Julie Ann Hanson murder solved after almost 50 years

June 22, 2021

Julie Ann Hanson murder solved after almost 50 years

Julie Ann Hanson was just 15 years old when she went missing from Naperville, Illinois July 7, 1972. She was a member of the school band, taught at Sunday school and sang in the school choir. One summer evening after school, the Naperville North High student borrowed her brother's bicycle to ride to a baseball game.

She would never return.

When Julie failed to come home, she was reported missing to the police. Officers and local volunteers searched the local and surrounding area and soon discovered her discarded bicycle near 87th Street and Knoch Knolls Road.

The following day Julie's body was found in a cornfield just off Modaff Road and 87th street. She had been kidnapped, raped and murdered and had around 36 wounds from a sharp implement puncturing her body.

Despite their best efforts, police were unable to identify a suspect and make an arrest in the case. Convicted killer, Major Morris, was a suspect in the murder, however there was no evidence connecting him to the scene. Morris murdered 16-year-old Roberta "Bobbie" Jean Anderson in September 1973. Bobbie had been heartlessly dumped on disused farmland less than a mile from her home and was found with 60 stab wounds to her body. In December of 1996, Major Morris was being considered a suspect in the murder of Julie Ann Hanson. The murders both occurred in the early seventies and both victims were teenage girls who had been raped, stabbed dozens of times and dumped in rural areas. Morris was a teenager working as a trash collector at the time of the murder and suspiciously moved just days after Anderson’s body was found.

Major Morris lived as a free man for 23 years before he was finally arrested for the murder of Bobbie Anderson in 1992 after investigators obtained a blood sample connecting him to the victim. Morris eventually admitted to the rape and murder in a recorded confession to police. His wife, friends and family were completely shocked at the news of Morris’ involvement. When asked to describe him they said he was a gentleman and police revealed that he had no criminal history. Morris was never charged with Julie Hanson’s murder. In September 1978 Margaret Stirn went missing after attempting to hitchhike home after work. Morris was later charged with Stirn's murder to which he later confessed. The bodies of both his victims were found nearby the location Hanson's body was discovered in 1972. But Morris was not Julie Ann Hanson's killer.

American serial killer and rapist, Bruce Everitt Lindahl, was ruled out as a suspect in 2020. Lindahl murdered a 16-year-old girl in Du Page County in 1976 and had been a suspect in a dozen other rapes and murders committed in the seventies and eighties.  The killer died in April of 1981 when he accidentally stabbed himself in the thigh while stabbing a teenage boy to death in his apartment. Lindahl’s injury was fatal, and he quickly bled to death. Bruce Everitt Lindahl was active at the time of Julie Ann Hanson’s murder and had a similar modus operandi to her killer; he raped his victims and stabbed them to death multiple times, and he also resided in Illinois. His DNA was tested against that found at the Hanson crime scene in 2020 and was not a match, subsequently ruling him out as the killer.

“The last 49 years, we’ve chased many leads, identified many suspects and all were eliminated through the exhaustive investigation of our detectives” said Naperville police Chief, Robert Marshall, in a statement about the case last week. 

Recently, a suspect has been identified and charged with the rape and murder of Julie Hanson in 1972. Barry Lee Whelpley, now 76 years old, was arrested two weeks ago in Mounds View, Minnesota. At the time of Hanson's murder, he was in his late twenties and lived less than a mile from the victim’s family home. Genetic genealogy was the key to solving the case.

 

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Whelpley had been working as a welder before he retired to see out his days in Minnesota. He was arrested for Hanson's murder and held in Ramsey County Jail on a $10 million bond. He is expected to be extradited to Illinois where he will stand trial for the 1972 rape and murder of the Naperville teen.

Julie Ann Hanson’s murder was never considered a cold case. Although cold case detectives had little to go on, they never filed the case away and continued to work on it for almost 50 years. Over time advances in DNA technology brought investigators closer and closer to the culprit. A genetic profile of the killer was developed from a small amount of DNA he left behind at the crime scene. The profile was then entered into commercial genetic genealogy databases where one of Whepley’s relatives had submitted a DNA sample of their own. Detectives built up a family tree that eventually led them to Barry Lee Whelpley.

Julie Hanson’s' family said in a statement: “As you might assume, it has been a long journey for our family. We are forever grateful for all those who have worked on this case throughout the many years.”

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