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James Eaton

James Eaton of Palatine, Ill., makes his initial appearance in Racine County Circuit Court on April 9.

RACINE — With more than 4,000 pages of documents recently received in the slaying of an Illinois teenager, defense attorneys for the man accused of killing her said they still need a host of CDs and DVDs held by investigators.

More than 17 years ago, Amber Creek, 14, of Palatine, Illinois, was beaten, sexually assaulted and left in the Karcher Wildlife Area in the Town of Burlington. In February, James P. Eaton, 36, also of Palatine, was charged in the teen runaway’s death. He is accused of killing Amber and leaving her body in the wildlife area in the 31000 block of Karcher Road.

During a hearing on Friday, one of Eaton’s defense attorneys said they don’t have all of investigators’ evidence in the case: notably disks containing images and recordings from the investigation. Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete said he thought that Racine County sheriff’s investigators would have provided everything to Eaton’s attorneys by now.

He said he had Sheriff’s Office staff copy the entire file, which is “in excess of 4K pages.”

But Assistant State Public Defender Katie Gutowski said the investigator told Eaton’s other defense attorney, Assistant State Public Defender Margaret Johnson, that they wouldn’t need some of the CDs.

“She (Johnson) indicated that was sort of our call to determine what we need,” Gutowski told Circuit Court Judge Eugene

Gasiorkiewicz.

“It may be semantics,” Chiapete said of the investigator’s comment.

A disk made 13 years ago at the marsh, where Amber’s body was found, contains footage of that location, Chiapete explained. Investigators were “waiting to see if anybody came” to the site, and that recording spanned “several days,” he said.

But no one visited the marsh after Amber’s body was found. The investigator may have meant that Eaton’s attorneys didn’t need that entire recording, Chiapete said.

“It is not your province to tell (Eaton’s attorneys) what is (pertinent) to their investigation,” Gasiorkiewicz said.

He set Eaton’s next court date for Oct. 27.

Gutowski said there might be more than 20 CDs and DVDs in this homicide case.

Eaton remains in the Racine County Jail on $500,000 cash bond. He is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

What happened to Amber?

Amber was a ward of the state of Illinois when she ran away from a juvenile shelter there on Jan. 23, 1997, according to investigators. She last was seen alive on Feb. 1 or Feb. 2, 1997, when leaving a party with an unidentified man at a Rolling Meadows, Illinois, hotel.

Hunters found her body on Feb. 9, 1997, near the Racine County marsh. She was partially clothed and her underwear was rolled up in her pocket, according to Eaton’s criminal complaint. A plastic garbage bag was over her head, the word “hi” was written on her hand and a $5 Golden Books price tag, from Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois, was on her arm. It took more than a year for investigators to identify the girl as Amber.

She died from asphyxiation, choked and suffocated with the plastic bag, according to the complaint. A human bite mark was on the left side of her neck, Amber suffered blunt-force facial trauma and had “pattern cutting injuries” on her face, the complaint states.

Seventeen years then passed before investigators reported matching finger and thumb prints – found on the garbage bag over Amber’s head — to Eaton, according to the complaint and search warrants in the case.

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