(CHICAGO) — Robert Hutton, a man whose family thought he had been a victim of 1970s serial killer John Wayne Gacy, has been found alive and has reconnected with his father and sister for the first time in 41 years, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois announced Thursday.
The sheriff’s office said Hutton was reported missing in 1972 when he was 21 years old. That’s around the time Gacy’s killing spree began. Hutton had told his mother he was going to be traveling from New York to California, but the family never heard from him again. Law enforcement officials say his case was closed after several years spent trying to locate him.
Gacy was convicted of 33 murders in 1980 and executed in 1994.
When Hutton’s sister learned in 2012 that the Cook County Sheriff’s Office was trying to ID seven Gacy victims who remain unidentified, she thought her brother might be one of them because he fit the profile: he was young and a frequent hitchhiker who worked as a contractor.
The sheriff’s office searched for Robert Hutton and confirmed in April that he was alive and well and living in rural Stevensville, Mont.
Detective Jason Moran says when he contacted Hutton, he sensed a “bit of regret” in the now 62-year-old man.
“He said he just got caught up in the ‘70s lifestyle and after years went by he became embarrassed he hadn’t had contact with his family and that made it easier to dismiss them,” Moran said.
Moran said Hutton said he tried to contact his family in the 1980s and ‘90s but was never able to locate them.
Moran said Hutton never realized it, but the owner of a bar a few miles from his Montana home was his stepmother’s brother. The detective said the two men had spoken several times, but they never knew each other’s last names.
Moran said Hutton reunited with his father in Washington state in June and plans to visit his sister in Nevada soon.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Morgan Loew, CNN
Jackie Wattles and Amanda Barnett, CNN
Samira Said, CNN
Sonia Moghe and Wayne Drash, CNN