Decades-Old Fingerprint Doomed Murder Suspect

By Rob Elgas
|  Thursday, Apr 10, 2014  |  Updated 5:56 AM CDT
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An Oklahoma criminal specialist is breaking her silence about how investigators were able to crack the case of a girl who was murdered 17 years ago.  Rob Elgas reports.

An Oklahoma criminal specialist is breaking her silence about how investigators were able to crack the case of a girl who was murdered 17 years ago. Rob Elgas reports.

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Teen's Murder Solved 17 Years Later

Police arrest a suburban man for the 1997 murder and rape of Amber Creek. They say DNA from a cigarette helped catch the suspect. People who know him are stunned.
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An Oklahoma criminal specialist is breaking her silence about how investigators were able to crack the case of a girl who was murdered 17 years ago.

James Eaton of Palatine was arrested this week and accused of killing 14-year-old Amber Creek, and dumping her body in a wildlife area in Burlington, Wisconsin.

Eaton was arrested in Oklahoma in 2000, three years after Creek was killed. He was fingerprinted for the minor drug offense and released, and his prints sat unnoticed until Stacy Hirschman of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations decided to run the print through a modern database.

"I saw the print and just did my job and searched it, just wanting to ID that print," Hirschman said.

After receiving the tip from Oklahoma investigators that the fingerprint matched Eaton and a print from the Amber Creek murder scene, Racine County investigators followed the suspect to Chicago, and watched him smoke two cigarettes as he waited for a Metra train in the suburbs.

They seized the cigarettes and pulled the DNA and fingerprints, which alleged matched the prints found on a bag wrapped around Amber Creek's head, and possibly DNA from semen on her body.

Hirschman said Creek's aunt called her Wednesday morning to thank her.

Eaton remains jailed on a $500,000 bond.

"I'm just glad he's off the streets. Hopefully the family can have some peace," Hirschman said.

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