Runaway teen from Minnesota is ID'd as one of John Wayne Gacy's victims

This solves a nearly 40-year-old mystery.

A 16-year-old runaway from Minnesota has been identified as a victim of John Wayne Gacy – one of the most notorious serial killers in history.

James Byron Haakenson was reported missing to St. Paul police in 1976, the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Illinois said. He last spoke to his mom on Aug. 5, 1976, telling her he was in Chicago.

He was never heard from again.

In the years after he went missing, his mother wondered if he was one of Gacy's victims. And it turns out she was right.

On Wednesday, the sheriff's office said it had solved the nearly 40-year-old mystery thanks to the advancement in DNA technology and "old-fashioned detective work," a news release says.

Haakenson's remains were found with the remains of "multiple" other victims in the crawl space of Gacy's Chicago-area home in December 1978. Most of the victims were identified at the time, but Haakenson and seven other victims were buried without officials knowing who they were.

Then, in 2011, the sheriff's office reopened the case hoping to identify the eight victims using DNA testing. DNA from Haakenson's siblings, along with post-mortem reports and other data, helped officials confirm that "Victim No. 24" was the 16-year-old from Minnesota.

Officials believe Haakenson was killed in August 1976.

More on the 'killer clown'

Gacy – who was dubbed the "killer clown" because he'd dress up as "Pogo the Clown" at parties – was accused of killing 33 teenage boys and young men in the Chicago area from 1972-1978, the release says.

For most of his victims, he would capture, sexually assault and then strangle them with a rope, Biography says. He'd then bury most of them under his home. Gacy was executed for his crimes in 1994.

All but six of Gacy's victims have been identified.

The sheriff's office is asking anyone who thinks their missing male relative could be a victim of Gacy's to submit a DNA sample. Click here for more information.

Next Up