Identifying the Victims of John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy was a notorious serial killer who sexually assaulted and murdered 33 boys and young men in the 1970s in Chicago, Illinois. The killing spree stopped only when he was arrested in 1978 after the parents of his last victim contacted police with critical information that implicated Gacy in the boy’s disappearance. He was tried, convicted and in 1994 executed for his crimes. Of the 33 victims that police found buried in and around his home, only 25 could be identified, leaving eight victims nameless and eight families to wonder if their missing loved one died at the hands of this evil man. When all available means of identification were exhausted, these eight sets of remains were buried but not forgotten.

In 2011, these remains were exhumed and the victim’s DNA analyzed to try to provide clues as to their identity. Continue reading

DNA: Giving Voice to a New Population of Victims

She’s only two years old, but her face is a mass of deep cuts. Her left ear is torn almost completely off. Her right leg was broken a while back. It never healed right, and bends at an unnatural angle. She doesn’t put weight on it. There are puncture wounds on her neck. Her name might be Daisy, or Lola, or Chance. She’s a pitbull used for dog fighting. And she’s just one of countless victims of this illegal underground blood sport that is staged for the purposes of entertainment, gambling, status jockeying and sometimes just pure cruelty by what an ASPCA estimate puts at tens of thousands of people across the United States.

Up until recently, the canine victims of this crime were largely voiceless. They lived with injury and pain. They charged into fights fueled by both instinct and the desire to please the very master who sent them into harm’s way for a few hundred bucks or an uptick in personal status. Most ultimately died, some mercifully via a bullet, others slowly and painfully, abandoned after losing a fight. But now, these victims have a small but very powerful ally: DNA. Continue reading