Murder of Amber Creek

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Amber Creek
Amber Creek.jpg
Creek in February 1996 (left) compared to an undated photograph changing her image after suffering from depression.
Born (1982-07-12)July 12, 1982
Park Ridge, Illinois, United States
Died January 31, 1997 (1997-02-01) (aged 14)
Burlington, Wisconsin, United States[1]
Cause of death Homicide by asphyxiation
Body discovered February 9, 1997
Resting place Holy Family Cemetery, Caledonia, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Occupation Student
Known for Murder victim

Amber Gail "Aimee" Creek[2][3] was a Palatine, Illinois girl who was murdered in 1997. Creek had run away from a youth shelter and was subsequently murdered and left in Burlington, Wisconsin, where she remained unidentified for approximately one year. It was not until April 2014 that police had arrested a suspect, James Eaton, who was native to the same town as the victim, Palatine, Illinois.[4][5] Eaton plead guilty to a reduced charge of reckless homicide in late 2016.[6]

Disappearance[edit]

Amber Creek, described as a frequent runaway and a ward of the state, ran away from a youth shelter for the sixth time in early 1997 after long periods of depression that had resulted in her using drugs and alcohol.[7][8][9] Creek's father had taken her to a local police station and requested that she would be removed from his custody. Subsequently, after unsuccessful attempts to enter the subject into foster care, she was placed in a group home from which she eventually ran away.[10] It is also believed that she later resorted to prostitution.[11] Although she did not disclose her location, she did regularly speak with family members by telephone.[3] She was last seen alive in February 1997, attending a hotel party with a group of men in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.[11]

Murder[edit]

Reconstruction of Creek, created to assist with her identification

On February 9, 1997, her body was discovered, frozen in a wildlife refuge, by hunters in Burlington, Racine County, Wisconsin.[12] It had been around two weeks after she had been reported missing.[2][13][14] She was believed to have been murdered at a different location, which has never been identified, and then disposed of at the refuge.[15]

A garbage bag was used to suffocate her, as it was found around her head.[16] She had also been physically abused and raped. Creek had been bitten on the neck and was beaten and slashed in the facial area.[17] The bite had caused compression to her neck, which played a role in her death.[12] The word "hi" was written on the girl's palm, which was raised in an upward position.[14][18] A price tag from a bookstore was observed to have been present on one of her arms.[19] She wore few clothes, as some were likely removed in the process of the assault, including her jacket and backpack containing personal items.[20] Her underwear was later discovered inside of her pants pocket.[12] A possible explanation to why some of her belongings were not found at the scene is that the murderer may have taken souvenirs.[21] Authorities surmise that Creek may have been murdered by someone that may have received prostitution services from her.[15]

Around one hundred Wisconsin inhabitants attended the then-unidentified victim's funeral where she was buried in a donated casket.[3][22][23] Initially, Creek was buried in a grave that read "Jane Doe" due to the fact that her identity was not yet known. Afterwards, she was later reburied and a new headstone was created that bore her name and lifespan.[10][24]

Investigation[edit]

Police reportedly spent thousands of hours comparing DNA, dental records and fingerprints to many different missing person cases. Consequently, it was not until June 26, 1998 when her body was positively identified, through DNA and dental comparison over a year after her death.[25][26][27] After viewing the television show, America's Most Wanted that aired in December 1998, which documented the case, Creek's father had notified police that he suspected that the body belonged to his daughter.[3][20][28] When Creek had first vanished, she was not reported missing for five weeks, as her history of running away had prevented investigation.[29] After the identification, laws in the state were changed to prevent an issue like this from happening again.[10][11]

Arrest of James Eaton[edit]

Comparison of a police sketch and mugshot of James Eaton

In October 2013, an Oklahoma crime lab began re-examining fingerprints taken from scenes of unsolved murders.[30] In February 2014, Creek's case was reopened; examiners in an Oklahoma crime lab were able to match a thumbprint on the garbage bag concealing the body to James Paul Eaton, a 36-year-old divorced man.[31][32][33] Eaton was nineteen at the time of the murder and lived in Palatine, Illinois, the same town as Creek.[13][20][34][35] One of the men seen with Amber in early February 1997 bore a strong resemblance to Eaton.[10][36] Eaton's fingerprints were not on record at the time of the murder, recorded only in 2000 after his arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia.[18][30][37] Investigators located the suspect in Chicago, and on March 22 collected discarded cigarette butts to match his DNA to that found at the crime scene.[38] Eaton was subsequently arrested in early April and is currently incarcerated in Racine, Wisconsin.[39] Authorities also looked though his computer, Facebook profile and phone, as well as searching his residence for possible souvenirs from the scene, as some of Amber's belongings had been suspected to have been taken by her killer.[15][40]

