Oklahoma trainee’s tip leads to arrest of James Eaton

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RACINE (WITI) -- Racine authorities have a trainee in Oklahoma to thank for identifying a prime suspect in the Amber Creek murder.

Stacy Hirschman put Wisconsin investigators on the track of a man who is now charged with the murder of Creek.

"Yeah, because he was not a suspect at all. He was never on their radar. Ah so, until they got the phone call from me," said Hirschman.

James Eaton of Palatine, Illinois, who would have been 19 at the time of the murder in 1997, is being held on a $500,000 bond.

Hirschman is a criminalist with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) with the OSBI's Cold Case Project. Members in that project decided to re-run the fingerprint investigators got in 1997 from the plastic bag used to suffocate Creek.

"When I called Eric with the Wisconsin Department of Justice to check the status, to check to see if the case was still open. He essentially promised me dinner if I got a hit," said Hirschman.

There was a hit in the case. Then the ball started rolling for Wisconsin investigators. They found Eaton in Chicago and watched him for days.

"After several days of surveillance, investigators were able to recover a partially used cigarette discarded by Eaton as he waited for a train that was late in the metro Chicago area," said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling.

They matched Eaton's saliva to DNA on Creek's body.

But it all started back in Oklahoma with an inquisitive trainee.

During Tuesday's news conference announcing Eaton's arrest, Sheriff Schmaling gave credit to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for its role in the case.