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CHICAGO (AP) - The search for more victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has led authorities to solve an unrelated 1970s cold case of a missing person whose remains were found in Utah, officials announced Thursday.
Chicago authorities have recently renewed efforts to identify more victims of Gacy, who is notorious for being one of the nation's most bizarre serial killers, mostly for his work as an amateur clown. Last year, the Cook County Sheriff's Office exhumed the remains of never-identified victims, prompting dozens of families of young men who disappeared in the 1970s to step forward.
That included the Noe family from the Peoria area, whose 22-year-old son went missing in 1978 while he was hitchhiking from Washington state where he lived back to Illinois.
DNA testing showed that Daniel Raymond Noe was not a match to the Gacy victims, but a larger search revealed a genetic association to an unidentified deceased person in Salt Lake City.
In 2010, hunters looking for antlers in a rugged area between Mt. Olympus and Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake County came across some skeletal remains, including a skull. The remains were sent to the University of Northern Texas Center for Human Identification for possible identification.
Further investigation and testing confirmed that was Noe. Family and friends said Noe was an avid hiker and had wanted to return to Illinois to study at Northwestern University. Authorities said there were no signs of foul play.
"I was shocked and relieved all at the same time," said Noe's younger brother Michael, who lives in Peoria. "For 34 years, we always were wondering what happened."
Noe's parents said that after they hadn't heard from their son for months, they gave up hope he was alive. His father, Ray Noe, said that for more than 20 years, debt collectors would call the house about one of Daniel's student loans.
The calls just served as a constant reminder of why he was gone, Ray Noe said. Family members said they plan to hold a funeral service next week.
Meanwhile, authorities have been able to identify other Gacy victims in recent months or solve other cold cases. After exhuming the bodies last year, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said his office received calls from more than two dozen states and developed more than 100 leads.
Last November, authorities identified William George Bundy as a Gacy victim. The Chicago-area construction worker was last seen in October 1976 while heading to a party. In December 2011, a Chicago-area family who feared their son was a Gacy victim learned that he had run away and was alive in Oregon.
"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," Dart said in a statement.
Most of Gacy's victims were buried in a crawl space under his home, though detectives said four of them were dumped in a river after he ran out of room. Gacy admitted his crimes to detectives before he was convicted of murdering 33 young men and was executed in 1994.
Contributing: Pat Reavy
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