A decades-old mystery has finally been solved because of the John Wayne Gacy serial murder case. Throughout the 1970s, Gacy raped and killed dozens of boys in Chicago, and, according to the Huffington Post, eight of the 33 bodies found in Gacy’s crawlspace were never identified.
Andy Drath was a Chicago teenager when he last had contact with his family more than thirty years ago, reports HuffPo. Since then, Drath’s half-sister, Chicago psychologist Willa Wertheimer, has been searching for answers about what happened to him.
What Wertheimer did not know was her brother had been shot to death way back then, and was later listed as a “John Doe” in California. The case was finally connected when San Francisco police made a match from Drath’s DNA — which happened due to a recent push for officials to use DNA evidence to identify victims of the notorious Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
It turned out that Drath wasn’t killed by Gacy, according to HuffPo, but Gacy raped and killed dozens of young boys in Chicago throughout the ’70s. Eight of the 33 bodies found in Gacy’s crawlspace were never identified, hence the push to solve those mysteries and ID the remains.
Cook County (Chicago) Sheriff Tom Dart asked that anyone who was missing local family members from 1970-1979 to come forward. Wertheimer heard his plea, and wanted to shed light on her brother’s case. All she knew at the time was that, after her mother died at a young age and she’d given birth to Drath, his father gave him up to the state. She now learned her brother most likely had his guardianship transferred to California.
Thankfully the San Francisco police department took “exceptional care” of Drath’s remains, the Huffington Post said. Wertheimer submitted Drath’s DNA to the Sheriff.
It was only recently when Wertheimer was told the DNA she submitted was a positive match to an unsolved homicide in California. Drath’s case is now an open homicide investigation.
All these connections were put together solely based on the NamUs system based at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. Huffington Post says this complex database has not only helped to identify Drath’s remains, but they have led to many other positive case matches.
The NamUs university lab is free to police departments and they accept dental, fingerprints and DNA. Although the system costs nothing to law enforcement, sometimes the actual manpower to collect the DNA and get the process going can be overwhelming, so departments aren’t taking advantage of the system.
Although police still don’t know who killed her brother, Wertheimer is thankful she finally knows what happened to her loved one. She said, “We missed out on so much. My sons will never know their Uncle Andy. I never got to know him as a man. I would have liked to have just had the ordinary: life’s ups and downs, Thanksgiving dinner. I’d like to think we’d have had each other’s back in this world… pals through it all.”
This article was first published on Crime Feed.
Feature photo: Wikimedia Commons