Amber Creek would be 31 if she was still alive. But she disappeared from the Chicago area at the age of 14 and was later found dead in Wisconsin. On Monday, her aunt had little information about the man police now have in custody. For Amber Creek's family, it's been a 17-year wait for answers.
"We are elated absolutely that someone has been caught in the crime," said Nora Mowers, Amber Creek's aunt. "I want to know about him. Did he kill other people? Is she the only victim? Are there more?"
The crime was simply brutal. Amber's body found nearly frozen in a wildlife refuge in Racine County, Wisconsin. A bookstore receipt found stuck to one of her hands, and the word "hi" scrawled on the back of the other. She'd been strangled, and was found with a bag pulled over her head.
"She did not deserve to die in this way. Nobody deserves to die in this way," said Mowers.
Fourteen-year-old Amber had last been seen at a motel party. Police in 1998 released a sketch of a man she was possibly spotted with who was driving a car with a placard that read "mayor."
"The suspect or the driver referred to this mayor placard as, 'This is what keeps me, keeps him, out of jail'," said Racine County Sheriff William McReynolds in 1998.
But year after year, the case remained open. Before her death, Amber had lived separately with her mother and father before becoming a ward of the state. She was described by police as a chronic runaway. Despite her troubles, her aunt says she was loved.
"She was my niece. The last time I saw her, she was going to prom with my daughter," said Mowers.
The case would lead to changes in the reporting of missing children. Illinois DCFS, which had custody of Amber, reportedly waited five weeks to tell police she was missing.
"Since the time that Amber went missing, there have been changes in the statutes that require immediate reporting to law enforcement," said Robert Lowery, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The suspect is in custody in Wisconsin but is reportedly an Illinois man. Authorities in Racine County have declined to offer more information, but a news conference is scheduled for Tuesday.
Eyewitness News was not able to get in touch with Amber's mother or father, but is told they're both aware of this possible break in the case.