$500,000 Bond Set for Palatine Man Accused of Brutal 1997 Murder of Local Girl, 14

James Paul Eaton, a Fremd High School graduate, remains in custody in Racine County, Wis.

Credit: NBC Chicago Video
Credit: NBC Chicago Video
A Wisconsin judge ordered a $500,000 cash bond Wednesday for a 36-year-old Palatine man — who is a Fremd High School grad — accused of the 1997 murder of Amber Gail Creek, a 14-year-old Palatine girl, according to the Daily Herald. 

James Paul Eaton — who is a manager of operations at The Private Bank and worked at the bank's headquarters in Chicago — remains in custody in a Racine County, Wis., jail and is charged with first-degree premeditated murder and hiding a corpse, according to the article.  

Two men found Creek's body in the Karcher Wildlife Refuge northeast of Lake Geneva in February 1997. It took police almost 16 months to identify Creek, who police said was a habitual runaway, through dental records and a missing child database, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

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. Police said she had been beaten and sexually assaulted, according to the Racine County Journal Times. 

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. 

An Oklahoma woman is credited in helping to crack the nearly 17-year case. 

Stacy Hirschman, who is an employee with the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations, last week was going through the case and was able to match a fingerprint "from  plastic bound around Creek’s face" to Eaton, according to KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. 

She called investigators in Racine County who were shocked to hear the news, according to the article. 

From there, Wisconsin police 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. Eaton was arrested on Saturday. Until the database match, police had never considered Eaton as a suspect in the case. 

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. 


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