John Wayne Gacy’s legacy in American crime history is grim and pervasive — he was one of the first really high-profile, horrific serial killers to become a household name and macabre celebrity — and now DNA gathered from his blood may help close the book for more grieving families.
John Wayne Gacy was captured in the late 70s and eventually put to death in 1994, but the true scope of the one-time clown’s murder spree has always been unknown. Due to Gacy’s tendency to prey on runaways, young teen hustlers and prostitutes, matching remains to the missing has been a challenge for law enforcement from the start.
Gacy was captured more than three decades ago, well before the advent of modern techniques in law enforcement to gather and match evidence. Thusly, much of the potential evidence in Gacy’s case was discarded or degraded as, at the time, it was not considered useful.
But now, DNA from John Wayne Gacy’s blood may help to solve other cases. The killer may not have killed only in his area, and, occasionally, DNA was retrieved from under the skin of victims elsewhere that could eventually lead back to Gacy.
Cook County Sheriff’s detective Jason Moran explained that frighteningly, Gacy didn’t always stay in the same spot, and it may be possible he killed while elsewhere:
“He traveled a lot … 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.”
The move is one of the first of its kind, and law enforcement experts in the realm of DNA and cold cases say using old evidence like John Wayne Gacy’s DNA to solve crimes is a novel approach that could lead to the closure of cases if adopted in a more widespread way.
David Coffman, director of Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s laboratory system, says:
“We haven’t had any initiative where we are going back to executed offenders and asking for their samples … I think it’s an innovative approach.”
Moran says that the methodology his office is using with John Wayne Gacy’s DNA is “part of the DNA system that’s not being tapped into.”