John Wayne Gacy’s Blood: How The Deceased Serial Killer's Blood May Solve Cold Cases
Old Blood May Create Fresh Leads
John Wayne Gacy, one of America's most notorious serial killers, was executed in 1994. But samples of his blood live on, and John Wayne Gacy's blood is now being used to identify victims more than 30 years after he was arrested for the rape and murder of 33 teenaged boys. Cook County law enforcement officials entered the DNA information gathered from John Wayne Gacy's blood into a national murder victim database so it could be accessed by other law enforcement officials.
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How does a murderer get into a database of murder victims? Because of a technicality that lists executed criminals as homicide victims.
"They're homicides because the state intended to take the inmate's life," Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil told the AP. Will County is the location of the prison where Gacy was executed, and John Wayne Gacy's blood was saved as part of a formal autopsy.
Investigators needed to use the strange "Gacy as victim" strategy to get the DNA info from John Wayne Gacy's blood into a national database of some kind, because the law that would have required it to be entered into the FBI Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) was passed after John Wayne Gacy was executed. It's an unusual strategy, but it paid off when it helped identify one of Gacy's victims in a murder that had gone unsolved for more than three decades. John Wayne Gacy is just one of a number of executed criminals having DNA profiles submitted to the victim's database as a method of helping solve unsolved crimes.
"You just know some of these guys did other murders" that were never solved, said Jason Moran, the sheriffs' detective behind the new technique. "[Gacy] traveled a lot. Even though we don't have any information he committed crimes elsewhere, we asked if you could put it past such an evil person."
The Cook County approach is getting attention from law enforcement across the country. Last year, officials in Florida began working on a profile of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, hoping they could get some leads similar to those discovered with the DNA profile made from John Wayne Gacy's blood. They admit that Cook County is leading the way in terms of how far back they're searching in order to create profiles of likely murderers.
"We haven't had any initiative where we are going back to executed offenders and asking for their samples," said David Coffman, director of Florida Department of Law Enforcement's laboratory system. "I think it's an innovative approach."
The Cooks County Sheriff's department is currently receiving leads from all over the country from police looking for new leads on decades-old unsolved cases. How many of those are tied to John Wayne Gacy's blood, or the DNA profiles of the 11 other men executed in the same period of time before the CODIS was created, remains to be seen.
One of those inmates was Lloyd Wayne Hampton, a drifter executed in 1998 for his crimes. Hampton's long list of crimes included crimes outside the state, including a conviction for the torture of a woman in California. Before he was executed he claimed to have committed other murders but never provided details.
Moran is hoping the techniques and the results from authorities' work with John Wayne Gacy's blood will go toward solving the murders committed by lesser-known criminals like Hampton.
"That is part of the DNA system that's not being tapped into," he said.
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