A runaway teen who disappeared in the late 1970s has been identified as a victim of notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Chicago authorities revealed Wednesday.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release that the victim was James “Jimmie” Byron Haakenson, a 16-year-old runaway from Minnesota. The teen was reported missing in 1976 after he ran away from his home and was last heard from in August of that year when he called his mother and told her he was in Chicago.
Haakenson’s remains were found in the crawl space of Gacy’s Chicago-area home in 1978 and one of eight who were buried without being identified.
Gacy was convicted of killing 33 young men and executed in 1994. His famous last words were: “Kiss my a--.”
Years later in 2011, Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Ill. ordered that the bodies be exhumed and asked the relatives of the young men who vanished between 1970 and Gacy’s 1978 arrest to submit saliva samples to compare their DNA with that of the victims. Dart hoped the advances in scientific technology would help investigators identify the eight victims.
Lorie Sisterman, one of the siblings of the teen, was among the scores of relatives who submitted saliva samples. Dart said that there was a “strong genetic association” between the siblings and the teen’s remains.
“We (her and a County Cook Sheriff’s detective) talked. And then he says, ‘I regret to inform you that yes’ a couple of people burst out crying,” Sisterman told CBS. “And all I could say was: ‘Wow.’”
Haakenson is the second of the eight victims to be identified. Months after Dart had the bodies exhumed, his office announced that it had identified one of the victims as William George Bundy, a 19-year-old construction worker.
Gacy is regarded as one of history’s most unconventional killers, largely because of his work as an amateur clown. Gacy was also considered an active citizen of the community and well-liked by the town’s citizens.
Gacy was convicted in 1968 to sexually assaulting two teenagers. It is believed that Gacy killed his first victim, teenager Timothy McCoy, in 1972.
Gacy, a Chicago-area building contractor, lured young men to his home by impersonating a police officer or promising them construction work. There, he stabbed one and strangled the others before he buried most of them in the crawl space or dumped the others in a river.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.