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Minnesota teen, missing for 40 years, proven as victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy

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John William Gacy, mugshot taken Dec. 21, 19782 / 2

ST. PAUL — A 16-year-old boy missing from St. Paul for more than 40 years has been identified as a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, an official said Wednesday, July 19.

James Byron Haakenson's mother reported him missing to St. Paul police on Sept. 2, 1976. Haakenson was listed as a runaway and his probable destination was reported as unknown, "maybe Chicago," according to reports from the time.

More than two years later, on Jan. 3, 1979, Roger Conway, a missing persons investigator, wrote to the Des Plaines, Ill., police chief, saying Haakenson's mother "has requested us to contact you with the possibility that her son may be among the victims of John Gacy."

Gacy, one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, was executed in 1994. The murders of 33 young men and boys in the Chicago area have been linked to Gacy.

A Cook County sheriff's office spokeswoman said Wednesday morning that Haakenson was identified as a victim of Gacy this month. She said the sheriff's office would provide additional information Wednesday afternoon.

In the days after Haakenson was reported missing, St. Paul police sent a teletype to Chicago police. Conway forwarded it to Des Plaines police, along with the missing persons report, in 1979.

"We can appreciate that you have had many requests of this nature and hope that you will in the course of your investigation determine if the subject could be a possible victim," Conway wrote. "Mother of subject has informed us that dental records are available if further investigation would be of assistance."

Des Plaines police wrote back and said "it is essential the dental charts be forwarded" to the Cook County sheriff's office.

There were eight unidentified victims of Gacy. Investigators have worked in recent years to determine who the individuals were, including using DNA testing.

Gacy was a contractor in Chicago's northwest suburbs in the 1970s. First killing homeless male prostitutes and then suburban teenagers, Gacy lured victims to his car, rendered them unconscious with chloroform and sometimes tortured them at his house before killing them.

In 1978 authorities found numerous bodies of victims in the crawl space under his house and eventually had to bulldoze the structure. The search for bodies and collection of evidence took months.

Cook County medical examiner Robert Stein, who was called in to help with the search, told the Chicago Tribune: "I opened the door and, my God, there was the odor of death."

Gacy, who also had worked as a children's clown, was found guilty in 1980 of 33 murders. He was executed at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet in 1994.