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Judge allows body of young John Wayne Gacy victim to be exhumed

Michael Marino whose mother is questioning whether he was victim John Wayne Gacy.

Michael Marino, whose mother is questioning whether he was a victim of John Wayne Gacy.

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Updated: October 25, 2012 3:09PM

A Cook County judge ruled Thursday that a mother may exhume the body of one of serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s 33 victims to conduct testing to see if it’s really her son.

Judge Rita M. Novak told Sherry Marino that her attorney presented compelling evidence raising questions about whether the Cook County medical examiner’s office misidentified the body as her son in 1980.

“Ms. Marino said the highlight of her day was when the judge said she has a right to know whether it’s her son,” said her attorney, Robert M. Stephenson.

The body that was identified as Michael Marino will be exhumed from a grave in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, which owns the cemetery, does not object to the exhumation, Stephenson said.

Marino withdrew her request to have Cook County pay for the exhumation. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office was prepared to argue against the county having the foot the bill, Stephenson said.

Marino still must raise the money to exhume the body. Stephenson said he expected the exhumation will take place within two weeks. DNA will be collected from the body at the cemetery and it will be reinterred. A laboratory will conduct a DNA test to determine whether Michael Marino or another person was buried in the grave.

The entire process could cost about $10,000, Stephenson said.

Michael Marino was 14 when he went missing on Oct. 24, 1976. Gacy was arrested on Dec. 21, 1978, and police found the bodies of 29 boys and men on his property.

Sherry Marino provided dental records and X-rays of her missing son to authorities. In March 1980, investigators publicly identified Michael and one of his friends, Kenneth Parker, as two of the victims whose bodies were found next to each other. They were Gacy’s youngest victims — reported missing on the same day, authorities said.

Gacy was executed in 1994.

Over the years, Marino has had doubts that her son was one of the victims found in the crawlspace of Gacy’s Norwood Park Township home. She was concerned that the description of the clothing on the victim’s body didn’t match what she believed her son was wearing when he disappeared.

In May, Stephenson agreed to look into her concerns for free. He gathered evidence that raised questions about whether investigators misidentified the body.

A review of dental records uncovered one discrepancy, Stephenson said. The victim had all of his second molars, according to the autopsy. But one of Michael’s adult molars hadn’t come in yet, according to a dental chart from about seven months before he vanished in October 1976.

A dentist told Stephenson it’s unlikely the missing molar would have erupted in the seven months before he went missing. Those teeth typically come in sometime between ages 12 and 13, he said.

The autopsy also indicated that the victim had a broken collarbone that later healed. Marino doesn’t recall her son breaking his collarbone. Finally, the autopsy indicated the body was white with “possibly some slight to moderate” mixture of Native American. But Marino said her son didn’t have any Native American heritage.

Marino declined to speak to reporters Thursday. But she previously told the Chicago Sun-Times that she visits the grave every two months.

“I talk to Michael, and I ask if it is really him,” she said.

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