Gacy exhumations help identify another unrelated victim

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chicago Serial Killer Exhumations Help Identify Unrelated Murder Victim In San Francisco.

CHICAGO — An effort to identify remains of young men killed by John Wayne Gacy in the 1970s has led to a break in the case of a teenager found shot to death in San Francisco 36 years ago, the latest in nearly a dozen cases either advanced or closed by the attempt to match DNA with exhumed Gacy victims. Andre Drath was just 16 when he left home in Chicago for San Francisco and was never heard from again, leaving his loved ones in uncertain despair over his fate.SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The young victim in an unsolved 1979 San Francisco homicide has been identified as a result of an investigation into an infamous Chicago-area serial killer, authorities said today.

The Cook County Sheriff’s office announced Wednesday that DNA tests revealed a “genetic association” between the remains of the teen, Andre “Andy” Drath, and his half-sister, Dr. When Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart reopened the case in 2011 with the goal of learning their names, his office sought DNA samples of family members of Chicago-area boys who vanished in the late 1970s. This led to the identification of one of the eight, William George Bundy, within weeks of the exhumations, but the woman’s DNA did not match any of them. The latest came Wednesday when the sheriff’s office announced they identified a teenager who went missing more than three decades ago, and San Francisco police reactivated their homicide investigation into his death.

The call marked her first step in a journey that culminated this month with a stunning answer to her brother’s fate — and the start of another mystery 2,000 miles away. Gacy, who was executed in 1994, is known to have killed 33 teenage boys and young men in Chicago between 1972 and 1978, but eight of those victims could not be identified at the time.

While Wertheimer’s hunch that her brother had been a victim of Gacy, the monster who dressed as a clown to prey on young boys, proved incorrect, it did lead to closure. The office invited families who thought their missing loved ones could have been murdered by Gacy to provide DNA samples that could be compared with the victims’. Dart’s nationwide call for DNA samples came after investigators determined Gacy had traveled far more than previously known, meaning his victims could have come from as far away as California or Canada. “The very nature of this, it’s always going to be a bit of a long shot given the people that he targeted and the breadth of his killing,” Dart said. “When we began this endeavor we were hopeful but not naïve.” The DNA samples from dozens of people with missing relatives also led to police to identify others in unsolved cases, including Daniel Noe, a Peoria, Ill., man who disappeared in 1978 when he was just 21. He took a DNA sample from Wertheimer, 51, who had the same mother as Drath, and waited to see whether her genetic profile matched any of those taken from the victims.

Dental records, an ‘‘Andy’’ tattoo, and records that show the unidentified youth had traveled to San Francisco helped to confirm the identification. ‘‘You should never lose hope in finding your loved one,’’ Wertheimer said in an announcement issued by Dart’s office. ‘‘He could still be living, or at least in your heart can know the peace of bringing him home.’’ In three other cases, DNA samples collected as part of the Gacy probe led to living men, including one in Las Vegas, and another who had been living in Oregon with his spouse and children. He found former missing persons who were still alive, others who had died of natural causes, and three who had died under suspicious or unexplained circumstances.

The investigation has inadvertently illuminated America’s historically poor handling of missing-persons cases and the country’s slipshod system of tracking the unidentified dead — a crisis that the National Institute of Justice has called a “silent mass disaster.” Tens of thousands of people vanish every year, and an estimated 40,000 sets of human remains have gone unidentified. And last year, law-enforcement officials closed a homicide case from 1978, identifying the victim from skeletal remains found in 2008 at a county forest preserve.

So Moran reviewed the original report from the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office, and read through Drath’s juvenile records, where he pieced together the boy’s life story. While Wertheimer remained with her father, Drath spent his teens in and out of foster homes and juvenile detention facilities, frequently running away.

It was troubling to think of how easily Drath’s disappearance had fallen through the cracks of a broken system — his unstable home life, his unsupervised arrival in California, his forgotten death, the delayed processing of his remains — and how arbitrarily the pieces had come together.

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