Police attempted to garner a confession from Eaton by showing him images of Creek when she was alive and also by showing pictures of her body after she was found.[36]

Creek's uncle, Anthony Mowers, has expressed that he believes that others may be involved in the murder, particularly in the transportation of Eaton and Amber to Wisconsin, claiming she may have believed she was being taken to her grandmother's residence that was located in the state at the time.[19] Police have also stated that they believe there are more who know details about the crime.[10] It has not yet been reported if the bite on the body matched Eaton's dental records, which has also led some to suspect that there have been more responsible for the victim's death.[37] However, it has been stated that his saliva was found at the scene but has not explicitly been reported to have been on the bite area.[21][41]

Trial[edit]

Eaton's original charges consisted of first-degree murder and concealing a body, which carried a sentence of life in prison.[41] He pleaded not guilty to both charges at his October 2014 arraignment.[19] The trial itself was scheduled to begin in November 2015.[36] His defense attorney has stated that they had not been given all of the evidence available in the case, despite strong indication that he played some role in Creek's death.[17][42] However, the final pretrial conference and trial were later delayed to May 31 and June 6, 2016, respectively, as the defense was attempting to locate an individual to examine the bite mark on Creek's neck as well as the DNA from the scene.[43][44]

A judge, convinced by Eaton's attorney, eventually ruled that information that was obtained through interrogation of Eaton after his arrest, including his reaction to Amber's photographs, could not be used in court, as police had continued to interrogate him after he requested getting a lawyer, which they did not acknowledge until his third request, on April 5, 2014. However, it was ruled that information obtained by police the next day could still be used.[36][45]

