Defense seeks to suppress statements in Amber Creek case

Attorneys say Palatine man accused of murder was coerced

Updated 1/29/2015 5:28 AM
  • James P. Eaton with defense attorney Katie Gutowski in a court appearance in April 2014.

    James P. Eaton with defense attorney Katie Gutowski in a court appearance in April 2014. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • James P. Eaton

    James P. Eaton

The Palatine man accused of killing a 14-year-old girl in 1997 was coerced by investigators and denied the opportunity to speak to legal counsel, his defense attorneys alleged in a motion filed this week.

James P. Eaton, 36, is charged with first degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse in connection with the murder of Amber Creek, a one-time Palatine resident who disappeared in January 1997 after leaving a Chicago juvenile home where she had been living.

Eaton was arrested and interviewed by Racine County investigators at the Rolling Meadows Police Department April 5-6, 2014.

Eaton's attorneys, Katie Gutowski and Margaret Johnson of the Racine County public defender's office, allege that whatever Eaton told investigators over those two days should not be used against him because his repeated request to speak to legal counsel was denied.

The defense attorneys could not be reached by phone Wednesday afternoon.

According to the motion, Eaton told investigators, "I really think you guys need to get me a lawyer 'cause this is getting crazy."

Eaton's defense team contend that this statement and another like it are unequivocal and unambiguous requests for counsel. They say by continuing to ask Eaton questions the investigators violated his rights.

A Racine County judge is expected to rule on the motion Feb. 27.

The motion provides a glimpse of what went on in the interview room but does not say exactly which statements, if any, the defense wants to suppress.

According to the documents, investigators showed Eaton pictures of Amber's body and "confronted Mr. Eaton with the evidence against him."

The documents state that just before noon on the second day of questioning, Eaton, who had been in the interview room for around four hours, became visibly shaken, began taking deep breaths and started rubbing his hands on his face.

One of the investigators became concerned that Eaton was going to pass out or throw up, according to the documents.

His attorneys claim that Eaton was not in a sound emotional condition during the interview.

The prosecution could not be reached by phone Wednesday afternoon to answer what impact it could have on their case against Eaton if the judge grants the motion.

The prosecution has said it has DNA evidence against Eaton. Amber had been sexually assaulted and suffocated, and a plastic garbage bag was left over her head, according to court documents.

After years without an arrest, authorities say they broke the case earlier this year after fingerprints found on the garbage bag matched Eaton's, and his DNA later matched saliva and semen samples taken from the crime scene.

And the crime scene evidence is just a portion of the voluminous materials gathered by Racine County investigators in the 18 years since Amber's body was found.

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