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Arrest made in 1972 killing of 15-year-old Illinois girl thanks to genetic genealogy


(NAPERVILLE, Ill.) — Nearly 50 years after a 15-year-old girl was stabbed to death in suburban Chicago, genetic genealogy has led to an arrest in the case.

Barry Lee Whelpley, 76, was arrested on Wednesday for the July 1972 murder of 15-year-old Julie Ann Hanson in Naperville, Illinois, the Naperville Police Department said.

Hanson was reported missing after she borrowed her brother’s bike to go to a baseball game and never returned home, police said.

Hanson’s body, stabbed multiple times, was found in a Naperville field, police said.

No suspect was identified and the case went unsolved for decades.

“This brutal crime haunted our community,” Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said at a news conference Friday.

Marshall added, “This was never a cold case … we continually investigated.”

“We have chased many leads, identified many suspects, and all were eliminated through the exhaustive investigation,” he said.

Marshall said it was genetic genealogy that finally led to this week’s arrest.

Through genetic genealogy, an unknown suspect’s DNA left at a crime scene can be identified through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to a genealogy database. This allows police to create a much larger family tree than if they were limited to using law enforcement databases like CODIS. Genetic genealogy first came to light as an investigative tool in 2018 when the “Golden State Killer” was arrested through the technique; over 100 suspects have been identified since.

Marshall did not elaborate on any DNA left at the Hanson crime scene or whether family members led them to Whelpley.

Whelpley, who was 27 at the time of the crime, lived within one mile of the Hansons’ home, police said.

Whelpley, a retired welder, currently lives in Minnesota, where he was taken into custody on three counts of first-degree murder, police said. There are “three different theories of murder … for a jury to consider,” Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said at the news conference.

Whelpley is due in court Friday for an extradition hearing, Glasgow said.

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