Chicago-area serial killer exhumations help identify San Francisco cold case homicide victim

CHICAGO (AP, BCN) — Investigators believe they may have solved a 36-year-old cold case, involving an unidentified teenager found shot to death in San Francisco.

An effort in Chicago to identify the remains of young men murdered by serial killer John Wayne Gacy in the 1970s has led to a break in an unrelated case

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office will announce Wednesday that tests have revealed a “genetic association” between the teenager and the DNA of a woman whose half brother, Andre Drath, went missing decades ago.

The sheriff asked relatives of missing teens to submit DNA to determine if it matched unidentified Gacy victims, and the woman submitted hers in 2011.

The sheriff’s department submitted the DNA to a federal database. The match was discovered after tissue samples submitted to a lab by the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office were examined late last year.

Gacy, who was executed in 1994, is known to have killed 33 teenage boys and young men in Chicago between 1972 and 1978, but eight of those victims could not be identified at the time.

Cook County authorities reopened an investigation into Gacy’s unidentified victims in 2011. As part of the investigation, they asked family members of young men who went missing in the 1970s to submit DNA to test for possible matches with the unidentified victims.

Drath’s younger sister, Willa Wertheimer, submitted her DNA because she realized that her brother matched the profile of Gacy’s known victims, who tended to be young white males.

Her DNA did not match any of Gacy’s victims, but investigators uploaded it to a federal DNA database, and this May they received notice of a match with an unidentified homicide victim in San Francisco.

The victim in that case was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds, but he was never identified and the case went cold.

The San Francisco medical examiner’s office had preserved tissue samples and submitted DNA to the database in late 2014.

Investigators notified Wertheimer on Sept. 10 of the match after determining that the unidentified victim matched Drath’s dental records and had a similar tattoo reading “Andy.

“The family is now making plans to bring the body home to Chicago and San Francisco police are investigating Drath’s homicide, according to Cook County sheriff’s officials.

Wertheimer today issued a statement urging all relatives of missing people to submit their DNA to the national missing persons database.

“Thankfully I did, and as a result John Doe #89 now will come home to his kid sister, with his own name — Andy,” she said.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said that since the Gacy investigation was reopened in 2011, one of the original eight unidentified victims has been identified as William George Bundy and identifications have been made in 11 other unrelated missing persons cases. In five of those cases, the missing people were located alive and reunited with their families. Two others were found to have died of natural causes after going missing, and four other victims in unrelated cold cases, including Drath’s, have been identified.

Dart said he will provide any and all needed resources to San Francisco officials investigating Drath’s murder.

“On this bittersweet day, I’m thankful that Andy Drath will be brought home and laid to rest with the dignity that he deserves,” Dart said in a statement today. “This breakthrough illustrates that we should never give up on a cold case, no matter how hopeless it appears.”

Seven of Gacy’s victims remain unidentified and officials in Cook County are still asking anyone who believes their male relatives could have been a victim to contact them at (708) 865-6244.San Francisco police were not immediately available to comment on the case.


Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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