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DNA Backs Up Mom's Doubt: Gacy Victim Misidentified

CHICAGO (STMW) -- For decades, Sherry Marino doubted that her son was one of serial killer John Wayne Gacy's victims — and on Thursday, DNA tests confirmed the remains she received were not her son, her lawyers told the Chicago Sun-Times.

One of the bodies found on Gacy's property in Norwood Park Township in 1978 was identified as Michael Marino. But DNA testing proved that his mother's misgivings were well-founded, said one of her lawyers.

"We are very happy that we followed through because her suspicions were 100 percent correct," attorney Steven Becker said. "She hopes the information about his misidentification will bring more leads to find Michael."

DNA taken from the body didn't match Sherry Marino's DNA, said her other attorney, Robert Stephenson. A private laboratory in North Carolina confirmed the results Thursday, he said.

The DNA results are the latest in a string of recent developments involving Gacy, who was responsible for at least 33 killings for which he was executed in 1994.

John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy (Credit: Cook County Sheriff's Office)

Last October, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced he was trying to identify Gacy's eight unnamed victims through DNA analysis and samples were taken. People across the country contacted his office with names of missing relatives.

Detectives used DNA to confirm that William George Bundy was one of Gacy's unidentified victims. He was a 19-year-old North Sider and Senn High School dropout who disappeared in 1976.

Marino was 14 when he disappeared from the North Side on Oct. 24, 1976. In 1980, investigators used dental records to identify him as one of the victims found on Gacy's property.

The body was among 29 found in December 1978 in Gacy's crawlspace and yard at 8213 W. Summerdale. Four other victims were recovered from the Des Plaines River.

Since 1980, Sherry Marino has harbored doubts that the body was her son — even though it was found next to a body identified as Michael's friend, Kenneth Parker, who was reported missing the same day.

Stephenson, who Sherry Marino hired last year to look into her concerns, said he was puzzled when he saw a dental chart created seven months before Michael disappeared.

The chart showed he was missing one of his second molars. But the autopsy report said the victim had all of his second molars.

Edward Pavlik, an orthodontist who examined Gacy's victims at the time of the grisly discoveries, has defended his identification of Marino.

Second molars normally erupt around age 12 but can come in as late as age 15, Pavlik said. So Marino's missing second molar could have erupted between the time the dental chart was created and the time of his death, he told the Sun-Times.

But Stephenson said the DNA analysis — conducted by LabCorp in Burlington, N.C. — provides irrefutable evidence that the body was misidentified. He said he contacted the sheriff's office with the new information Thursday.

"For an office that is determined to identify the unidentified victims through DNA testing, I hope they are equally determined to identify the misidentified victims like Michael," Stephenson said.

He said the body — removed from Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in west suburban Hillside to obtain DNA for testing and then reburied — will be disinterred again and brought to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

Stephenson and Becker said they believe a comprehensive investigation needs to be launched to review the entire Gacy case.

"We need to solve this issue concerning Gacy completely," Stephenson said. "We need to know whether there were other victims or accomplices and whether other victims were misidentified. We are 100 percent convinced there are accomplices."

Becker added: "If authorities would prosecute those accomplices, they could provide evidence about other victims — and perhaps, where Michael is."

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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