A former Chicago local, Harold Wayne Lovell, who was presumed to be a John Wayne Gacy victim after he disappeared 34 years ago, was reunited with his family Wednesday.
The Cook County sheriff's department has exhumed the bones of eight unidentified Gacy victims and reopened the Gacy case in an effort to help reveal the identities of the long deceased. Police have offered family members who believe their brother, uncle, or son may have been a victim of Gacy to submit genetic material for testing.
Tim Lovell, Wayne's brother, and Theresa Hasselberg, Wayne's younger sister, contacted the Cook County sheriff's department two weeks ago to ask about their brother, Harold Wayne Lovell (who goes by Wayne), who they had not seen since he left their family's Chicago home in May 1977 for Aurora, Illinois in search of construction work.
Wayne, now 53, 19 in 1977, was tall and thin with long sandy blond hair. He vanished after looking for construction work in the area John Wayne Gacy lived and worked. Lovell's family believed he was one of the eight unidentified victims of serial killer Gacy, because he fit the description, location, and type of victim Gacy liked to kill.
Fortunately for Wayne and his family, he was not a victim of serial killer, Gacy. Wayne said he initially left home in 1977 because he did not feel comfortable with his mother and stepfather.
I never felt wanted at home, so I left, he said.
He became disconnected from his family and lived in Fla., working odd jobs from lawn work and painting to working in shipyards, reports The Associated Press. He came back to Chicago to look for his mother at one point, but he could not find her. She died in 2011.
According to the Washington Post, Wayne got into trouble in Fla., which included charges for buying marijuana, which is how the Fla. police had his picture and connected him with Lovell and Hasselberg when they contacted the Cook County sheriff's department.
I've gone from having nothing to having all this, Wayne Lovell said on being reunited with his family in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. It's awesome.
The reopening of the Gacy case has also prompted many families to ask difficult questions. For some, the possibility of answers to whether their brother or son was murdered by Gacy ends over 30 years of wondering. For others, they pray to not be identified with the mass murderer. Unfortunately the only answer some families will get is that their missing family member was not in fact killed by Gacy.
Over 120 families have contacted the Cook County sheriff's department to find out if they qualify for a genetic testing to see if there's a link between their DNA and one of the unidentified victims.
Around 70 of these families, Dart told the Chicago Tribune, are right in our target zone, agewise and locationwise. Gacy targeted male victims between the ages 14 and 21 who either lived or worked in his area of the Chicago suburbs.
So far, seven families have been swabbed for DNA and four are in preparation. The results are expected in two to three weeks.
John Wayne Gacy, known as The Killer Clown, was convicted of murdering 33 young men in the early 1970s and hiding them in the crawl space of his Norwood Park Township home. He was executed in 1994 by lethal injection.