CHICAGO — After running away from his Minnesota home in 1976, 16-year-old Jimmy Haakenson called his mother, told her he was in Chicago, then disappeared forever.

John Wayne Gacy

More than 40 years later, a detective from Illinois arrived at the family’s home to tell Haakenson’s relatives that at some point after hanging up the phone, the teenager crossed paths with serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Haakenson’s body, it turns out, was among dozens found in a crawl space of Gacy’s Chicago-area home in 1978. But the remains were only recently identified thanks to DNA technology that wasn’t available then, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department announced Wednesday.

Gacy was convicted of killing 33 young men and was executed in 1994. But the revelation about Haakenson is the latest turn in a yearslong effort to solve the remaining mystery surrounding Gacy’s case: Who were the eight victims authorities hadn’t been able to identify?

James “Jimmy” Byron Haakenson’s body is only the second person that authorities have identified since Sheriff Tom Dart in 2011 ordered the remains of the eight victims exhumed and asked families of young men who went missing in the 1970s to provide DNA samples. The first was William Bundy, a 19-year-old from Chicago whose remains were identified weeks after the exhumations.

Haakenson’s family in Minnesota plans to come to Chicago to mark his grave.

“One of the worst people in the world that walked the earth murdered my brother,” his sister, Lori Sisterman, who lives in North St. Paul, said Wednesday. “You hope for something different,” but she went on to add, “I’m so glad to know where my brother is.”

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