The remains of another victim of Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy were identified in Illinois on Wednesday as 16-year-old James “Jimmie” Byron Haakenson, a runaway from Minnesota.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office worked with local police departments to collect saliva samples from Byron Haakenson’s siblings and confirmed a close association between their DNA and that of Victim #24.
The teen left his home in St. Paul, Minnesota in the summer of 1976 to go to Chicago, a place he told his family that he wanted to visit, according to Reuters. In an interview with ABC News, his sister described him as a troubled youth who wore makeup and may have been “dabbling in the gay lifestyle.” She said he was running away from home when he left for Chicago.
The last time anyone heard from him was when he called his mother on Aug. 5, 1976 to tell her he was in Chicago, the sheriff said.
Family members suspected he had been a victim of Gacy, who was convicted of killing 33 young men between 1972 and 1978. The serial killer was executed in 1994.
Because there were no dental samples of the teen, the primary method of identifying victims at the time, Jimmy’s mother didn’t learn the fate of her son before she passed away in 1979.
Gacy worked as a construction worker and sometimes performed at events as a clown. He lured his victims into his home by pretending to be a police officer or promising the young men construction work, ABC News reported.
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart starting exhuming the bodies of eight of his unidentified victims in 2011 with the hope that new DNA technology would bring closure to families who had lost loved ones.
Another victim, 19-year-old William Bundy, who went missing in 1976 after telling his family he was going to a party, has also been identified as a Gacy victim.
Dart said they are still trying to identify the remaining six victims and asked anyone who suspects their male relative could be among them to contact the department.
Byron Haakenson’s family was contacted on Monday with the news that Jimmie had been identified.
In an interview with ABC News, his sister, Lorie Sisterman said she was still in a fog, and wasn’t sure if knowing that her brother was a Gacy victim brought her closure.
“I don’t know what that feels like,” she said.