Sixteen-year-old Jimmy Haakenson, who had left his Minnesota home bound for Chicago 41 years ago, has been newly identified as a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy
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Credit: Cook County Sheriff's Office

A 16-year-old boy who had left his Minnesota home bound for Chicago 41 years ago has been newly identified as a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy — the “killer clown” who murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978 in Illinois’ Cook County.

According to a statement from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, 16-year-old Jimmy Haakenson last spoke to his mother on Aug. 5, 1976, and told her he made it to Chicago.

Haakenson was among the eight unidentified victims recovered from a crawl space in Gacy’s home in 1978, officials announced Wednesday. They believe he may have been killed within weeks of leaving home.

Investigators said Gacy — who had performed at children’s parties as “Pogo the Clown” — killed the 16-year-old, but they know little else about Haakenson’s death.

Dozens of bodies were found stacked in Gacy’s residence outside Chicago, and recent advancements in DNA technology have helped investigators close a long-lingering missing persons case that had gone cold.

Authorities said that Haakenson’s nephew, curious about his uncle, learned of the department’s efforts to identify Gacy’s victims and reached out to investigators to supply his DNA.

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JOHN WAYNE GACY's MUG SHOT
John Wayne Gacy
| Credit: Des Plaines Police Department/Tim Boyle/Getty

Gacy was convicted in 1980 of killing 33 young men — some of whom he tortured or sexually assaulted after he lured them to his home — and he was executed by lethal injection in 1994.

Haakenson is the second of Gacy’s eight unknown victims to be identified. Investigators have spent the last six years attempting to bring closure to the families of men missing from the area, who may have made the fatal mistake of crossing paths with Gacy.

The eight bodies were exhumed and DNA samples were taken from the families of missing men. The first body identified was William Bundy, a 19-year-old construction worker from Chicago.

Officials said Haakenson’s family were relieved to at last know his fate. They will be traveling to Chicago to mark his unnamed grave, which reportedly has the phrase “we remembered.” Haakenson’s mother, who passed away in 2005, suspected her son may have been among Gacy’s victims, according to authorities.

“This man was a horrible monster, and my brother somehow ran into him,” Haakenson’s older sister told the Pioneer Press. “Somehow, on the bus or on a street corner, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Six bodies remained unidentified.