Chicago family plans reunion with son who left 34 years ago

For nearly three dozen years, Ted Szal’s family thought he had been a victim of notorious Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy. This week, Szal’s family discovered that he was very much alive and had been living for years in Beaverton. The 59-year-old Szal had been missing since March 1977, when his family thought he had fallen victim to Gacy, the Chicago man who sexually assaulted and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said the discovery that Szal was still alive made the family’s Christmas season a bit brighter. “Being able to tell an 88-year-old father that his son, whose picture he has been carrying around for 34 years in his breast pocket, has been found alive is something special,” Dart said. Szal apparently left the Chicago area on his own when he was 24, during a spate of personal problems. Szal’s family contacted the sheriff’s office in mid-October when they learned that the agency was trying to find out the identity of some of Gacy’s victims. After interviews with family members, the sheriff’s office learned that Szal was going through a divorce in 1977 and apparently decided to leave his Glen Ellyn, Ill., home. Szal’s vehicle was found abandoned at O’Hare International Airport. When family DNA samples did not identify Szal as one of Gacy’s victims, a computer search turned up an Oregon driver’s license in his name. On Monday, Beaverton police contacted Szal at his home and confirmed his identity. The Szal family in Illinois issued a statement Wednesday, saying while they were “so relieved to have discovered that Ted is alive, our thoughts and prayers are also with the families of the victims — both known and yet to be determined — of John Wayne Gacy.” When Cook County sheriff’s detectives spoke with Szal in Beaverton, he claimed his abrupt departure from Chicago was due to his failing marriage and a misunderstanding with his family. Szal asked a detective to relay a message to his father: he was still fishing, just as his father taught him. Family members said they planned a reunion with Szal.

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