John Wayne Gacy was a sadistic serial killer who was convicted of murdering 33 young men and boys. He was also known as the "Clown Killer" because of his side gig dressing up as a clown to entertain children at parties.
Even though police found the remains of 33 bodies under the floors in his home, there was always the fear that there were more victims who had been disposed of in other places.
The families of two separate men feared the worst, that their sons and brothers had ended up becoming victims of the vicious killer. Theodore Szal and Harold Wayne Lovell didn't know each other, but both disappeared around the same time as each other, and both were presumed to have died at the hands of Gacy. Turns out neither man was killed, as both men have been found alive, living their lives in different parts of the country.
Both had run away from home for their own reasons. This was well before the time of social media, which made tracking down people trying to disappear was a heck of a lot harder than it would be today.
Theodore Szal was 24-years-old when he abandoned his car at the Chicago airport, throwing his keys away so that he couldn't turn back. He traveled across the country before landing in California where he lived for over 10 years. He eventually got married and moved to Beaverton, Oregon.
He had no idea that his family was desperately looking for him, and that police detectives had tried to match his DNA with that of the unidentified Gacy victims. Police were able to locate him in Oregon, and told him that his family had been searching for him for over 30 years.
Szal passed a message to his family through the police detective who tracked him down, but he isn't quite ready to meet back up with family yet. Time doesn't quite heal all wounds.
Harold Wayne Lovell disappeared from his family home over 30 years ago. He wasn't getting along with his parents and just decided it was time to branch out on his own. He ended up in Florida, and his siblings had assumed that he had become one of the unidentified victims of John Wayne Gacy.
Lovell had done yard work for Gacy back in the 70s, so after he disappeared, it was quite plausible that he had fallen victim to the sadistic clown.
“A few times, he actually tried to get me into the house, but I wouldn’t go,” says Lovell. “And thank God that I didn’t.”
His siblings were getting ready to submit their DNA to the Chicago police so that it could be tested against the unidentified remains from the Gacy house, when they accidentally came across a photo of their brother online. He had been arrested in Florida, and his mugshot had made it onto the internet.
His siblings bought him a bus ticket, and the rest is history. They have been reunited after more than 30 years, and all of them couldn't be happier about it.
Sometimes there truly are such things as happy endings.