Cold Case Murder Solved after 50 Years

Julie Ann Hanson, 15, borrowed her brother's bicycle in July 1972 and rode off to watch a baseball game. She was never seen alive again. Now, nearly 50 years later, police have made an arrest.

On July 7, 1972, a 15-year-old Hanson from Naperville, Illinois, a sleepy suburb about forty miles outside of Chicago, was into baseball and riding bikes. On that day, she borrowed her brother's bicycle and rode off to watch a local baseball game. She never returned home. Julie was reported missing the next day.

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Her body was found in a cornfield near her home. She had been brutally stabbed and dumped. With few leads, the case remained open, year after year, decade after decade.

It wasn't until recently that Naperville, Illinois police announced they had made an arrest in the case which haunted the Chicago suburb for forty-nine years.

Barry Lee Whelpley, 76, a retired welder from neighboring Minnesota had been linked to the case through forensic sciences. Whelpley, who would have been 27 at the time of the murder lived within a mile radius of the victim.

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"This was never a cold case for our police department," Robert Marshall, the Naperville police chief, said during a news conference on Friday. "We were all conscious of Julie's murder, looking for the killer," The Washington Post reported.

Hanson was last of three unsolved murders of young girls in the Naperville are during the 1970s. Initially, detectives believed one person had been responsible for all the murders. Even, without advanced sciences, a single killer theory never held.

The case, which Chief Marshall said was always active, took on renewed urgency as multiple genealogy and forensic laboratories assisted the police in hopes of finding a match in the vast network of genealogy databases which use advanced forensic sciences, DNA, to match against linage, in order to narrow the field of suspects by vertical DNA association.

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The advancement of forensic sciences has exploded over the last two decades, both scientifically and in popularity. The use of genealogy databases has assisted in solving more than forty other cold cases murder and rapes including the most high-profile Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, who terrorized, raped and murdered men and women in the 1970s throughout the state of California.

The specifics of the evidence which led investigators to Whelpley have not been revealed so to not jeopardize the case.

Whelpley has been arrested and charged with three counts of murder and is currently awaiting extradition. He is being held on a $10million dollar bond.

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