The recent exhumation of John Wayne Gacy's victims has led to a joyful reunion for one family.
Harold Wayne Lovell was 19 when he left his family in May 1977 to make a new life for himself in Florida. For 34 years, his family assumed the worst: that Lovell, who goes by 'Wayne,' had been one of Gacy's victims.
He fitted the profile of those murdered by Gacy (pictured above) - boys aged 14 to 21 - and it was thought he could easily have run into the serial killer in his job as a restaurant busboy. Gacy had done construction work at an Aurora fast-food restaurant at about the same time.
Yet the Lovell family's assumptions were proven mercifully wrong a couple of weeks ago, when the Cook County Sheriff's Office reopened the Gacy case to try and identify eight victims through skeletal remains. The authorities invited families to submit DNA in a bid to name the victims.
The Lovells decided they would offer their DNA, but before they did, some Internet research by one of Wayne Lovell's nephews turned up a Florida police mug shot of Lovell in 2006. He had been arrested on a marijuana possession charge. The rest was easy to piece together, and an emotional family reunion took place on Wednesday. Lovell told reporters:
"I never stopped thinking about my mom or my brothers and my sisters. I feel bad that they had to go through life thinking that I'd been killed like that. I feel terrible. But I was a teenager, and who didn't want to go to Fort Lauderdale, where it's nice, sunny and hot?"Yes, it turns out Harold Wayne Lovell had spent his years as a young adult partying in Fort Lauderdale, oblivious to the concerns of his family back in Alabama.
When he never returned from his adventure, his younger sister and brother became convinced he had become a Gacy victim. By the time Gacy was executed in 1994 for the murder of 33 young men and boys, the Lovell family gave up all hope of finding out Wayne's fate.
Younger brother Tim Lovell, who was a mere 14 when Wayne went missing, said:
"I always had that inkling of hope he was alive. I would say, 'God, let me see my brother one more time.'"A ray of light in a very grim, tragic case.