Suspected killer Barry Lee Whelpley found dead in jail cell early Friday morning 

mugshot of Barry Lee Whelpley, charged in 1972 Naperville murder case
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Barry Lee Whelpey, the suspected killer in the 1972 murder of a Naperville teenager, has died. He was found unresponsive in his jail cell early Friday morning by Will County authorities and later declared dead at a Joliet hospital, officials said.

Whelpley arrested nearly 50 years after the death of Julie Ann Hanson

Whelpey was accused of killing 15-year-old Julie Ann Hanson of Naperville.  

His arrest came as the result of nearly 50 years of investigation into Julie Ann Hanson’s murder. She was last seen on July 7, 1972, riding her bicycle, on the way to her brother’s baseball game. Her body was discovered the next day in a field in Naperville near 87th Street and Modaff Road. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 36 times.

Naperville police announced in June 2021 that they had made a breakthrough in the case, thanks to DNA analysis, and announced Barry Lee Whelpley, then a Minnesota resident, as a suspect. At the time of Hanson’s murder, Whelpley had been living in Naperville in the 600 block of S. Wehrli Road, within a mile of the Hanson home.  

Whelpley was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault and first-degree murder.

Whelpley in court last week

Whelpley’s defense team had been back in court just last week. At that time, a Will County judge declared that statements made by Whelpley at a police station were admissible at trial, with the exception of any that made reference to an earlier conversation he had had with police while they were at his Minnesota home executing a search warrant. During that earlier discussion, Whelpley had not yet been read his Miranda rights.  

Whelpley maintained his innocence throughout his trial.

Authorities do not suspect foul play or suicide. An autopsy is scheduled for Sunday, as reported by the Daily Herald.