CHICAGO — A John Doe murdered in San Francisco in 1979 has been identified as a teenager who went missing in Chicago a year earlier, thanks to ongoing efforts to identify victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the Cook County sheriff said on Wednesday.
Andre “Andy” Garth, 16 when he disappeared, was not a victim of Gacy, Chicago’s so-called Killer Clown who murdered 33 young men in the 1970s.
But his remains were identified after his half sister, Willa Wertheimer, submitted her DNA to a national registry to see if it might be a match for one of Gacy’s still-unidentified victims who were exhumed in 2011 so DNA samples could be taken from them, the sheriff’s office said.
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart had called on relatives of missing people who fit the profile of Gacy’s victims to provide DNA samples. Garth, like many Gacy victims, was a young, white man from Chicago’s north side.
Only one of Gacy’s eight unidentified victims has been identified since Dart made the new push four years ago. But a side benefit of the effort has been that a number of unrelated cold cases have been solved because of people submitting DNA.
San Francisco investigators in 2014 put into the national database DNA from tissue samples from a man shot to death there in 1979 and it turned out to be genetically associated with Wertheimer’s. Dental records and an “Andy” tattoo were additional identifiers.
Garth’s family is planning to return his remains to Chicago and San Francisco police are now actively investigating the 1979 homicide to see if they can solve it now that they know the name of the victim, the sheriff’s office said.