By Richard Sullins |

His family called him “Wayne.”

Francis Wayne Alexander was born in 1955 in the Cumberland County township of Manchester, which includes Spring Lake and portions of Fort Bragg north of Fayetteville, and the last time his family heard from him was in the fall of 1976 when he called his mother in November and sent his sister a postcard saying he would be coming home for the holidays. But Wayne never came.

His family didn’t hear from him again for the next 45 years, assuming that he wanted nothing more to do with them. But on October 22, 2021, the worst fears of Wayne’s family were confirmed in a call from Chicago. His remains had been positively identified through forensic genealogy as being among those found in December 1978, buried in the crawl space beneath the suburban Chicago home of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, John Wayne Gacy, along with 21 others. In all, Gacy was convicted and later executed for the murders of 33 young men between 1972 and 1978.

Francis Wayne Alexander, left, and John Wayne Gacy. Photo courtesy of Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office.

The identification of Alexander’s remains was announced on October 25 by Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart. Alexander’s family, including his 87-year-old mother, had been notified three days earlier. Wayne had likely been killed sometime between November 1976 and March 1977 when he was either 21 or 22 years old.

Alexander’s remains were identified by DNA that was extracted from a tooth belonging to one of nine bodies buried before police could identify who they were. In 2011, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department began a renewed effort to identify the remaining Gacy victims and in 2019, began working with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project, an organization that uses DNA from deceased persons to locate living relatives. Five of Gacy’s victims are still unidentified.

By making use of a DNA profile that was created using the tooth from remains dubbed Victim Number Five, DNA Doe compared the profile to others that were contained within an online genealogical database and found potential relatives at the level of second cousins. Further investigation determined that the DNA belonging to Victim Number Five could be that of Alexander. After samples were obtained from his mother and half-brother, scientists determined that there was a high genetic association between the samples and the victim’s DNA.

Additional records were reviewed by the Sheriff’s Department, including the autopsy report of Victim Number Five and financial and public records belonging to Alexander. The description of the body at autopsy was consistent with that of Wayne Alexander. They determined that the last proof of life was a traffic ticket he received on January 5, 1976, and that he had earned little income during the year.

Alexander lived in an area of Chicago that was frequented by Gacy during the time of the murders and where other identified victims had previously lived. How Gacy came to know Alexander and target him as a victim will forever remain a mystery.

Francis Wayne Alexander was born in Manchester Township on March 11, 1955. The man who seems to have been his father, Edwin Hollister Alexander, served in the Army in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and was awarded the Silver Star.

Wayne Alexander moved to New York and was married in 1975 before being divorced three months later and moving to Chicago. When he didn’t arrive for the family’s Long Island, New York holiday gathering in 1976, his mother called a police department in California and asked them to look for him. Alexander had asked his mother in November to mail a copy of his birth certificate to him because a security firm in California where he had gotten a job required it.

Police there went to the address that had been provided and couldn’t locate him. His mother believed that this would start a missing persons investigation, but it never happened.

Gacy, a successful building contractor, was a regular performer as a clown at children’s hospitals and charity events. He murdered each of his 33 victims on his property, the first in 1972, two more in 1975, and 30 others between his divorce in 1976 and his arrest in 1978.

His usual tactics involved luring the victim to his home, plying them with drugs or alcohol, handcuffing them under the guise of showing them a magic trick, and then raping and torturing the victim before placing a rope tourniquet around his neck and slowly tightening it with a hammer handle. He was executed by lethal injection in 1994 just after his last words, “kiss my ass.”

Through Wayne’s sister, Carolyn Sanders, the family issued the following statement:

“A mother who now has closure. Sisters who now have closure. Brothers who now have closure. It is hard, even 45 years later, to know the fate of our beloved Wayne. He was killed at the hands of a vile and evil man. Our hearts are heavy, and our sympathies go out to the other victims’ families. Our only comfort is knowing this killer no longer breathes the same air as we do. We can now lay to rest what happened and move forward by honoring Wayne.”