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Gacy investigation solves unrelated missing-person cold case

Cook County Sheriff's Department / AP

Daniel Noe went missing in 1978.

CHICAGO — A search for victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has led authorities to solve an unrelated cold case – a young man who vanished in 1978 while hitchhiking home to Illinois from Washington state.

Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Thomas Dart said Thursday that Daniel Raymond Noe, then 21, was living in Bellingham, Wash., and working as a surveyor and a factory employee. On Sept. 30, 1978, Noe called his father in Peoria, Ill., to tell him he would return home to complete college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Noe was never heard from again.

After reaching out to family and friends and getting no results, Noe’s family filed a missing persons report on Dec. 12, 1978, Dart said.

The sheriff’s office recognized Noe fit the profile of Gacy victims – male, white, 14 to 25 years old, potentially traveling through the north side of Cook County hitchhiking or on a Greyhound bus.

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Gacy was convicted of murdering 33 young men between 1972 and 1978. Gacy was executed in 1994, but authorities kept up the search for victims and last year renewed their efforts, Dart said.

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Detectives took DNA samples from Noe’s parents and sent them to the University of North Texas Center for Identification, looking to see if there was a match with DNA of suspected Gacy victims, he said.

DNA testing didn't provide a link to a Gacy victim, but did match remains found by hikers in 2010 on a steep side of Mount Olympus in Utah, not far from the Interstate 80 that was on Noe’s route home, Dart said.

According to his Bellingham roommate, Larry Wehking, Noe enjoyed mountain camping trips and loved the outdoors, Dart said.

Utah police searched the Mount Olympus area and found no signs of foul play, Dart said.

Chicago investigators finally confirm the identity of serial killer John Wayne Gacy's "Victim 19". WMAQ's Phil Rogers reports.

Dart’s office has solved numerous unrelated, cold missing-person cases and has collected over 40 DNA samples from family members of missing persons fitting the known Gacy victim profiles, the sheriff said.

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"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."

Noe’s family, through his brother, Michael Noe, thanked authorities “for their diligence in locating our loved one after a 34-year absence. Without their help we would not have closure, and Daniel would not be coming home to finally be laid to rest.”

Services for Daniel Noe will be held Monday and Tuesday in Washington and Illinois, Dart said.

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