When asked who the top 5 most infamous and prolific serial killers in American history are, John Wayne Gacy likely appears on every list. Known as the “Killer Clown” due to his work as a children’s performer, Mr. Gacy claimed 33 victims at his Norwood Park ranch house in Cook County, Illinois (a part of metropolitan Chicago). From 1972 to 1978, Gacy would lure teenage boys and young men to his home where he would torture, sexually assault, and murder them, burying 26 of his victims in the crawl space beneath his house. Gacy was convicted of 33 murders in 1980 and sentenced to death, executed by lethal injection in 1994.
Recently, a team of investigators was able to use DNA evidence to identify the remains of one the seven unknown victims: 16-year-old James Byron Haakenson, a runaway from St. Paul, Minnesota, who had been missing since 1976. Using DNA from two of Haakenson’s siblings, combined with the original missing persons reports, the investigators were able to confirm the remains belonged to the missing Haakenson.
After reopening the investigation in 2011, the Cook County Sheriff's Office has been able to identify two of the eight originally unknown victims. With six still unidentified, the case remains open.