Wis. deputies make arrest in Ill. teen’s ’97 death

RACINE (AP) – Authorities in southeastern Wisconsin may have solved a cold-case mystery involving an Illinois teen whose battered body was found in a Racine County marsh 17 years ago.

Racine County deputies arrested a 36-year-old Illinois man Saturday in connection with Amber Creek’s death in 1997, Sheriff Christopher Schmaling told The Journal Times of Racine. He said he couldn’t be more proud of his investigative team.

Schmaling said authorities had “solid, clear and overwhelming evidence” that the man, whose name hasn’t been released, was responsible for the slaying. His deputies sifted through thousands of reports, and spent thousands of hours over the years trying to crack the case, he said.

“(Saturday) by far was the best moment for my investigative team as we informed Amber’s dad that we caught her killer,” Schmaling told the newspaper in an email. “It was an emotional exchange for everyone in the room.”

The sheriff said he plans to release more information, including details of the arrest and the suspect’s name, at a news conference Monday afternoon. He said the Creek family has asked the news media to respect its privacy.

Creek, a 14-year-old from Palatine, Ill., ran away from a state-run juvenile shelter in Chicago on Jan. 23, 1997. She then attended a party at a motel in Rolling Meadows, Ill., the week of her death. She was last seen leaving the party and getting into a luxury car that had a placard reading “mayor” and was driven by a white man in his 30s.

Two weeks later a pair of hunters found her corpse in a marsh in the Town of Burlington. She’d been beaten, sexually assaulted and suffocated with a plastic bag,

Her body was left posed with an upraised hand that had, “Hi” written on her palm. Investigators referred to her as Jane Doe for 16 months until they could determine her name.

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