2021 Feb 23 News Article – Bloomington dad serving 100 years in death of daughter seeks new trial (Pantagraph Newspaper)

BLOOMINGTON — Lawyers for the father of a 3-year-old Bloomington girl serving a 100-year sentence for suffocating her in 1998, have filed a petition asking for a new trial based on new evidence.

With the assistance of The Exoneration Project and the Illinois Innocence Project, Bart McNeil suggests new evidence, that had it been available at his trial, would have led to his acquittal. He was accused of strangling his daughter, Christina.

“First, advances in the science of forensic pathology demonstrate that, as a scientific matter, it is impossible to conclude that Christina’s cause of death was murder,” court documents indicate.

“Second, advances in the science of child abuse pediatrics confirm that there is no evidence whatsoever that Christina was sexually abused and, therefore, the evidence presented to the trier of fact regarding McNeil’s alleged motive was entirely false. Third, if Christina’s death was, in fact, a murder, the evidence indicates that McNeil’s ex-girlfriend, Misook Nowlin – who was convicted of a separate, hauntingly similar murder 13 years after McNeil’s conviction and whose hair and DNA have now been discovered at the scene of Christina’s death – is her killer.”

McNeil and Christina’s mother, Tita McNeil separated shortly after Christina’s birth and McNeil and Nowlin were in a dating relationship, but court documents indicate McNeil was breaking off the relationship.

On the night of June 15, 1998, McNeil and Nowlin met for dinner, and witnesses described the pair as having an argument.

McNeil picked up Christina later at his ex-wife’s home, got her a McDonald’s Happy Meal, and put her to bed.

The petition indicates that later that night, evidence suggests that someone entered Christina’s room through a window. A fan was knocked over but detectives concentrated their efforts on McNeil.

The police thought the death was a natural death, initially, court documents said, but later, determined that she had been smothered.

The possibility that Nowlin could be a suspect gained more attention after her conviction in the 2011 strangulation death of her mother-in-law, Linda Tyda, whose body was found in a shallow grave in a forest preserve near her home in the Joliet area.

In a newly-discovered affidavit, a neighbor said she saw Nowlin in the early morning house engage in “unusual” behavior that night, specifically going back and forth from her apartment to a storage closet in the hallway of their apartment building. The neighbor was not interviewed until several years after McNeil had been convicted.

Another witness says that in a fit of anger, Nowlin admitted to killing Christina McNeil, but again, several years after McNeil was convicted.

McNeil also asserts that he had ineffective counsel at his trial.

A date for a hearing on the motion has not been set.