45 Years Later, North Carolina Man Identified as Victim of John Wayne Gacy

(CHICAGO) — A North Carolina man was one of the victims of Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing 33 young men and boys in the 1970s, authorities said Monday.

Francis Wayne Alexander would have been 21 or 22 years old when Gacy killed him sometime between early 1976 and early 1977, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said at a news conference in announcing the identification of Alexander’s remains.

Alexander’s family didn’t even realize he had been dead all these years, the sheriff said.

“They just loved him, but they thought that he wanted nothing more to do with them, so that’s why there was never a missing person’s report,” Dart said.
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In a statement, Alexander’s sister, Carolyn Sanders, thanked the sheriff’s office for giving the family some level of “closure.”

“It is hard, even 45 years later, to know the fate of our beloved Wayne,” Sanders wrote. “He was killed at the hands of a vile and evil man. Our hearts are heavy, and our sympathies go out to the other victims’ families… We can now lay to rest what happened and move forward by honoring Wayne.”

John Wayne Gacy Mug Shot
Getty ImagesJohn Wayne Gacy is seen in this Dec. 1978 mugshot.

Alexander’s remains were among 26 sets that police found in the crawl space under Gacy’s home just outside the city. Three other victims were found buried on Gacy’s property and another four people whom Gacy admitted killing were found in waterways south of Chicago.

In 2011, Dart’s office exhumed the remains of eight victims, including Alexander, who had been buried without police knowing who they were. Dart requested DNA from anyone who saw a relative of a man disappear in Chicago during the 1970s. Gacy used this time to lure young men and boys into his home in order to ultimately kill them.

Within weeks, the sheriff’s office announced that it had identified one set of remains as those of William Bundy, a 19-year-old construction worker. The sheriff’s office identified the remains of Jimmy Haakenson (16 years old), who vanished after calling his mother in Minnesota to tell her he was in Chicago.

The details of Alexander’s life in Chicago are sketchy. His family was originally from North Carolina. He moved to New York to marry and later to Chicago in 1975. However, his divorce was not quick.

According to the sheriff’s office’s news release, the last known record of Alexander’s life were traffic tickets he received, the last one in January 1976—a year in which he earned little money. How he crossed paths with one of the most notorious serial killers in American history is a mystery, as authorities say all they know is that “Alexander lived in an area that was frequented by Gacy and where other identified victims had previously lived.” Gacy lured some victims to his house by promising to hire them for construction jobs, but Alexander worked in bars and clubs.

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The identification of Alexander came together when the sheriff’s department teamed up with the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that uses genetic information to locate relatives of dead people who have not been identified. The organization compared the DNA profile from the unidentified victim’s remains to profiles on a genealogy website to find potential relatives. That led it to Alexander’s family, and Alexander’s mother and half-brother provided their DNA for comparison.

Between the genetic testing, financial records, post-mortem reports and other information, investigators were able to confirm that the remains were Alexander’s. Knowing when the victim who had been buried above him disappeared was key to determining his death date.

Dart and Lt. Jason Moran were the investigators.

“This is one of the newest investigative tools for investigations of missing and unidentified persons,” Moran said.

Dart said Alexander’s family wasn’t ready to speak publicly about the identification and his office declined to give Alexander’s hometown. But in its news release, the sheriff’s office did thank the police department in Erwin, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Raleigh, for its help.

People who suspect Gacy may have murdered their loved ones, submitted DNA to police. This helped solve 11 cold cases. The DNA submissions have also allowed families to locate loved ones that were missing but are still alive. One example is a man living in Oregon who did not know his family was seeking him.


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