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The cold case murder of a 14-year-old runaway has been solved, according to local authorities in Wisconsin.
The partially nude body of Amber Gail Creek, of Palantine, Ill., was found in a wildlife refuge in 1997 with a taunting message written by the killer on her hand.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said Saturday that his deputies have taken a 36-year-old Illinois man into custody for the “senseless and brutal” crime, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Amber’s body was found on Feb. 9, 1997, near a stream in the Karcher Wildlife Area by two hunters. She was naked from the waist down.
She was suffocated with a black plastic bag, according to investigators who worked on the crime at the time, the Racine Journal Times reported Sunday.
She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and her body was left posed with an upraised hand that included a greeting, “HI,” written in ink on her palm, the newspaper said.
The killer also stuck a $5 price tag, from a Golden Books store in Schaumburg, Ill., to her arm.
“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 in an email to the Racine newspaper. “It was an emotional exchange for everyone in the room.”
The girl, who was also known as Aimee, ran away from a home for abused and neglected children in Chicago two weeks before her body was found.
A missing persons report on the Racine County sheriff’s website said Amber was last seen getting into a “vehicle with a white male driver” in the vicinity of the home.
It took investigators 16 months to determine her identity.
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.
Her case drew national attention at the time, including a profile on “America’s Most Wanted,” which aired Dec. 12, 1998.