This Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011 photo provided by Theresa Hassleberg, shows Harold Wayne Lovell, right, and his brother, Tim, posing for a photo during a family reunion in Ozark, Ala. Harold, whose family had long feared he was a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, has been found living in Florida. He was 19 when he vanished from his home to look for construction work in May 1977. (AP Photo/Theresa Hasselberg)
Updated: November 28, 2011 10:11AM
Siblings who feared that their brother was one of serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s eight unidentified victims were amazed and overjoyed to learn that he’s been living in Florida for decades.
Tim Lovell and Theresa Hasselberg hadn’t seen their brother, Harold Wayne Lovell, since he left their family’s Chicago home in May 1977 in search of construction work. The Chicago Tribune reported that he was headed for Aurora.
At the time, Gacy was trolling for young men and boys in the area. He was a contractor, and he lured many of the 33 young men and boys he killed by offering them work. A family member read books about Gacy and theorized that Wayne and Gacy crossed paths while Gacy did construction work at a fast-food restaurant in Aurora, the Tribune reported.
Cook County Sheriff’s detectives reviewing unidentified remains cases discovered that eight of the 33 people Gacy was convicted of murdering were never identified, and they obtained exhumation orders over the past few months to test the remains for DNA, hoping relatives of young men who went missing in the area in the 1970s might submit to genetic testing.
Lovell’s siblings, who now live in Alabama, were planning to do just that when they discovered a recent online police booking photo of their brother taken in Florida. They reached their brother, who goes by his middle name, by phone and bought him a bus ticket, and the family was reunited Tuesday for the first time in 34 years.
Wayne Lovell, now 53, described the reunion as “awesome.”
He said he left for Florida all those years ago because he wasn’t getting along with his mother and stepfather. Over the years, he’s worked various manual labor jobs and has had occasional brushes with the law.
“I’ve gone from having nothing to having all this,” Lovell said. “I’m still pinching myself.”
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has said that dozens of families of men who disappeared during the 1970s have come forward for DNA testing.
Investigators searching Gacy’s home after his 1978 arrest found most of his victims buried in a basement crawl space, although detectives said Gacy dumped four victims in a nearby river after he ran out of room at his house. Gacy confessed to the murders after his arrest and was executed in 1994.