Amber Creek: James Eaton Arrested in Illinois Teen's 1997 Murder

Image: Amber Creek: James Eaton Arrested in Illinois Teen's 1997 Murder James P. Eaton.

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 03:52 PM

By Ken Mandel

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Police have made an arrest in the 1997 murder of Amber Creek, a Palatine, Ill., teenager whose body was found in a marsh.

After following 36-year-old James Eaton for several days, investigators retrieved two discarded cigarettes from Eaton on March 22, The Journal Times reported.

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A crime lab matched Eaton's DNA with that of DNA found on Creek's body, paving the way for his arrest Saturday in the Chicago area.

Until recently, Eaton hadn't been a suspect, officials told the paper.

"Over the last 17 years, we have dedicated thousands of investigative hours to bring this tragic and senseless murder to some sort of resolution," Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said at a Tuesday news conference. "Today that day is here."

Eaton, who is being held on $1 million bail, faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

Creek's body was found Feb. 9, 1997, in the Karcher Wildlife Area and went unidentified for more than a year. The 14-year-old had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and suffocated with a plastic bag.

She was also posed with an upraised hand and the word "HI" written on her palm.

Schmaling said investigators lifted fingerprints from the plastic bag that covered Creek's head, as well as DNA found on her body, but an initial search didn't match anyone within the state's criminal justice system, or crime labs nationwide, according to Fox6 News.

Finally, on Feb. 28, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Latent Evidence Unit reported a "hit," accelerating a conclusion.

"Today by far was the best moment for my investigative team as we informed Amber's dad that we caught her killer," Schmaling wrote Saturday in an email to The Journal Times. "It was an emotional exchange for everyone in the room. I couldn't be more proud of my investigative team today. Their hard work and commitment is unmatched."

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