Chicago police plan search for more victims of Gacy Clues point to burial of four bodies near serial killer's home

November 12, 1998|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO -- John Wayne Gacy was executed in 1994, but Chicago police are preparing to find out whether he went to his death with a secret.

They are making plans to dig up a small pie-shaped area behind a Northwest Side home, based on a ground radar survey indicating that human remains may be buried there.

A former Chicago police detective once ran into Gacy in an alley there, holding a shovel, a recollection that along with the computer data from the radar is responsible for opening the new investigation.

Still, even as police seek a search warrant for the dig, they are more than a little doubtful about what they might find.

Recollecting Geraldo Rivera's plunge into Al Capone's vault, they fear being held up to ridicule if the tip does not pan out, and they don't want to create a circus atmosphere.

The computerized data from the radar indicate, but do not prove, the presence of as many as four bodies buried at about 40 inches, according to sources.

If successful, the search and identification of remains through dental records could bring closure to the families of some long-missing young men.

Any recovery of human remains also would validate the suspicions of a former Chicago police detective who is at the center of the new Gacy development.

His recollections prompted the Better Government Association to examine the site with the ground-penetrating radar, according to sources familiar with the probe.

This week the state's attorney's office took a statement from former Detective Bill Dorsch, now a private investigator.

Dorsch described for prosecutors the night in 1975 when the headlights of his car fell upon Gacy, holding a dirty shovel, next to the Northwest Side alley where the new search is proposed.

It was 3 a.m., according to the statement, and Dorsch, driving home from his police shift, was startled to see anyone in the alley, much less Gacy, whom he knew as a local building contractor who occasionally dressed up as a clown to entertain children.

Dorsch related Gacy's quick, almost upbeat reaction:

"I stopped and said, 'John, what are you doing out here at this time of night with a shovel?' "

He said Gacy approached his car, smiled and replied: "Well, with all the kind of work I do, there just isn't enough time in the day.

"So here I am."

Dorsch drove on, thinking nothing more of the encounter. When Gacy was arrested three years later and his crawl-space cemetery was disclosed, the alley encounter took on new significance.

"I thought back to the time I'd found him in the middle of the night, holding the shovel, and asked myself, 'Was he burying a body back then?' " Dorsch said.

Dorsch said he immediately contacted the Cook County sheriff's office, which had assumed jurisdiction because Gacy's house was in an unincorporated area just outside Chicago.

But his telephone call to a sheriff's hot line, while answered, apparently went no further.

No one from the county police, he said, ever got back to him. "I'm sure they were swamped with work about Gacy and got lots of calls like mine," Dorsch said.

Gacy, whom police have linked to 33 killings of young men and boys, went to his death by lethal injection without any mention of the suspected site. He was executed on May 10, 1994, at Stateville Correctional Center, near Joliet.

Gacy's murder spree is believed to have begun six years before his arrest in December 1978. A search of his home in unincorporated Norwood Park Township at the time uncovered 27 murder victims in a dank crawl space.

But the macabre retrieval of dead men didn't stop at what soon became known as Gacy's house of horrors. The bodies of two more victims were unearthed in his back yard; four others were fished out of the Des Plaines River.

Gacy never confessed to the murders or gave a complete accounting of the crimes, and investigators have speculated that there could have been more than 33 victims.

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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