By David Bailey
(Reuters) - Illinois investigators trying to put names to the last unidentified victims of executed serial killer John Wayne Gacy have solved the unrelated 1978 disappearance of another man, officials said on Wednesday.
Edward Beaudion, 22, was killed the night he was last seen in July 1978 and dumped in a Cook County Forest Preserve area southwest of Chicago by a man police questioned at the time, the Cook County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
Beaudion's disappearance is one of four decades-old cold cases solved because the sheriff launched an effort in 2011 to identify eight Gacy victims, the office said. One of Gacy's victims has been identified and three unrelated cases solved.
Gacy, who was executed in Illinois in 1994, had killed 33 teenage boys and young men from 1972 to 1978.
Beaudion was reported missing to Chicago police after he failed to return home from a wedding, the sheriff's office said. The car he had been driving was found in August 1978 in Caruthersville, Missouri, nearly 500 miles south of Chicago.
The man who had the car, Jerry Jackson, told police Beaudion had stopped breathing after he punched him in the face during an altercation and he had left the body in a quarry or garbage dump near Interstate 55 southwest of Chicago.
No body was found. Jackson was sentenced to four years for stealing the car, but never charged with murder. Decades passed with no word on Beaudion's disappearance.
Beaudion's sister contacted the sheriff's office in 2011 after it launched the effort to put names to the Gacy victims using DNA.
The family had lived near Gacy, her brother fit the age profile and no one was charged with his murder, the office said.
"She didn't necessarily suspect that he was a Gacy victim, but she was thinking, 'Why not? What do we have to lose, he's been gone all these decades,'" sheriff's spokesman Ben Breit said.
DNA samples from Beaudion's sister and father did not match Gacy's victims, but in February their DNA was linked to partial skeletal remains found in a wooded area of a forest preserve in April 2008, the sheriff's office said.
Sheriff's police concluded that Jackson killed Beaudion in July 1978 based in part on Jackson's 1978 accurate description to police of the site where he said he left the body.
Jackson died in May 2013 in Caruthersville.
"It would have been ideal to have brought this man to justice," Breit said.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)