The Cook County Sheriff's Office is attempting to re-examine a site previously dug up during the search for victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, but was denied a warrant by the state's attorney's office.
The 1998 dig outside the northwest side apartment building where Gacy's mother once lived and that he maintained only uncovered everyday objects. The sheriff's department wants another crack, citing technological improvements and questions of why only a portion of the suspect area was searched.
Authorities originally gained permission to dig after a former Chicago Police detective recalled seeing Gacy with a shovel outside the apartment at about 3 a.m. several years before his arrest.
A Better Government Association investigation in 1998 claimed a radar device spotted buried objects indicating human remains, which prompted the dig. Although the BGA's report indicated possible remains in three spots, and the property owners agreed to digging at the spots, police called off the search after digging two 4-foot holes. The third site was under a blacktop driveway and was thought to be the least promising at the time.
There were 17 anomalies identified during the radar scans, but just two of them were dug up, according to Cook County Sheriff's Spokesman Frank Bilecki.
"A lot of people believe a lot of these anomalies should be searched," he said Thursday night.
The sheriff's department announced Thursday that the search warrant filed in mid-December was denied by the Cook County state's attorney's office on grounds that it did not meet the legal standard of probable cause.
A request for the property owner's permission to conduct a search without digging was also declined.
"The property owners couldn't have been nicer. They said there was just such a media frenzy (in 1998)," Bilecki said. "People were showing up for weeks tearing up their grass."
The circuslike atmosphere at the site in 1998 featured news helicopters overhead and camera crews paying their way onto nearby roofs as investigators attempted to block out sightlines into the excavation site.
Sheriff's officials said a dig at the property, possibly this spring, would only occur once noninvasive evidence indicated it was necessary.
Authorities hoped to first conduct a scan involving infrared imaging and ground penetrating radar at the site. If those scans indicate anomalies, a hole would be bored near the anomaly and a cadaver dog would be brought in to sniff for indications of any odor of human decomposition.
"I've been told by those that are doing imaging now compared to back in '98, the quality is clearer. You are able to see more," Bilecki said. "Using the cadaver dogs it would be a lot less intrusive than seeing some sort of anomaly and digging it up."
Bilecki said if new evidence is uncovered, the office will again file the search warrant.