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John Wayne Gacy investigation brings break in California cold case

An effort to identify the remains of young men murdered by serial killer John Wayne Gacy in the 1970s has led to a break in the unrelated case of a teenager found shot to death in San Francisco 36 years ago.

The Cook County Sheriff’s office announced Wednesday that DNA tests revealed a “genetic association” between the remains of the previously unidentified teen and Dr. Willa Wertheimer, who submitted her DNA to the office in 2011.

At the time, Sheriff Tom Dart said he had exhumed the remains of eight of Gacy’s 33 victims who had never been identified and asked relatives of young men who vanished in the 1970s to submit to DNA testing in hopes of finding a match.

That led to the identification of one of the eight, William George Bundy, within weeks of the exhumations, but the Wertheimer’s DNA did not match any of them. Then late last year, the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office submitted tissue samples of unidentified people who had died there, including from a young man who was shot to death in 1979.

Like the samples from the unidentified Gacy victims, those samples were uploaded into a federal database, and Dart’s office was notified in May of a genetic association between Wertheimer and the San Francisco remains. Wertheimer’s half-brother Andre “Andy” Drath had disappeared after traveling from Chicago to San Francisco. Dental records, an “Andy” tattoo and records that show he had traveled to San Francisco helped to confirm his identification.

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Wertheimer was notified of the match this month.

Drath’s body will be returned to Chicago for burial.

“You should never lose hope in finding your loved one,” Wertheimer said in a release issued by Dart’s office. “He could still be living, or at least in your heart, can know the peace of bringing him home.”

The identification is the latest in about a dozen cases that have been closed as a result of the exhumations of Gacy’s victims. Gacy, one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, was executed in 1994.

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