The San Francisco Police Department has reopened an unsolved homicide after genetic information submitted to identify victims of prolific serial killer John Wayne Gacy led to a break in the California case.
In 1979, the remains of a young man were found buried in the sand of a San Francisco beach. Notable only for a tattoo reading "Andy," the man, who had been shot dead, went unidentified until earlier this month. That's when, as CBS Chicago reports, a woman was notified that DNA evidence she submitted in an effort to determine if her brother had been one of Gacy's victims was matched to the SF case however it looks like, in this case, Gacy was not the killer.
As you likely know, John Wayne Gacy, aka "The Killer Clown," raped and killed at least 33 young men in the Chicago area between 1972 and 1978. He was executed in May, 1994.
As many as seven of Gacy's victims, the remains of whom were discovered in the crawl space of Gacy's home and near his BBQ pit, remain unidentified to this day. Investigators in Chicago's Cook County "asked relatives of teens who went missing around the time of Gacy's murders to submit DNA for comparison to Gacy's victims," CBS Chicago reports.
One of those relatives was 51-year-old Willa Wertheimer, who in 2011 submitted her DNA to Cook County in hopes that she might learn what had happened to her brother, Andre "Andy" Drath.
“I was about 13 or 14 [when Andy disappeared]," Wertheimer told CBSChicago.
“I didn’t memorize what age I was, because I didn’t know that was the last time I was going to see him. He was so tall. And then that was it.”
Wertheimer's DNA didn't match any of the unidentified Gacy victims, however, leaving Andy's disappearance a mystery.
Then in late 2014, the Associated Press reports, "the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office submitted tissue samples of unidentified people who had died there," including the man found dead on the beach.
Those samples were added to a federal database, and the Cook County Sheriff was notified in May of a possible match between Wertheimer and the SF body. Documents showing that Drath had traveled from Chicago to San Francisco, dental records, and the "Andy" tattoo allowed investigators to confirm the match this month, and the Cook County Sheriff's office announced the closure of Drath's missing persons case at a press conference today.
“It’s better knowing than not knowing,” Wertheimer told CBS Chicago
“And it’s better understanding that he didn’t somehow get mad at me and stop talking to me. And it’s really better to know he’s not suffering somewhere. That his suffering is over.”
Meanwhile, CBS Chicago reports that SFPD has reopened the investigation of Drath's death. A call and email sent to SFPD with follow-up questions was not responded to at publication time.
According to the Associated Press, Andy's body will be sent from San Francisco back to Chicago, where after 36 years he will be laid to rest.
"You should never lose hope in finding your loved one," Wertheimer said in a Cook County Sheriff's press release.
"He could still be living, or at least in your heart can know the peace of bringing him home."