A Minnesota man was arrested Wednesday in alleged connection to the cold case murder of a 15-year-old Chicago-area girl found stabbed to death in a field nearly five decades ago thanks to genetic genealogy, authorities said.
Barry Lee Whelpley, 76, of Mounds View, was charged by the Will County State Attorney’s Office with murder in the death of Julie Ann Hanson, the Naperville Police Department in Illinois said. At a Friday court hearing, he waived extradition and is expected to return to the state within a few days.
The retired welder was 27 at the time of the alleged killing and lived within a mile of Hanson’s home, police said.
“Over the past 49 years, the police department chased many leads, identified many suspects and all were eliminated,” Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said Friday.
Hanson was reported missing on July 8, 1972 after last being seen riding her brother’s bicycle away from her home to go to a baseball game. Her body was discovered the following day in a field in Naperville. She had been stabbed 36 times and sexually assaulted, investigators said at the time.
Marshall said authorities continued to investigate the case over the past five decades. It was common for everyone assigned to the department investigations unit to look into the case, he said.
Until houses were built in the remote area where the body was found, police would go there on the anniversary of her death in the hopes that her killer might show up, he said. They did the same thing for years at the girl’s gravesite, in the hopes that the killer might “start feeling remorse” and show up, Marshall said.
Detectives made inroads through technological advancements in DNA and genetic genealogy analysis, police said. Officials declined to get into specifics of the testing or what scientific evidence was found.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said officers have stayed in touch with Hanson’s family over the years.
“Finally, they’ve been able to give them what they’ve been hoping for all these years,” he said.
“As you might assume, it has been a long journey for our family,” the statement read. “We are forever grateful to all those who have worked on this case throughout the many years.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.