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

mickey moore driver's license shared

Beleaguered Ward 9 city council candidate loses Strib endorsement

Mickey Moore has faced questions in recent days about where he actually lives.

CDC biohazard scientist health work

New clue may explain how rare tropical disease sickened Minnesotan

The disease, known as melioidosis, killed 2 people earlier this year.

Sen Mark Koran crop

MN lawmaker encourages donations for locals charged in Jan. 6 insurrection

"They are a good family!" Sen. Mark Koran wrote Friday.


Money Gal Coaching: Mastering the spiritual parts of money

Kelly Blodgett used her passion behind becoming debt free to launch Money Gal Coaching.

University of minnesota sign

U of M will now require proof that employees have been vaccinated for COVID

Previously, only students were required to be vaccinated.

Jim Hagedorn

Report reveals details about ethics investigation into Rep. Hagedorn

The congressman described the report's findings as "unfounded conclusions."


SkyWest cancels hundreds of flights due to server error

More than 80 have been canceled at MSP Airport.


First elk in more than 100 years spotted in parts of southern WI

The elk population was reintroduced to Wisconsin in recent decades.

grand marais

10 beautiful Minnesota cities to visit for outdoor adventures

These places are perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway.


skylar hunter and jamie hunter

Victims in double killing ID'd as father and son; suspect was son's roommate

A man killed his roommate and his roommate's father early Saturday in St. Louis County, authorities said.

Screen Shot 2021-06-08 at 9.31.17 AM

Cambridge boy ID'd as victim killed by stray bullet during street racing

The 17-year-old was a student at Cambridge-Isanti High School.

Raina Neeland

Drowning victim ID'd as teen who saved her cousins

The 18-year-old's identity was released Tuesday afternoon.

Update: Body pulled from Lake Minnetonka ID'd

The body was found at around 4 p.m. Thursday.

Arrest made in one of seven recent anti-Semitic incidents at U of M

There have been several anti-Semitic incidents on campus lately.

Victim of fatal snowmobile crash ID'd as Chanhassen man

The 50-year-old was riding snowmobile near Becker County and Hubbard County line.

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 7.54.07 AM

Victim of New Year's Eve shooting ID'd as realtor, mom-of-two

The 28-year-old was killed in an alley on Tuesday evening.