RACINE COUNTY — Racine County Sheriff’s Office deputies believe they have captured the man responsible for assaulting and killing Amber Creek, a 14-year-old Palatine, Ill., girl whose body was found in a Town of Burlington marsh in 1997.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling sent an email to the Journal Times on Saturday night stating that he was proud to report that his deputies had made an arrest in the 17-year-old murder on Saturday, taking a 36-year-old Illinois man into custody for the “senseless and brutal” crime.
Although he was unable to provide the man’s name, Schmaling wrote that “he had solid, clear and overwhelming evidence to prove (the suspect) is responsible for the death of” the runaway.
Known only as Jane Doe for 16 months after her body was discovered, Creek was suffocated with a plastic bag, according to investigators who worked on the crime at the time. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and her body was left posed with an upraised hand that included a greeting, “HI,” written on her palm, according to Journal Times archives.
Her body was found on Feb. 9, 1997, in the Karcher Wildlife Area by two men who were looking for future hunting sites.
“My investigators and I sifted through thousands of reports, and spent thousands of hours over the years trying to solve this senseless murder of a child. Today by far was the best moment for my investigative team as we informed Amber’s dad that we caught her killer,” Schmaling wrote. “It was an emotional exchange for everyone in the room.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my investigative team today. Their hard work and commitment is unmatched.”
Schmaling said details of the arrest, as well as the identity of the suspect, would be released at a press briefing at 1 p.m. Monday at the Racine Sheriff’s Patrol Station.
He said that the Creek family has asked the news media to respect their privacy as they deal with this new development.