New details emerge in Palatine teen murder investigation

Updated 5/14/2014 1:00 PM
  • Amber Creek

    Amber Creek

  • James P. Eaton

    James P. Eaton

Authorities investigating the 1997 murder of Palatine teenager Amber Creek last month seized a laptop, iPhone and Facebook data belonging to James Paul Eaton, the man now accused of killing her, according to search warrant documents obtained by the Daily Herald.

As Eaton, 36, of Palatine, was behind bars on charges he killed Amber, Racine County, Wisconsin authorities were obtaining warrants to search for evidence against him, including mementos of the crime they believe he might have kept.

The search warrants state that some of Amber's possessions were never recovered by investigators, including a forest green winter jacket and a dark green backpack.

"Sexual homicide offenders often take clothing, jewelry and other property ... from their victims," the search warrants state. "These items are used by the offender to relive and recapture the events leading up to and including the homicide, and are used by the offender to fuel his fantasies which are a major and very active part of his life."

Court records do not indicate whether any relevant information or evidence was recovered through the seizures, and authorities would not comment Tuesday.

Amber's body was discovered in a wildlife refuge in Burlington, Wisconsin, about two weeks after she ran away from a juvenile home in Chicago. She'd been sexually assaulted and suffocated and was left partially clothed with a plastic garbage bag over her head, according to court documents.

Authorities say Eaton's DNA matched saliva and semen samples taken from Amber's body, and his fingerprints were found on the garbage bag.

Investigators also searched for notes or records of the crime that Eaton might have kept, photographs he might have taken of Amber or newspaper clippings about the crime that he might have saved, warrant documents state.

Included in the search were Eaton's work space at the Chicago branch of the Private Bank & Trust Co., his iPhone and his Facebook profile information.

The search warrants also revealed information about the first few years of the 17-year investigation into 14-year-old Amber's death.

A Chicago police officer who said he knew Amber told Racine County investigators early on that was a known prostitute, according to the court documents.

In May 1999, investigators presented their evidence to a panel of FBI experts with the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Investigators consulted the panel to get their feedback on investigative strategy and an analysis of Amber's potential killer. The analysts said it was very likely that one of her clients had killed her.

Lt. Steve Sikora, the Racine County sheriff's public information officer, said Tuesday he would not comment on how investigators believe Eaton and Amber met.

Members of Amber's family could not be reached for comment.

Eaton is being held in the Racine County jail on $500,000 bond while awaiting trial on charges of first-degree homicide and hiding a corpse. He pleaded not guilty during a court appearance April 30.

His case is in the pretrial phase, and trial date has not been set.

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