CHICAGO — Detectives have long wondered what secrets serial killer John Wayne Gacy and other condemned murderers took to the grave when they were executed — particularly whether they had other unknown victims.
Now, in a game of scientific catchup, the Cook County Sheriff's Department is trying to find out by entering the killers' DNA profiles into a national database shared with other law-enforcement agencies.
Authorities hope to find DNA matches from blood, semen, hair or skin under victims' fingernails that link the long-dead killers to the coldest of cold cases. And they want investigators in other states to follow suit and submit the DNA of their own executed inmates or from decades-old crime scenes.
The Illinois testing, which began in the summer, is the latest attempt by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to solve the many mysteries still surrounding one of the nation's most notorious serial killers.
The effort, which led to the identification of one additional Gacy victim, led Dart to the question what 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?
"He traveled a lot," said Jason Moran, the sheriff's detective leading the effort. "Even though we don't have any information he committed crimes elsewhere, the sheriff asked if you could put it past such an evil person."
"This has the potential to help bring closure to victims' families who have gone so long without knowing what happened to their loved ones," Dart said in a news release.