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Palatine Man Charged in 1997 Murder of Palatine Girl, 14; Discarded Cigarette Leads to Arrest

Amber Gail Creek, 14, died of asphyxiation and her partially clothed and frozen body was found with a garbage bag over her head, according to media reports.

Credit: NBC Chicago Video
Credit: NBC Chicago Video
A 36-year-old Palatine man has been charged with the 1997 murder of Amber Gail Creek, 14, of Palatine, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

James P. Eaton has been charged with first-degree murder and hiding a corpse and is being held on a $1 million bond in Racine County, Wis., as authorities continue to investigate the case, according to the article. 

Authorities had announced the arrest of the suspect in the 17-year-old homicide case over the weekend and today announced the identify of the man they had taken into custody. 

The arrest came after fingerprints submitted to the FBI in 1997 were matched to Eaton in late February by Oklahoma authorities who were reviewing Amber's cold case, according to the Daily Herald. 

Prints were left on a bag around Amber's head and police recently followed Eaton for several days before picking up a cigarette he left at a local train station and used that to compare DNA evidence left at the crime scene, according to the ABC  7 Chicago. Until the database match, police had never considered Eaton as a suspect in the case. 

Police did not provide information Tuesday on how Creek and Eaton came together or what lead to her death, according to the Daily Herald. 

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said police are hoping those out there, who may have knowledge about the crime, will step forward to aid the investigation, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

Amber frequented the Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Chicago areas of Northern Illinois, according to the sheriff's office. 

Anyone who had any contact with Amber (Amy) Creek or knew any of her acquaintances are asked to contact the Racine County Sheriff's Office at 1-800-242-4202 or at at 262-886-2300. 

On Feb. 9, 1997, two men found Creek's body  in the Karcher Wildlife Refuge northeast of Lake Geneva and it took police almost 16 months after she was found to identify her through dental records and a missing child database, according to the Chicago Tribune. Creek, police said, was a habitual runaway, according to the article. 

She died of asphyxiation and her partially clothed and frozen body was found with a garbage bag over her head, according to the Chicago Tribune.

There was a $5 price tag on her arm, which police learned was from a bookstore in the Schaumburg area, and her body had been situated with her hand raised and the word "Hi" was written on the back of her hand, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Amber was last seen on Feb. 1 or 2, 1997, at a party in Rolling Meadows and was a ward of the state at the time of her disappearance after her father in December 1996 brought her to the Palatine Police Department "and told them he didn't want her living with him anymore," according to the Daily Herald. 

The Department of Child and Family Services took custody of Creek before she was placed in the Columbus-Maryville Center in Chicago, according to the article. She spent the first six years of her life living in Lake Zurich with her mother, according to the Daily Herald. 

Creek's aunt, Nora Mowers of Lake in the Hills, told the Daily Herald the arrest has not brought closure to Creek's family and said her sister (Creek's mother), hasn't stopped "crying long enough to talk to anyone," according to the Daily Herald. 

Robert Creek, Amber's father, told the Daily Herald Monday it was good to hear a new suspect had been found, and his stepmother, Carol Creek, said a conviction could bring "some closure." 

View the NBC Chicago video above. 

RALPH MALPH April 10, 2014 at 12:24 PM
How many people out there are looking over their shoulder , worried the FBI is tracking them about some DNA that they left years ago . Sooner or later it will be time to pay up for being a scum bag .

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