1972 Will County Murder Case: 'I Feel We Should Win This Motion'

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JOLIET, IL —A prominent DuPage County criminal defense firm is hoping to stop the Naperville Police Department’s efforts to obtain a murder conviction in one of the nation’s oldest cold cases. Last June, Naperville police traveled to Minnesota to arrest Barry Lee Whelpley, now 77, in connection with the 1972 killing of 15-year-old Julie Ann Hanson.

Wednesday marked a 90-minute hearing before Will County Judge Dave Carlson in downtown Joliet. Defense lawyers Terry Ekland Tracy Stanker contend that the two Naperville police detectives violated their client’s rights during last summer’s questioning at his Minnesota home which lasted nine hours.

“I feel like we should win this motion,” Ekl told Joliet Patch afterward. “When the police executed the search warrant at Barry Whelpley’s house in Minnesota, they were in the house for about nine hours interrogating him, without having provided him with Miranda Warnings.”

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Hanson was last seen alive on July 7, 1972. Her body was discovered the next day in a Naperville cornfield near 87th Street and Modaff Road after the bicycle she had been riding was found on a nearby gravel road. Police say she had been stabbed numerous times.

Whelpley is represented by the Warrenville Road law firm of Ekl, Williams & Provenzale in Lisle.

Find out what’s happening in Naperville with free, real-time updates from Patch.

Ekl said there are two important legal issues here.

“Was he detained? Quite clearly, you can see from the video, he was,” Ekl remarked. “And was he interrogated? And the video shows clearly over that nine hours, there were about seven hours of actual interrogation.

“So they should have given him Miranda Warnings prior to any interrogation. So, we have filed a motion to suppress anything that he said in the house.”

Following Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Carlson informed everyone that he would render his decision at 11 a.m. on March 15. Five assistant Will County State’s Attorneys sat at the prosecution’s table in Courtroom 405 for Wednesday’s hearing.

Will County Judge Dave Carlson plans to issue his ruling on March 15. File/John Ferak/Patch

In Carlson’s courtroom, Naperville Police Detective John Reed was on the witness stand, fielding questions from co-defense counsel and from Assistant Will County State’s Attorney Tricia McKenna.

“The conversations with defendant in this case took place in the defendant’s own home,” McKenna argued in her written motion. “A suspect questioned in familiar surroundings does not face the same pressures as one questioned in a police dominated atmosphere. While lengthy overall, it is evident from the videos that they’re not adversarial.

“The officers were executing a validly issued search warrant; it would have been acceptable for them to forcibly enter the defendant’s home and handcuff the defendant.”

McKenna’s written response also informed Judge Carlson that “much of the conversations consist of an officer unfamiliar with this case discussing fishing and vacationing with the defendant … the defendant was permitted to choose where he sat, was allowed to keep his phone on him and communicate with others, was permitted to use the washroom when needed etc.”

In Minnesota, Reed and fellow Naperville Police Detective Mike Umbenhower were the “only two officers asking questions of the defendant,” McKenna’s response noted. “When his wife arrived home from work, she was immediately allowed contact with him, including physical contact. She was allowed to hug him, sit closely with him and speak to him.”

In Minnesota, Detective Reed told Whelpley that “he could be a hero” if he confessed to the 1972 Naperville killing. “Yes, I did believe he was the suspect responsible for this murder an

If defense attorney Ekl prevails, “the case is still there, it’s just anything he said in the house cannot be used as evidence, but they would still be able to prosecute the case,” Ekl told Patch.

Whelpley, who formerly lived within a mile of Hanson’s home in Naperville, is being held on $10 million bail.

Whelpley was booked into the Will County Jail on June 8, 2021, when he was 76 years old.

Whelpley’s arrest came through “genealogy and DNA evidence,” Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall announced last year.

Related Patch coverage: 48 Murder Defendants In Will County Await Trial

1972 Naperville Murder Defendant Enters Not Guilty Plea

Barry Whelpley faces first-degree murder charges in the July 7, 1972, slaying of Naperville teenager Julie Hanson. Mugshot via Will County

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