In 1972, 15-year-old Julia Ann Hanson was found dead in an Illinois cornfield. The teen had been raped and stabbed at least 36 times.
Her family has been “haunted” by the unsolved crime ever since, but finally, after a nearly 50-year wait, authorities say they are bringing her killer to justice.
On Friday, 76-year-old Barry Lee Whelpley was arrested in connection with the July 1972 slaying, Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said in a joint press conference. Whelpley, who was taken into custody in Minnesota and is awaiting extradition to Illinois, will be charged with three counts of first-degree murder. His bond has been set at $10 million.
“Our department never in five decades gave up looking for Julie’s killer,” Marshall said, adding that investigators used DNA evidence and genealogy to link Whelpley to the crime.
Authorities said Hanson was last seen on July 7, 1972, while riding her bike to her 12-year-old brother’s baseball game while her parents were out of town. At the time, Whelpley was a 27-year-old Naperville resident who was working as a welder.
While Hanson never made it to her brother’s game, her 18-year-old sister did not report her missing until the next afternoon. Hours later, her bicycle was found in a ditch along 87th Street—and her body was found about 100 feet away in a cornfield. Authorities said Hanson had been sexually assaulted before she was fatally stabbed at least 36 times.
Investigators said the case quickly went cold and no suspects were ever identified in the case. Last year, officials announced that in an effort to solve the case, they checked the DNA found at Hanson’s crime scene against the DNA of suspected serial killer Bruce Lindahl, who died while committing another fatal stabbing in 1981. Police later said Lindahl, who is accused of a similar stabbing, was not a positive match.
On Friday, authorities did not go into detail into what evidence pointed authorities to Whelpley, only that “technological advancements in DNA and genetic genealogy analysis” pointed to him being Hanson’s killer.
“This horrific crime has haunted this family, this community and this department for 49 years,” Marshall said. “The investigation and resulting charges were truly a team effort that spanned decades, and I could not be more proud of the determination and resourcefulness of our investigators, both past and present, who never gave up on Julie.”