Man charged in 1972 Naperville murder case is dead

The Minnesota man charged in the 1972 killing of a Naperville teenager has died, his attorney said.

Barry Lee Whelpley, 79, was found unresponsive early Friday morning in his cell at the Will County jail in Joliet. He was transported to a Joliet hospital where he was pronounced deceased, said Will County Sheriff Deputy Chief Dan Jungles.

He was awaiting trial for the death of Julie Ann Hanson. Whelpley was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault and first-degree murder. He was arrested in 2021 after DNA evidence linked him to the case.

His attorney, Terry Ekl, said he received a call Friday morning about Whelpley’s death and that he notified Whelpley’s family. He said authorities do not suspect foul play or suicide. An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

“I was very surprised to get the phone call this morning,” Ekl said.

Whelpley has been held on $10 million bond at the jail since his arrest in 2021. Ekl said his client’s only complaints were that he did not like the food at the jail and that he did not get enough time to exercise.

Jungles said the Will Grundy Major Crimes Task Force would investigate Whelpley’s death, as the task force does with any in-custody deaths.

Whelpley appeared well during his last court appearance on Tuesday, when a judge ruled certain statements could be used at trial. Whelpley never confessed or admitted to Hanson’s death, according to Ekl.

Julie Ann Hanson

The 15-year-old Naperville girl disappeared on July 7, 1972, while riding her bicycle to her brother’s baseball game. Her body was discovered a day later in a field near 87th Street and Modaff Road. The coroner said she had been stabbed 36 times.

Whelpley, who was 27 at the time of the murder, used to live on the 600 block of Wehrli Road in Naperville, within a mile of the Hanson residence, authorities said. Whelpley was living in Mounds View, Minnesota at the time of his arrest.

His arrest came after a forensic genetic genealogy company working with the Naperville Police Department was able to match DNA collected from Hanson’s body to Whelpley, authorities said.

“This horrific crime has haunted this family, this community and this department for 49 years,” then Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said in a statement at the time of Whelpley’s arrest. “The investigation and resulting charges were truly a team effort that spanned decades, and I could not be more proud of the determination and resourcefulness of our investigators, both past and present, who never gave up on Julie.”

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