RACINE, WI (WISN) – DNA from a cigarette leads to an arrest in a 1997 cold case. James Eaton was charged Tuesday in connection with the killing of a 14-year-old girl.
Eaton became a suspect when authorities found his fingerprints in a national database. They matched those found on the bag that was found around the victim’s head.
“Today is a fantastic day to make a wonderful announcement, to create some closure for the creek family,” said Sheriff Christopher Schmaling of the Racine Co. Sheriff’s office.
14-year-old Amber Creek’s body was found in a Town of Burlington marsh in 1997. Her identity remained a mystery for more than a yea. Her killer’s much longer.
The Illinois girl had been sexually assaulted and suffocated with a plastic bag, which turned out to be the key.
Fingerprints collected from it have been in a national database all this time, but there was no match until February, when new technology linked them to 36-year-old James Eaton of Palatine, Illinois.
Detectives staked out his home and vehicle, and when he tossed a cigarette they were able to match his DNA to that found on Amber’s body. He was arrested over the weekend.
“Well, we are proud that this day is here today, our sense of accomplishment is tempered by the pain and the loss that we know amber’s family is still going through each and every day,” said Sherriff Schmaling.
“We are elated, absolutely, that someone has been caught in this crime. We’ve been waiting 17 years,” said Nora Mowers, the victim’s aunt.
Mowers said they still don’t know if creek knew Eaton, who was 19 at the time.
“She didn’t deserve to die in this way. Nobody deserves to die in this way. I want to know about him. Did he kill other people? Is she the only victim? Are there more? I want to know about him. We want to know about him,” said Mowers.
The 36-year-old suspect is being held on a $1 million bail, awaiting his first court appearance.