How the Hunt for John Wayne Gacy Victims Led to a Long-Lost Brother

PHOTO: Robert Hutton with his father Chuck Hutton.
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A renewed probe into John Wayne Gacy, the infamous serial killer who shattered so many families four decades ago, recently helped put a California family back together.

Edyth Hutton was 24 when her younger brother, Robert, vanished in 1972. Just last year, she found herself trolling through nearly 500 profiles of unidentified bodies posted online by police from across the country.

"It was very sad and very poignant," she told ABC News.

Little things in photos, such as a belt buckle in Robert's style, made her think she could be looking at her brother's body. In all, she found six profiles she felt "were really likely," submitting contact information for each.

"I only heard back from one of them. And that was Jason Moran," she said, referring to a detective from the Cook County Sheriff's Office outside Chicago.

Moran's office reopened the Gacy case two years ago, hoping to identify the last of eight unidentified victims. And Moran, a 15-year veteran of the force, became the one-man Gacy squad.

Edyth Hutton's tip became Lead #68.

Her brother had disappeared during Gacy's reign of terror near Chicago, and Robert Hutton was the quintessential Gacy victim: young, white, a bit of a vagabond often looking for work at places like the construction company Gacy owned.

Last Edyth Hutton heard, her brother was shuffling his way from the East Coast toward California, potentially placing him in the Chicago area at the time.

By all accounts, the two had been close growing up and playing together in Lancaster, Calif., a small, desert town about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

After high school, Robert Hutton excitedly joined his sister, her new husband and their new baby on a road-trip across the country, living out of a pick-up truck and finding flashes of work along the way. But when the group landed in Colorado, Robert Hutton decided to stay there.

That was 42 years ago, and the last time Edyth Hutton saw her brother.

In the years afterward, her mother "tried hard to find him," poring over old phone bills showing where his past collect-calls originated, and urging local authorities in those areas to help, according to Edyth Hutton.

"She followed the trail as far as she could" and "just came to the conclusion that he was dead," Edyth Hutton said. "It was a sadness that she carried to her grave" in 1989.

Edyth Hutton carried on the effort, taking advantage of the Internet boom in the late 1990s.

She collected the names and addresses of every "Robert," "Robbie" or "Bob Hutton" she could find, sending handmade postcards to nearly 400 of them across the country.

The postcards concluded: "If this is not you, please forgive the intrusion and disregard this card."

That's what all of the recipients did, and another decade of fruitless online searches followed.

So when, in October 2011, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced his office was looking for leads in a new effort to identify eight of Gacy's 33 victims, Edyth Hutton thought she may have figured out her brother's fate. She contacted the sheriff's office.

But when Moran, the detective, did a little digging, he determined her brother was anything but dead, recently living in Breckenridge, Colo., and then moving to an unknown place.

For Moran, one thing was clear: Lead #68 was not a Gacy victim.

Moran, though, said he felt compelled "to follow through," especially after hearing that Robert Hutton's father, living in Washington, had survived a desperate battle with cancer.

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