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  • Writer's pictureThe True Crime Edition

49 Year Old Murder Finally Solved: Julie Ann Hanson

Julie Ann Hanson was just 15 years old when she was killed while riding her brother’s bike.

Julie Ann Hanson via Naperville Police Department

The 1970s were a simpler time. Then, doors were left unlocked, people knew their neighbours, and latch-key kids were typical. Julie and her siblings were no different.

The teenager was desperate to attend the local baseball game in Naperville, so she borrowed her brother’s bicycle and left for the pitch. Julie never returned home from the sports game and was reported missing by her parents soon after.

Her body was found in a cornfield near Modaff Road and 87th Street, and the autopsy showed she’d been sexually assaulted and stabbed over 30 times.

Her death shocked the community, "She was very personable, a very sweet girl," said Hanson's neighbour, Peggy Thompson. "She was only a couple of years older than us, but she babysat some of the kids in the neighbourhood."

Despite a fresh crime scene, Julie’s murderer was never identified, but police kept working on her case, even decades after her death.

"This was never a cold case for our police department," said Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall in the press conference. "We were all conscious of Julie's murder looking for the killer and we had Julie's picture on our desks and investigations for all these years."

Police never gave up trying to find the teenager’s killer, and with advances in DNA technology, they were able to give her family some justice nearly 50 years later.

After genealogy analysis, Barry Lee Whelpley was linked to the sample left on Julie’s body by family genetics. The 76-year-old was arrested in Minnesota, where he now faces extradition back to Illinois to stand trial. He’s been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and is being held on a $10,000,000 bond.

"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," Said Marshall at the press conference.

Whelpley was just 27 years old when he sexually assaulted and murdered Julie. At the time of her death, he lived less than a mile from her family’s home on Wehrli Road.

Barry Lee Whelpley via Naperville Police Department

The former welder had two daughters of his own. His wife divorced him in the mid-70s for adultery. From there, he married another two times, with each resulting in separation and divorce.

"This horrific crime has haunted this family, this community and this department for 49 years," Marshall said at the press conference.


While justice will now be served to Julie’s killer, it’s come too late for her parents, who are now both deceased. However, Julie’s brother and sister were at the press conference and, along with Julie’s friends, appreciate how the investigation is now coming to a close.

"I personally am very thankful that they got someone. I'm just disappointed that he lived free for 50 years," neighbour Peggy Thompson said.

This case is still open, and anyone with information regarding Julie's murder is urged to contact the Naperville Police Department at (630) 420-6665 and ask for the Investigations Division.


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