John Wayne Gacy investigation helps identify body found in Utah
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter September 20, 2012 11:52AM
Updated: October 22, 2012 6:18AM
His family suspected he was a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy when he disappeared in 1978.
So earlier this year, Daniel Noe’s family members contacted the Cook County Sheriff’s office when they learned investigators were trying to identify Gacy’s eight unnamed victims.
But the case took an unexpected turn recently when investigators discovered Noe, a 21-year-old Northwestern University student from Peoria, apparently died on a mountainside in Utah — and wasn’t a Gacy victim as his family feared.
DNA evidence his parents submitted to the sheriff’s office confirmed the remains were Noe’s, Sheriff Tom Dart announced Thursday. Noe doesn’t appear to have been a victim of foul play, Dart said.
“The only sign of injury was a broken left wrist, and that could be consistent with a fall or some kind of accident,” Dart said.
During the summer of 1978, Noe was working in a factory in Bellingham, Wash., and called his father on Sept. 30 to say he planned to return to Illinois to complete his studies at Northwestern. He was never seen again.
“I think it’s wonderful they found the body after all these years,” said Noe’s mother, Phyllis Noe. “This is a lot better than him being killed by somebody like Gacy.”
Gacy killed at least 33 people in a spree from 1972 to 1978. He was executed in 1994.
In October 2011, Dart announced an effort to identify Gacy’s eight unnamed victims through DNA analysis. They were exhumed and DNA samples were taken.
People across the country have contacted Dart’s office with names of missing relatives they believed could have been among the unidentified victims of Gacy.
Sheriff’s detectives have obtained DNA samples from family members who contacted the office, and a laboratory at the University of North Texas has been comparing the samples to DNA from Gacy’s unidentified victims.
One of Noe’s brothers contacted the sheriff’s office with suspicions that he may have been one of Gacy’s victims.
DNA from Noe’s parents didn’t match the DNA of any of Gacy’s unidentified victims discovered in Illinois. But investigators found a DNA link between Noe’s parents and the remains recovered from the mountain.
A friend, Larry Wehking, told detectives that he dropped Noe on a highway to start hitchhiking. In 2010, hikers found Noe’s remains on Mount Olympus near I-80, which he apparently planned to follow back to Illinois on his trek home.
“While solving these cases is a bittersweet moment, the Cook County Sheriff’s office is pleased to give families some sort of closure regarding their missing loved ones,” Dart said.
Noe’s mother said he was a pre-med at Northwestern, but changed his major to biology and was one credit shy of graduating. He was an avid cyclist who would ride from Peoria to the Wisconsin Dells. He also was a competitive chess player.
He had a sister and three brothers.
His father, Ray Noe, said he and his wife gave up hope that their son was alive after he went missing for a few months. Debt collectors called their home several times a week for more than 20 years asking for Daniel to repay his college loan, his father said.
“It was a constant reminder he was gone,” Ray Noe said.
Last year, detectives used DNA to confirm that William George Bundy was one of Gacy’s eight unidentified victims. Bundy’s body was found on Gacy’s property.
Bundy was a 19-year-old North Sider and Senn High School dropout who disappeared in 1976 while heading to a party.
He was among 29 victims found in December 1978 on Gacy’s property at 8213 W. Summerdale in unincorporated Norwood Park Township. Four other Gacy victims were found in the Des Plaines River.
Dart’s DNA initiative has resulted in some positive news for families: Several people feared dead have been found living in other parts of the country.
Contributing: Lisa Donovan