Bond set at $500K for Illinois man jailed in Wisconsin in 1997 slaying of teen runaway

CREATED Apr 9, 2014

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RACINE, Wis. (AP) -- Bond was set at $500,000 Wednesday for an Illinois man charged in the cold case killing of a teenage runaway whose body was found in a southeastern Wisconsin marsh in 1997.


James P. Eaton, of Palatine, Ill., is accused of killing Amber Creek, also of Palatine, more than 17 years ago. She was beaten, sexually assaulted and left in a wildlife preserve in the Town of Burlington.

Eaton, 36, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse. He sat motionless during his first court appearance, The Journal Times reported.

"This case is chilling," Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete said during the hearing.

"(It's a) sad, savage, brutal attack. We have an innocent, 14-year-old victim here," Chiapete said in asking that Eaton's bond be set at $1 million. "She was dumped like she was garbage."

Assistant State Public Defender Katie Gutowski said Eaton works as a manager in the operations unit of an Illinois bank. She asked for "a reasonable bond."

A court commissioner set bond at $500,000 and ordered Eaton not to have any contact with Creek's family, who were not in the courtroom.

Both Chiapete and Gutowski declined to comment after the hearing.

Eaton's preliminary hearing is April 16. He remains in the Racine County Jail.

Authorities used DNA from a cigarette Eaton tossed away at a Chicago-area train station to connect him to the slaying.

Investigators recovered DNA from Creek's body and fingerprints from the bag used to suffocate her. The evidence was sent to the FBI and crime labs in every other state, but there were no matches.

Then on Feb. 28, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation informed the Wisconsin Department of Justice that the fingerprint evidence matched the prints of Eaton, who had been convicted in Illinois in 2000 for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Once the Wisconsin Crime Laboratory confirmed the fingerprint match, Racine County deputies launched an in-depth investigation. After tailing Eaton for several days, they obtained the cigarette he discarded. DNA from the cigarette matched the sample recovered from Creek's body, Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling said Tuesday.