CHICAGO (AP) — 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?