James Eaton, 36, of Palatine charged in Amber Creek murder

April 8, 2014 (RACINE, Wis.)

James Eaton remains in the Racine County Jail on $1 million bond. He is facing charges of premeditated first degree murder and hiding a corpse. Authorities are asking anyone with information about the suspect now charged in the 1997 murder of a suburban teenager to come forward.

Eyewitness News Anchor Cheryl Burton talked to the victim's aunt Tuesday night. The family of Amber Creek says they are trying to process this new information following 17 years of what they called good and bad days.

Creek's final resting place is the Holy Cross Cemetery in Caledonia, Wisc. On Tuesday night, the family of Amber Creek says they have mixed emotions.

"Thank God they solved this case, we had given up hope," said Nora Mowers, Creek's aunt.

But investigators with the Racine County Sheriff's department never did. In February 1997, hunters discovered the body of 14-year-old Amber Creek in a wooded area near Racine. She was partially nude with a plastic bag over her head.

Investigators were unable to identify the remains for more than a year.They were finally we able to match the body to a missing 14-year-old girl. Her childhood friend says a day doesn't go by that she doesn't think about Amber.

"Very relieved, bittersweet. She didn't deserve to die like this, it was sickening," said a childhood friend.

Authorities had little evidence but advancements in technology helped investigators in Oklahoma recently find a fingerprint match found at the crime scene.

It belonged to 37-year-old Palatine resident James Eaton. On March 22, investigators managed to get a DNA sample that matched DNA found near the victim's body.

"For several days we had surveillance, he dropped a cigarette as he waited for the train in the Chicago area," said Christopher Schmaling, Racine County Sheriff.

On Tuesday night, Creek's relatives wanted to express gratitude for their dedication and commitment to this cold case.

"Thank you for never giving up, I am going to cry, this is very emotional," said Mowers.

Editor's Note: We have a correction from our story in our 6 p.m. newscast. We cited a report that James Eaton was a Mormon missionary and attended Harper College. That is a different James Eaton who also graduated from Fremd High School. He is not a suspect in this case.

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