By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The push to identify the eight unnamed victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy using DNA techniques not available in the 1970s scored its first success, authorities said on Tuesday.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said cold-case investigators had identified the young man, known for decades only as Victim 19, as William "Bill" George Bundy.
Bundy was reported missing in October 1976 on the eve of his 19th birthday. His badly decomposed remains were discovered by authorities two years later in the crawl space of Gacy's home in the Chicago suburbs.
Like so many of Gacy's victims, Bundy was a construction worker. According to prosecutors, Gacy, an amateur clown who worked as a building contractor, lured many of his victims to his home with the promise of construction work.
Investigators pulled 27 bodies out of Gacy's house in 1978, and half a dozen more from his backyard and the nearby Des Plaines River. He was convicted of the 33 murders in 1980 and executed in 1994.
This fall, the Cook County Sheriff's Department announced a new push to identify Gacy's unidentified victims using DNA samples from people who feared their relatives were among his victims.
Bundy's identification is the first successful match in that campaign, which is being conducted with help from the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.
Bundy's family had long believed he was one of Gacy's victims, Sheriff Dart said. But back in 1979, when much of the forensic work in the case was being done, dental records -- not DNA -- were the primary identifier investigators used.
Bundy's dental records were destroyed when his dentist retired so his family's fears could never be confirmed or allayed.
Bundy was identified because his brother and sister provided cold-case investigators with DNA samples collected from inside their mouths, which were then compared with the DNA from Gacy's eight unnamed victims.
Sheriff Dart said his office will continue to accept DNA samples from other people who fear their missing loved ones may have been one of Gacy's victims.
For more information, call 1-800-942-1950 or visit www.cookcountysheriff.com.
(Editing by Greg McCune)