Posts Tagged ‘Willis Kern’


This is the 2nd episode of Scott Reeder’s Suspect Convictions Podcast detailing the 1998 Bloomington, IL murder case of 3-yr old Christina McNeil. Her father was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. He is fighting for his exoneration with the help of the IL Innocence Project.

Suspect Convictions Episode 2 (Click on this link)

  NOV 3, 2017

GLT is partnering with the true crime podcast Suspect Convictions to explore the 1998 murder of 3-year-old Bloomington girl Christina McNeil.

Her father was convicted of the crime but has long maintained his innocence, claiming that an ex-girlfriend was the real killer—the same woman later convicted in a separate murder. New episodes air Fridays on GLT’s Sound Ideas. You can also subscribe to the podcast.

A simple window screen and some spider webs may be the clues that exonerate a convicted murderer.

Christina McNeil, 3, who was found dead in her father’s apartment.

Christina McNeil’s lifeless body was found in her father Barton’s Bloomington apartment on June 16, 1998. Barton McNeil argued that cuts in the window screen were proof that someone broke in, killed Christina and snuck out. A judge convicted him anyway, and Barton is now in prison for the crime.

McNeil’s conviction is the focus of Season 2 of Suspect Convictions, a joint reporting project between GLT and investigative journalist Scott Reeder. McNeil maintains his innocence and claims his ex-girlfriend is the real killer. McLean County prosecutors say the right man is behind bars.

The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) has taken up McNeil’s case and is expected to file motions this fall in hopes of winning him a new trial. John Hanlon, IIP’s executive and legal director, said they’ll introduce new evidence that disproves the prosecution’s claim that Christina was sexually assaulted prior to her death, by showing that “artifacts” found on her body were not indicators of assault.

“This case is a priority for us for one reason, because we’re absolutely certain that Bart McNeil is innocent of this crime,” Hanlon said. “At the end of the day, a judge is going to be hard-pressed to say anything, but this was not a sexual assault situation.”

Episode 2 of Suspect Convictions, which debuted Nov. 3 on GLT, closely examines the window in the bedroom where 3-year-old Christina was killed.

McNeil told police the day of the murder he suspected his ex-girlfriend, Misook (Wang) Nowlin, snuck into his apartment and killed Christina. That theory has taken on new resonance after Nowlin was convicted in 2012 of killing her mother-in-law. Nowlin is currently serving a 55-year prison sentence. She could not be reached for comment.

Barton McNeil is serving his prison sentence at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois.
CREDIT ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Prosecutors claimed spider webs found on the window prove an intruder couldn’t have used that as an entrance, as that would’ve disrupted the webs. McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers’ office has reviewed the case and come to the same conclusion as his predecessor did: McNeil is guilty.

“As I read through it with an open mind and objectively, I became convinced that the conviction was correct,” said Mary Koll, an assistant state’s attorney in Chambers’ office. “I just think (the spider web) is one piece of the puzzle, and it’s one more thing that goes to the common-sense argument that what (McNeil is) suggesting happened here simply could not have.”

The existence of spider webs on the window when police investigated the crime scene doesn’t mean someone didn’t break in, said Todd Blackledge, a biology professor at the University of Akron who’s studied spider webs.

Certain spiders can spin webs relatively quickly, in as little as a half-hour, he said. Others take days.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity. I would not feel comfortable saying a spider web precludes the possibility that window screen was opened that night. I’d need more information,” Blackledge said.

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  9 HOURS AGO

WGLT, Bloomington-Normal’s public media, is partnering with the popular true crime podcast Suspect Convictions to explore the 1998 murder of a 3-year-old Bloomington girl, Christina McNeil.

Barton McNeil was convicted of killing his daughter, Christina, but has long maintained his innocence. He says his ex-girlfriend was the real killer—the same woman who 13 years later was convicted in a second McLean County murder. Now serving a life sentence in a southern Illinois prison, McNeil is pursuing exoneration with help from the Illinois Innocence Project.

Season 2 of Suspect Convictions will focus on the McNeil case. Each episode of Suspect Convictions will be broadcast during GLT’s Sound Ideas every Friday at noon and 6 p.m., starting Oct. 27. The podcast will also be available through popular apps like Apple iTunes and Stitcher. Every episode and additional materials will first be available at WGLT.org.

Each episode of Suspect Convictions will be broadcast during GLT’s Sound Ideas every Friday at noon and 6 p.m., starting Oct. 27.

Suspect Convictions producer Scott Reeder will partner with GLT News Director Emeritus Willis Kern on Season 2. The show’s successful first season, chronicling a 1990 Quad Cities murder, was a joint production with WVIK Quad Cities 90.3 FM.

“Scott’s partnership with fellow public radio station WVIK in the Quad Cities for the show’s first season was a great success,” said GLT general manager R.C. McBride. “WGLT is the perfect home for this kind of in-depth journalism. I know our audience will look forward to hearing and reading the work, and I hope this platform provides an opportunity for the GLT news team’s work to find a new audience.”

Reeder is a veteran freelance journalist based in Springfield.

“After 30 years in the news business, I’m honored to work with a journalist of the caliber of Willis Kern. He is a man of integrity and skill,” Reeder said. “Together we will explore intricacies of the murder of Christina McNeil and provide our listeners with differing perspectives on the evidence. We hope to honor the memory of this precious, little girl and help ensure justice is done.”

GLT’s Sound Ideas, the station’s flagship newsmagazine show, airs at noon and 6 p.m. every weekday. It also streams at WGLT.org and is available on the NPR One app.

Suspect Convictions’ first season is available at SuspectConvictions.