Weather Updates

DNA proves mom’s doubt; Gacy victim misidentified, lawyers say

Michael Marino whose mother has questioned for years whether he was victim John Wayne Gacy.

Michael Marino, whose mother has questioned for years whether he was a victim of John Wayne Gacy.

storyidforme: 39028326
tmspicid: 6682657
fileheaderid: 3090865
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: November 27, 2012 10:50AM

For decades, Sherry Marino doubted her son was one of serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s victims — and on Thursday, DNA tests confirmed the remains she received from authorities were not her son, her lawyers said.

One of the bodies found on Gacy’s property in Norwood Park Township in 1978 was identified as her son, Michael Marino. But DNA testing has proved that his mother’s misgivings were well-founded, said one of her lawyers.

“We are very happy that we followed through because her suspicions were 100 percent correct,” said attorney Steven Becker. “She hopes the information about his misidentification will bring more leads to find Michael.”

DNA taken from the body didn’t match Sherry Marino’s DNA, said her other attorney, Robert M. Stephenson. A private laboratory in North Carolina confirmed the results Thursday, he said.

The DNA results are the latest in a string of recent developments involving Gacy, who was responsible for at least 33 killings and was executed for the murders in 1994.

Last October, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced he was trying to identify Gacy’s eight unnamed victims through DNA analysis and samples that were taken. People across the country contacted his office with names of missing relatives.

Detectives used DNA to confirm that William George Bundy was one of Gacy’s unidentified victims. He was a 19-year-old North Sider and Senn High School dropout who disappeared in 1976.

Marino was 14 when he disappeared from the North Side on Oct. 24, 1976. In 1980, investigators used dental records to identify him as one of the victims found on Gacy’s property.

The body was among 29 found in December 1978 in Gacy’s crawlspace and yard at 8213 W. Summerdale. Four other victims were recovered from the Des Plaines River.

Since 1980, Sherry Marino has harbored doubts that the body found on Gacy’s property was her son — even though it was found next to a body identified as Michael’s friend, Kenneth Parker, who was reported missing the same day.

Stephenson, who Sherry Marino hired last year to look into her concerns, said he was puzzled when he saw a dental chart created seven months before Michael disappeared.

The chart showed he was missing one of his second molars. But the autopsy report said the victim had all of his second molars.

Edward Pavlik, an orthodontist who examined Gacy’s victims at the time of the grisly discoveries, defended his identification of Marino as one of them.

“If you can tell the difference between a circle and a square, it’s clear,” he said Thursday. “The dental records of the Marino boy and the skull of the body given to me are one and the same. Here, the evidence is 100 percent strong.”

Second molars normally erupt around age 12 but can come in as late as age 15, Pavlik has previously noted. So Marino’s missing second molar could have erupted between the time the dental chart was created and the time of his death, he said.

But Stephenson said the DNA analysis — conducted by LabCorp in Burlington, N.C. — provides irrefutable evidence that the body was misidentified as Michael Marino.

Stephenson said he contacted the sheriff’s office with the new information Thursday.

“For an office that is determined to identify the unidentified victims through DNA testing, I hope they are equally determined to identify the misidentified victims like Michael,” Stephenson said.

He said the body — which had been removed from Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in west suburban Hillside to obtain DNA for testing and then reburied — will be disinterred again and brought to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Stephenson and Becker said they believe a comprehensive investigation needs to be launched to review the entire Gacy case.

“We need to solve this issue concerning Gacy completely,” Stephenson said. “We need to know whether there were other victims or accomplices and whether other victims were misidentified. We are 100 percent convinced there are accomplices.”

Becker added: “If authorities would prosecute those accomplices, they could provide evidence about other victims — and perhaps, where Michael is.”

Sheriff Dart, through a spokesman, said he was surprised that Sherry Marino’s attorneys did not include his office in their DNA probe.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.