Authorities today unearthed the body of the 27th presumed victim of alleged homosexual murderer John Wayne Gacy.
The search for five other youths Gacy reportedly has said he murdered is to resume Saturday. The body of 15-year-old Robert Piest, the single victim with whose murder Gacy officially has been charged, is among those still sought.
Little doubt remains that this is the largest known mass murder in U.S. history.
The largest previous one, attributed to Elmer Wayne Henley and Dean Arnold Croll in the Houston area five years ago, involved 27 victims. Like the alleged Gracy victims, the Texas victims also were homosexually molested before they were slain.
Twenty-six of the alleged Gacy victims were found buried on Gacy's property in an unincorporated area known as Norwood Park near O'Hare International Airport northwest of Chicago. The 27th suspected Gacy victim's body was recovered from the Des Plaines River last month and was linked with Gacy after his arrest on Dec. 22.
Authorities are also atempting to determine the identity of a boy's body pulled from the Des Plaines River Thursday. That body has not been linked with Gacy.
Meanwhile, Gacy's lawyer today won a court order prohibiting public officials from making public statements that could prejudice Gacy's right to a fair trial.
Since Gacy's arrest, Chicago newspapers have been covering the story of Gacy in the tradition of "The Front Page," the Ben Hecht-Charles Mac-Arthur play about Chicago journalism.
In Thursdays edition, for example, The Chicago Tribune devoted the top quarter of its front page to a photo of Gacy strapped to his bed in the Cook County Jail's Cormak hospital, where he is confined because of a heart condition.
Gacy's lawyer, Sam L. Amirante, produced a copy of the newspaper in court, accusing the sheriff's department of "reckless irresponsibility."
"Someone in the sheriff's department had to take that picture," Amirante told Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge John L. White. "It may even have been sold to the newspaper."
Various public officials, including Cook Country Sheriff Richard J. Elrod and Medical Examiner Robert J. Stein, have made statements that Amirante and various outside legal observers consider prejudicial.
Elmer Gertz, a Chicago law professor who defended Jack Ruby, the slayer of Lee Harvey Oswald, is among those who have criticized the statements.
"It's very dangerous from the viewpoint of a fair trial," Gertz said. "There has been an orgy of press conferences about this case. I suspect he'll be held not menatally fit to stand trial, but that picture of him strapped down and the constant statements of the medical examiner would make it virtually impossible to find jurors in this county."
The order by White prohibiting public statements was directed at both the mdeical examiner's and sheriff's offices. It did not refer to any specific statements made by the officials.
A few hours after Gacy's arrest, Sheriff Elrod told reporters, "He's giving all kinds of statements, saying there's a body here, a body there, a body in lake or a lagoon, a body buried."
Stein has held several news conferences and has granted interviews to several reporters. He was quoted in Thursday's Chicago Sun-Times as saying, "But what I am wondering is how the hell he got away with all this unnoticed."
Gacy had been scheduled to appear today before White for a hearing on various motions filed by Amirante, but Criminal Court Chief Judge Richard J. Fitzerald canceled the appearance at the last munute "for security reasons."
Amirante protested holding the hearing without Gacy's presence, saying "This man has a right to be in court today."
On Amirante's motion, White also ordered a psychiatric examination of Gacy to be completed before Jan. 10, when he is to appear before Fitzgerald for hearings on motions to set bond and dismiss the one murder charge so far filed against Gacy.