(MCT) — The Cook County sheriff's office is one step closer to searching a Northwest Side apartment building where serial killer John Wayne Gacy may have buried bodies or other evidence, a sheriff's spokesman said today.
The Cook County state's attorney's office gave its approval late Friday to the sheriff's office's request to obtain a search warrant for the apartment building in the 6100 block of West Miami Avenue, where Gacy's mother once lived and Gacy once worked as a maintenance employee, sheriff's spokesman Frank Bilecki said.
"Speculation about this property has been out there for many, many years," Bilecki said. "This whole Gacy case has taken so many different twists and turns, (so) being able to close a chapter of it at this property would be nice."
The site was previously investigated after a retired Chicago police homicide detective tipped authorities to the fact that he had seen Gacy in the yard with a shovel in his hand at 3 a.m. one morning in the 1970s. That dig, in November 1998, turned up a glass marble and a flattened saucepan, but no bodies, according to Tribune accounts of the Chicago police excavation.
Sheriff Tom Dart returned to the Gacy case in 2011 when he exhumed the skeletons of several unidentified victims in the hopes DNA could help identify them. The inquiry led to the identification of one victim, William George Bundy, a Chicagoan who disappeared at age 17.
At the time, Dart said detectives assigned to the Gacy investigation were considering a number of other investigative avenues.
Last March, the state's attorney's office denied a request from the sheriff's office to re-investigate the Miami Avenue site, saying the sheriff's office did not have probable cause to obtain a warrant.
Sheriff's investigators have gathered more evidence since then, which led to approval from the state's attorney's office on Friday, Bilecki said.
Still, any work at the site is likely weeks or even months away, Bilecki said. A judge still must sign off on the warrant, and the sheriff's office will have to enlist the help of the FBI and private companies to search the property, he said.
The work will be relatively non-invasive, Bilecki said. Investigators will use devices that scan the ground for anomalies, he said. If any are found, a small hole will be drilled in the ground at that spot, and cadaver dogs will then sniff that spot, he said.
"We're not going in with backhoes and the whole nine yards," Bilecki said. "We don't expect to be there more than a day."
Gacy was convicted of the murders of 33 young men and boys in the 1970s, all but one of them strangled, many of them recovered in his crawl space. He was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center, near Joliet, in 1994.
What brought sheriff's officials back to the property was that, during the 1998 dig, only two spots were excavated even though radar surveys of the property reportedly detected more than a dozen anomalies under the ground.
That raised the suspicions of the retired detective who initially tipped police to the Gacy connection, Bill Dorsch. He provided the Tribune a letter from the radar company saying the initial dig was incomplete.
"In a proper investigation," the letter said, "the authorities would have been more willing to excavate any possibility."
Dorsch, who retired in 1994 from the Chicago Police Department after 24 years, recalled that one day at 3 a.m., as he came home from work, he saw Gacy with a shovel and they chatted briefly.
After Gacy's arrest, he called sheriff's officials with the information about him, assuming officials would investigate the tip and potentially excavate. That apparently did not happen until the 1998 excavation.