On October 25, 2016, Eaton plead no contest to a reduced charge of first-degree reckless homicide. Another unnamed man is also under investigation for suspected involvement in the murder.[6] Eaton was sentenced to 40 years with eligibility for parole after serving ten years.[46]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graham, Doug T. (16 April 2014). "Judge orders Eaton held over for trial in Amber Creek slaying". Paddock Publications. Daily Herold. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Amber Gail "Aimee" Creek". findagrave.com. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d (subscription required)Mask, Teresa (28 June 1998). "Girl's Uncle Questions Investigation of Her Murder". Paddock Publications. Daily Herald. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  4. ^ "Police make arrest in Amber Creek cold case". WGN News. 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "Report: Wis. police make arrest in 1997 slaying of Ill. teen". CBS News. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Graham, Doug T. (25 October 2016). "Suspect pleads, but questions remain about Palatine teen's killing". Daily Herald. 
  7. ^ (subscription required)Sotonoff, Jamie (10 April 2014). "Amber's Friend Says, 'I Remember Her Being Happy'". Paddock Publications. Daily Herald. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  8. ^ Goldstein, Sasha (8 April 2014). "Illinois man cuffed for 1997 rape, murder of runaway teen: police". New York Daily News. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  9. ^ Facchinei, Bianca (8 April 2014). "Illinois Man, James Eaton, Charged In 1997 Murder Of 14-Year-Old Girl". HNGN.COM. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Graham, Doug T. (8 April 2014). "DNA from cigarette, thumbprints from bag linked Palatine man to teen's 1997 murder". Daily Times. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c Ziezulewicz, Geoff (8 April 2014). "Police to release details about arrest in 1997 murder of Palatine girl, 14". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Loiaconi, Stephen (11 April 2014). "Discarded cigarettes lead to cold case arrest". HLN News. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Eisenbart, Jennifer (8 April 2014). "Illinois man, 36, charged in 1997 murder of Amber Creek". myracinecounty.com. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Police use DNA from a discarded cigarette to charge Illinois man with the grisly 1997 swamp murder of 14-year-old runaway Amber Creek, who was found with the word 'hi' written on her hand". Daily Mail. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c Zambo, Kristen (10 May 2014). "New details emerge -- Search warrants: Investigators were told ‘client’ might have killed Amber Creek". The Journal Times. Racine, Wisconsin. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  16. ^ Mask, Teresa (17 November 1998). "Wisconsin police hunt third suspect in murder of suburban teen". Paddock Publications. Daily Herald. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Zambo, Kristin (26 September 2014). "Evidence delay in runaway slaying". Journal Times. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  18. ^ a b Elgas, Rob (10 April 2014). "Decades-Old Fingerprint Doomed Murder Suspect". NBC. NBC Chicago. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  19. ^ a b c Zambo, Kristen (30 April 2014). "Not guilty pleas in Amber Creek killing". Journal Times. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  20. ^ a b c Pearce, Matt (9 April 2014). "Cigarette and fingerprint lead to an arrest in Wisconsin cold case". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Graham, Doug T. (14 May 2014). "New details emerge in Palatine teen murder investigation". Paddock Publications. Daily Herald. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  22. ^ (subscription required)"GRIEVING FOR `JANE DOE' CARRIES MESSAGE.". The Capitol Times. 9 September 1997. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  23. ^ Mandel, Ken (9 April 2014). "Amber Creek: James Eaton Arrested in Illinois Teen's 1997 Murder". Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  24. ^ (subscription required)"AGENCIES SPAR IN SLAIN GIRL CASE TIMING OF ILLINOIS DISAPPEARANCE REPORT FOR AMBER CREEK IN QUESTION.". Gale Group. The Wisconsin State Journal. 3 July 1998. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  25. ^ Mann, Dave (8 April 2014). "Remains identified as missing Palatine girl". Paddock Publications. Daily Herold. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  26. ^ "17 years later, suspect arrested in murder of Palatine teen". WGN News. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  27. ^ (subscription required) "MURDER VICTIM STILL GOES BY JANE DOE TEEN GIRL WAS FOUND IN RACINE COUNTY YEAR AGO.". The Wisconsin State Journal. 10 February 1998. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  28. ^ "America's Most Wanted: Season 12 Episode 6, December 12, 1998". tv.com. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  29. ^ Mask, Teresa (8 April 2014). "DCFS examined after Palatine girl found murdered". Paddock Publications. Daily Herald. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  30. ^ a b Keeshan, Charles (8 April 2014). "Oklahoma lab played crucial role in breaking case". Paddock Publications. Daily Herold. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  31. ^ Farrell, Paul (8 April 2014). "Police in Arrest James Eaton in Amber Creek Cold Case: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". heavy.com. wordpress.com. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  32. ^ Bland, Amanda (2014). "OSBI helps identify suspect in 1997 death of Illinois girl". Tulsa World. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  33. ^ Goodson, H. Nelson (8 April 2014). "Eaton Booked For 1997 Rape, Beating And Murder Of 14-year-old Amber Creek". Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  34. ^ Burke, Amy (8 April 2014). "Police make arrest in 1997 murder of Amber Creek". NBC. TMJ4. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  35. ^ Nelson, Shellie (8 April 2014). "Cigarette used to charge Illinois man for murder of Wisconsin teen". WQAD8. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  36. ^ a b c d Zambo, Kristin (18 June 2015). "Right to counsel violated during interrogation of defendant in Amber Creek case". The Journal Times. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  37. ^ a b Zambo, Kristen (9 April 2014). "$500,000 bond set for northern Illinois man accused of killing a 14-year-old girl in 1997". Journal Times. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  38. ^ Graham, Doug T. (14 September 2014). "Prosecutor: Attack on Palatine girl was 'savage, brutal'". Paddock Publications. Daily Herold. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  39. ^ Schaaf, Mark (8 April 2014). "Sheriff announces capture of suspect in 1997 killing". Journal Times. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  40. ^ Graham, Doug T. (16 September 2014). "Palatine man's defense still waiting on evidence in 1997 slaying". Paddock Publications. Daily Herold. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  41. ^ a b Graham, Doug T. (9 June 2015). "Trial set for Palatine man charged in girl's 1997 slaying". Daily Times. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  42. ^ Graham, Doug (10 June 2015). "Prosecutors get more time to prepare case against Palatine man". Daily Herald. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  43. ^ Graham, Doug (9 October 2015). "Trial date delayed for Palatine man charged in girl's 1997 slaying". Daily Herald. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  44. ^ Zambo, Kristen (9 October 2015). "Cold-case homicide trial delayed for bite mark expert". The Journal Times. Racine, Wisconsin. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  45. ^ Graham, Doug T. (29 January 2015). "Defense seeks to suppress statements in Amber Creek case". Daily Herald. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  46. ^ McCoppin, Robert (24 January 2017). "After killer sentenced in 1997 cold case, dad of Palatine girl talks of despair, justice". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 July 2017. 

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