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1st Gacy Victim Identification Aided by Genetic Genealogy

Name Returned after more than 40 years as Jane Doe

Sebastopol, CAThe DNA Doe Project, in conjunction with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Chicago, Illinois, announces the identification of a previously unnamed victim of the executed sexual predator and serial killer John Wayne Gacy as Francis Wayne Alexander. Discovered on December 26, 1978, at the Norwood Park residence of his killer, Alexander’s remains were one of six victims who had previously been unidentified. The date of death was placed between 1972 and 1978, but most likely between early 1976 and March 15, 1977 based on the location of the remains and information learned during the investigation.

In 2019 the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the DNA Doe Project began a collaboration to consider using investigative genetic genealogy to help resolve some of Cook County’s remaining unidentified victims. Gacy Victim #5 was ultimately selected as a promising first case. An attached molar was submitted to Astrea Forensics in Santa Cruz, California, for DNA extraction. The sample was then delivered to HudsonAlpha Discovery in Huntsville, Alabama for Whole Genome Sequencing. Once sequencing was completed the file was sent to Saber Investigations for bioinformatics, whereupon the resulting DNA file was uploaded to GEDmatch. DNA matches in the second cousin range were found, enabling DDP’s team of volunteer genetic genealogists to construct family trees and identify Francis Wayne Alexander as a candidate for Gacy Victim #5.

DNA Doe Project CEO, Margaret Press, stated, “We sincerely thank Lt. Jason Moran and the Sheriff of Cook County Thomas J. Dart for entrusting this case to us. The advances in DNA technology and the expertise of the labs we chose, combined with the fact that a close relative had taken a DNA test, allowed our team of experienced investigative genetic genealogists to identify a candidate quickly. We are honored to have played a part in giving Francis Wayne Alexander his name back and return him to his loved ones. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family.” 

The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of other groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Phoenix Police Department and Detective Stuart Somershoe, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; Investigator Christen Eggers of the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office; the FBI Latent Print section for confirmation of the identification; HudsonAlpha Discovery for extraction and sequencing; Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations for bioinformatics; GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA for providing their databases; the University of New Haven’s Graduate Certificate in Forensic Genetic Genealogy program interns, and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home.

About the DNA Doe Project

The DNA Doe Project, Inc. is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to identify John and Jane Does and return them to their families. The genealogy research is pro bono, but relies on donations to fund lab costs when agencies cannot afford them.  To date DDP has made over forty confirmed identifications.  Discover more at https://dnadoeproject.org/ .

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