DNA ties suspect to ’97 killing of 14-year-old, police say

Written By BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter Posted: 04/09/2014, 02:25am
Array Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete, right, listens as Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling talks about the arrest of James P. Eaton, 36, of Palatine, Ill., for the 1997 homicide of Amber Gail Creek, 14, during a press conference Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at the Racine County Sheriff's Substation in Ives Grove, Wis. (AP Photo/The Journal Times, Gregory Shaver)

RACINE, Wis. — With a Palatine man’s flick of a cigarette, Wisconsin police say they’ve solved the 17-year-old murder of teenage runaway Amber Creek.

Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling announced Tuesday that James P. Eaton, 36, of Palatine, was arrested Saturday in Chicago. He’s been accused of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse and was being held Tuesday in Racine on $1 million bail.

Creek, a 14-year-old from Palatine, was found in a Racine County marsh in 1997. She’d been beaten, sexually assaulted and suffocated with a plastic bag.

The sheriff said DNA recovered from her body matched DNA from a cigarette Eaton recently discarded at a Chicago-area train station.

Meanwhile, court records show Eaton married in Cook County on Feb. 7, 2009 — nearly 12 years to the day after Creek’s body was found Feb. 9, 1997. He and his wife officially divorced in the summer of 2012. His ex-wife declined to comment when reached Tuesday by the Sun-Times.

Records show Eaton and his ex-wife worked in the banking industry at the time of the divorce. Among the property remaining with Eaton after the divorce was his share of the couple’s camping equipment and their remaining Chicago Cubs season tickets, records show.

All the while police have been hunting for Creek’s killer, taking DNA samples from several men. The case was even profiled on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted.”

Creek became a ward of the state in December, 1996 when her father, Robert Creek, took her to the Palatine police station, saying he was putting her out of his home and refusing to take her back.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services placed Creek at the Columbus-Maryville Center in Chicago, where she continually ran away, often returning to the Palatine area.

Creek ran away from the center for the ninth and final time on Jan. 23, 1997. She was seen at a teenage drinking party Feb. 2 at a Rolling Meadows Motel 6.

Contributing: Associated Press

Email: jseidel@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SeidelContent

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