James P. Eaton, 36, of Palatine, Ill., was being held in Racine County in Wisconsin on $1 million bail. He was charged with the first-degree murder of Amber Creek, 14, of Chicago and with illegally disposing of her body.
Amber's body was found in a wildlife refuge on Feb. 9, 1997, 17 days after she ran away from a juvenile residential facility in Chicago. But the body was not identified for more than a year, a delay that led to changes in the way missing child cases are handled.
The case remained a mystery until February when investigators in Oklahoma said they had found a match in a national database to fingerprints found on the black garbage bag that was wrapped around Amber's head. Detectives then trailed Eaton and picked up a discarded cigarette at a Chicago transit station that was used to test his DNA.
Investigators in Racine County asked for public help in getting more information.
"We believe there are people out there who have knowledge of Mr. Eaton and his involvement in this crime," Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said. "We ask those people to search their hearts, do the right thing for Amber and her family, and come forward."
Police Cmdr. Dave Daigle said that Eaton's only record in Palatine is a single speeding ticket. He said Eaton was also the victim of a car break-in.