CHICAGO — A Chicago-area sheriff announced Wednesday that it has identified a teenager who vanished in the 1970s as a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release that the victim was James Byron Haakenson, also known as “Jimmy.”
Haakenson was not a runaway like many of Gacy’s victims were. During those times, he was a free spirit just looking for adventure. He came to Chicago looking for adventure. How he crossed paths with Gacy remains a mystery.
His mother was the last person he talked to by phone on August 5, 1976.
The teenager’s remains were among those of more than two dozen young men found in the crawl space of Gacy’s Chicago area home in 1978 and one of eight who were buried without being identified.
Haakenson’s remains were found on top of a still unidentified body and underneath 17-year-old Rick Johnston of Bensenville, Ill.
“Rick Johnston, he was alone only because had gone to a concert at the Aragon. His mom had dropped him off. He was supposed to call her to pick him up but she never heard from him,” Dart said.
In 2011, Sheriff Tom Dart ordered the bodies exhumed and asked relatives of young men who vanished between 1970 and Gacy’s 1978 arrest to submit saliva samples to compare their DNA with that of the victims.
Haakenson is the second of the eight to be identified. Months after the exhumations, Dart announced that one of the victims had been identified as William George Bundy, a 19-year-old construction worker.
Haakenson’s mom died in the early 2000’s but the extended Haakenson family could soon have his remains returned and buried in their home state of Minnesota.
Gacy is remembered as one of history’s most bizarre killers, largely because of his work as an amateur clown. He was convicted of killing 33 young men, sometimes luring them to his Chicago-area home for sex by impersonating a police officer or promising them construction work.
Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994.