You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

U.S.

  • Man wanted in Pennsylvania trooper ambush captured
    BLOOMING GROVE, Pa. — A survivalist accused of ambushing two state troopers, killing one and seriously wounding the other, was captured on Thursday by U.S.
  • Plane crashes at Kansas airport, at least 4 dead
    A small plane lost power after takeoff and crashed into a building while trying to return to a Kansas airport Thursday, killing at least four people, injuring at least five others and igniting a fire that sent up towering plumes of black smoke that
  • Halloween canceled as police continue manhunt
    There won't be any trick-or-treating in the northeastern Pennsylvania area where authorities continue searching for a suspect accused of killing a state trooper.
Advertisement
AP
In this photo provided by the Racine County, Wis., sheriff is James P. Eaton, 36, of Palatine, Ill.

Prints, discarded cigarette link suspect to girl's cold case slaying

AP
In this photo provided in 1998 by the Racine County sheriff is Amber Gail Creek on her 13th birthday.

RACINE, Wis. – Authorities tailed a man for several days and used DNA from a cigarette he tossed away at a train station to connect him to the cold-case slaying of a teenage runaway whose body was found in a marsh in 1997, a sheriff in southeastern Wisconsin said Tuesday.

James P. Eaton, 36, of Palatine, Ill., was arrested Saturday in Chicago after investigators conducting the surveillance were able to recover the partially used cigarette, Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling said.

Eaton has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse. He was being held in Racine County Jail on Tuesday on $1 million bail, and Schmaling didn't know whether Eaton has an attorney. No court date was scheduled for Tuesday,

"This is a day that we have been waiting more than 17 years to arrive," Schmaling said at a news conference.

Eaton is suspected in connection with the slaying of Amber Creek, a 14-year-old from Palatine, Ill. She had run away from a state-operated juvenile shelter in Chicago on Jan. 23, 1997. She was last seen leaving a motel party in Rolling Meadows, Ill., and getting into a luxury car that had a placard reading "mayor." The driver was described as a white man in his 30s.

Two weeks later, a pair of hunters found Creek's corpse in a marsh in the Town of Burlington. She'd been beaten, sexually assaulted and suffocated with a plastic bag, and she had a human bite mark on her neck.

Her body was left posed with an upraised hand that had the word "Hi" written on her palm. Investigators referred to her as Jane Doe for 16 months until they could determine her name.

Schmaling said there was no indication that Eaton, who would have been 19 at the time of her disappearance, and Creek knew each other.

"Eaton had not previously been a suspect or mentioned during the course of this investigation," he said.

Investigators recovered DNA from Creek's body and fingerprints from the bag used to suffocate her. The evidence was sent to the FBI and crime labs in every other state, but there were no matches.

Then on Feb. 28, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation informed the Wisconsin Department of Justice that the fingerprint evidence matched the prints of Eaton, who'd been convicted in Illinois in 2000 for possessing drug paraphernalia.

Once the Wisconsin Crime Laboratory confirmed the fingerprint match, Racine County deputies launched an in-depth investigation that involved the surveillance. After tailing Eaton for several days they obtained the cigarette that he discarded at a Chicago-area train station. DNA from the cigarette matched the sample recovered from Creek's body, Schmaling said.

The sheriff said the investigation is still going on. He called on people who might have knowledge of Eaton and his alleged involvement in the crime to "do the right thing for Amber and her family and come forward."

Advertisement