submit the DNA of their own executed inmates or from decades-old crime scenes.

"You just know some of these guys did other murders" that were never solved, said Jason Moran, the sheriffs' detective leading the effort, noting that some of the executed killers ranged all over the country before the convictions that put them behind bars for the last time.

The Illinois testing, which began during the summer, is the latest chapter in a story that began when Sheriff Tom Dart exhumed the remains of unknown victims of Gacy to create DNA profiles that could be compared with the DNA of people whose loved ones went missing in the 1970s, when Gacy was killing young men.

That effort, which led to the identification of one Gacy victim, caused Dart to wonder if the technology could help answer a question that has been out there for decades: Did Gacy kill anyone besides those young men whose bodies were stashed under his house or tossed in a river?

"He traveled a lot," Moran said of Gacy. "Even though we don't have any information he committed crimes elsewhere, the sheriff asked if you could put it past such an evil person."

After unexpectedly finding three vials of Gacy's blood stored with other Gacy evidence, Moran learned the state would only accept the blood in the crime database if it came from a coroner or medical examiner.

Moran thought he was out of luck. But then Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil surprised him with this revelation: In his office freezer were blood samples from Gacy and at least three other executed inmates. The reason they were there is because after the death penalty was reinstated in Illinois in the 1970s, executions were carried out in Will County — all between 1990 and 1999, a year before then-Gov. George Ryan established a moratorium on the death penalty. So it was O'Neil's office that conducted the autopsies and collected the blood samples.

But there was bigger obstacle.

While the state does send to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System the profiles of homicide victims no matter when they were killed, it will only send the profiles of known felons if they were convicted since a new state law was enacted about a decade ago that allowed them to be included, Moran said.

That meant the profile of Gacy, who received a lethal injection in 1994, and the profiles of other executed inmates could not qualify for the database under the felon provision. They could, however, qualify as people who died by homicide.

"They're homicides because the state intended to take the inmate's life," O'Neil said.

Last year, authorities in Florida created a DNA profile from the blood of executed serial killer Ted Bundy in an attempt to link him to other murders. But officials there, where the law allows profiles of convicted felons be uploaded into the database as well as the phase-in of profiles of people arrested on felony charges, don't know of any law enforcement agency reaching back into history the way Cook County's sheriff's office is.

"We haven't had any initiative where we are going back to executed offenders and asking for their samples," said David Coffman, director of Florida Department of Law Enforcement's laboratory system. "I think it's an innovative approach."

O'Neil said he is still looking for blood samples of the rest of the 12 condemned inmates executed between 1977 when Illinois reinstated the death penalty and 2000 when then-Gov. George Ryan established a moratorium. So far, DNA profiles have been done on the blood of Gacy and two others; the profile of the fourth inmate has not yet been done.

Among the other executed inmates whose blood was submitted for testing was Lloyd Wayne Hampton, a drifter executed in 1998 for his crimes. Not only did Hampton's long list of crimes include crimes outside the state — one conviction was for the torture of a woman in California — but shortly before he was put to death, he claimed to have committed other murders but never provided details.

So far, no computer hits have linked Gacy or the others to any other crimes. But Moran and O'Neil suspect there are investigators who are holding DNA evidence that could help solve them.

That is exactly what happened during the investigation into the 1993 slayings of seven people at a suburban Chicago restaurant, during which an evidence technician collected a half-eaten chicken dinner even though there was no way to test it for DNA at the time.

When the technology did become available, the dinner was tested and it revealed the identity of one of two men ultimately convicted in the slayings.

Moran says he wants investigators in other states to know that Gacy's blood is now open for analysis in their unsolved murders. He hopes those jurisdictions will, in turn, submit DNA profiles of their own executed inmates.

"That is part of the DNA system that's not being tapped into," he said.

 

1
Text Only
News
  • Ritz-Craft Ritz-Craft to hire 60 for Mifflinburg plant

    MIFFLINBURG — Sixty jobs are coming to Mifflinburg as a Ritz-Craft production facility that went dark seven years ago amid the housing downturn will come back on line during the next few months, company officials announced Tuesday.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Selinsgrove man dies when tractor flips in Chapman Township

    PORT TREVORTON — A 57-year-old Selinsgrove man died Tuesday evening when the farm tractor he was driving overturned and pinned him beneath it, according to Snyder County Coroner Bruce Hummel.

    July 29, 2014

  • VanKirk 'Real hero' of World War II dies

    ATLANTA, Ga. — Theodore “Dutch” VanKirk, the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died Monday of natural causes in the retirement home where he lived in Georgia. He was 93.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mayor: Rental ban for drug dealers a success

    SUNBURY — A controversial landlord-tenant ordinance passed by the City Council in 2012 has become one of Sunbury’s “better success stories,” Mayor David Persing said Tuesday.

    July 29, 2014

  • Mom cited for allegedly leaving baby in car for 12 minutes

    LEWISBURG — A summary citation carrying a maximum fine of $127.50 was filed Tuesday against a Lewisburg woman accused of leaving her 10-month-old baby unattended for 12 minutes in a car in Union County on July 21.

    July 29, 2014

  • Line Mountain district, teachers $1.2M apart in contract talks

    MANDATA — Separate proposals from the Line Mountain School District and its teachers union are $1.2 million apart and not getting any closer, according to Benjamin L. Pratt, the district’s labor counsel at the CGA Law Firm.

    July 29, 2014

  • Road work: Expect traffic delays on Route 54 near Danville

    RIVERSIDE — Motorists in the Danville-Riverside area are advised that a 2.2-mile micro-surfacing project on Route 54 from Riverside borough to Boyd Station in Northumberland County will begin this afternoon.

    July 29, 2014

  • Blood trail leads to stabbing suspect in Montour County

    DANVILLE — Borough police followed a trail of blood along a sidewalk, up a staircase and down a hallway that led to a moaning woman who they say knifed another woman Sunday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Spencer_Maria1.jpg Maria Spencer charged with murdering her ex-husband

    SELINSGROVE — On Monday, a little more than two years after Frank Spencer was executed outside his Columbia County home, his former wife and her father were charged in his murder and the attempted homicide of Spencer’s girlfriend.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opponents, supporters to discuss clean air rules

    DENVER — Hundreds of people are expected to attend public hearings this week in a handful of cities across the U.S. to tell federal regulators what they think of proposed rules to cut pollution from power plants.

    July 29, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.