Minnesota man charged in 1972 murder of 15-year-old Naperville girl
Nearly 49 years after Julie Ann Hanson was found stabbed to death in a cornfield, a Minnesota man has been charged with murdering the 15-year-old Naperville girl.
Barry Lee Whelpley, 76, of Mounds View, has been charged by the Will County state's attorney's office with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with Julie's death and is being held on $10 million bail in a Minnesota county jail pending extradition to Illinois, authorities said at a Friday news conference. Whelpley was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his home.
Whelpley, who was 27 at the time of Julie's murder, used to live on the 600 block of Wehrli Road in Naperville, within a mile of the Hanson residence, authorities said.
"This horrific crime has haunted this family, this community and this department for 49 years," Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said in a statement. "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."
Julie was a high school student when she disappeared on July 7, 1972. She was seen that night riding a bicycle to her brother's baseball game, according to previous news reports.
The next afternoon, her older sister reported that Julie was missing; the Hansons' parents were not home at the time of her disappearance. Julie's body was discovered later that day in a cornfield in Naperville near 87th Street and Modaff Road, a little more than two miles from her home.
She was abducted, raped and stabbed 36 times.
No suspect was immediately identified, and Naperville police detectives continued to investigate the murder over the last 49 years. Authorities said the breakthrough in the case came through technological advancements in DNA and genetic genealogy analysis. They declined to provide specifics, including what databases were used. They used the services of Identifinders International LLC, a California firm that specializes in forensic genetic genealogy investigations.
Not much was said about Whelpley at the news conference, other than he worked as a welder. According to DuPage County court records, Whelpley was married in 1965 and worked for an Aurora company. The couple had two daughters. That wife divorced him in 1975, citing adultery.
He remarried, but that wife divorced him in 1982. Minnesota court records indicate he was divorced from another woman in 1999.
Marshall and Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow declined to answer whether Whelpley knew the Hanson family.
"This is a case we don't want to screw up," Glasgow said, after the news conference, about why more information was not being released.
Marshall read a statement from Hanson's surviving family: "We are forever grateful to all those who have worked on this case throughout the years."
Anyone with information regarding the investigation is encouraged to call the Naperville Police Department at (630) 420-6665 and ask for the Investigations Division.