CHICAGO – In the fall of 1976, Caroline Sanders received an exciting postcard from her brother.
“See you soon because I love you,” wrote Francis Wayne Alexander, known in the family as Wayne, to his younger sister. She hadn’t spoken to him since his 1975 wedding and hoped the short note would mean he was coming to visit the family in Long Island, New York, for Christmas.
This was the last message Sanders could recall from her brother, who on Monday was among the victims of John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of the murder of 33 young men and boys in the Chicago area in the 1970s and was executed in 1994. …
Alexander’s family spent the next 40-plus years hoping that he had a reason to stay away, trying not to dwell on opportunities.
Decades of silence did not prevent the family from longingly mentioning Alexander in the hope that he would call or even come to the holiday. Sanders typed his name on Facebook from time to time, and their brother Richard Clyde checked some genealogy sites.
“I always hoped he was still there and for some reason couldn’t call,” Sanders told reporters Tuesday. “Even … not wanting to think about what that reason is.”
It is not known exactly when Alexander was killed. Investigators said the last known entry they found was a parking ticket from January 1976, and that financial records show that he made very little money that year, suggesting that he was killed somewhere in the beginning. 1976 to mid-March 1977.
Sanders said their 87-year-old mother spoke to Alexander every month and last remembered talking to him in November 1976, when Alexander asked her to send his birth certificate to California because he hoped to find a job in security.
When Alexander did not call the following month, Sanders said their mother went to the California Police Department to find him.
Police were unable to locate him at the address provided by the family, and their mother mistakenly believed the investigation would lead to an investigation into the missing, said Sanders, who was 14 at the time.
This summer, a detective from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office contacted the family in search of DNA to check on human remains from an unsolved case.
Lieutenant Jason Moran didn’t mention Gacy’s name at first. Knowing the time and place where the remains were found continued to make Sanders fear the worst.
Waiting for DNA confirmation that her brother was among Gacy’s victims was “excruciating,” Sanders said.
“I remember him as a joker, but at the same time sensitive,” she said. “We were seven years apart, and he was having tea with me. He loved me. He loved all of us. ”
Investigators don’t know how Gacy came to know and targeted Alexander, who was born in North Carolina and lived in New York City before moving to Chicago in the mid-1970s. They said he lived in an area that Gacy often visited and where some of his victims lived.
Alexander’s remains were among 26 sets that police found underground under Gacy’s house near Chicago in 1978. Eight victims, including Alexander, were buried before police could determine who they were.
Sheriff Tom Dart’s office exhumed the remains in 2011 and called on anyone whose male relative disappeared in the Chicago area in the 1970s to donate DNA. Moran said the sheriff’s office has also partnered with the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that compares the DNA of unidentified crime victims to genealogical databases.
They found potential relatives of the man known as Victim # 5, distant relatives of Alexander, and then the sheriff’s office asked Alexander’s mother for DNA samples from immediate family members.
Clyde, who provided one of the samples that confirmed his brother’s identity, said that advances in DNA and genealogy analysis “brought us Wayne.”
“It’s a miracle,” he added.
Sanders said her family is still in shock, but everyone will rely on each other and their faith to mourn her brother.
“I’m sure he suffered,” she said. “But he doesn’t suffer anymore.”