BLOOMINGTON – Two Bloomington detectives recently visited convicted murderer Barton McNeil in state prison, but there’s no new evidence that anyone else killed his daughter in 1998, police said Tuesday.
McNeil was convicted of smothering his 3-year-old daughter, Christina. He’s now serving a life sentence in prison but has long maintained that his then-estranged girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, broke into his Bloomington apartment and killed Christina while he slept. Investigators never believed that theory.
But Nowlin, now known as Misook Wang, was arrested last fall and charged with staging an elaborate plot to lure her 70-year-old mother-in-law, Wenlan “Linda” Tyda, into traveling to the Twin Cities, where she was strangled. Tyda’s body was later dumped in a forest preserve near her home in the Joliet area.
That connection was enough to prompt a second look at the 1998 case by police and the McLean County state’s attorney’s office. Detectives recently traveled to interview McNeil at Menard Correctional Center, police spokesman Dave White said.
“Mr. McNeil did not have any new information that would require additional follow up,” White said. “Mr. McNeil did offer one new theory, that it was Misook or her ex-husband (who) brought their daughter to (kill Christina). She would have been about 8 years old at the time.”
“The case was reviewed and we found the information supports the verdict in Barton McNeil’s case,” White added. “Detectives have spoken with Mr. McNeil and supporters. Following those discussions some follow-up interviews were conducted, but there are no new leads to pursue at this time.”
McLean County First Assistant State’s Attorney Jane Foster said she hasn’t been briefed yet on the prison visit. (Foster, a Republican candidate for McLean County state’s attorney, is on a four-week leave ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.)
“No new information has been given to me to review at this point, so I haven’t done any type of additional review from what I did a few months ago,” Foster said Tuesday. She’s said her initial review found nothing that ties Misook Wang to the 1998 murder.
McNeil said he’s looking for legal assistance to file a new appeal. WMBD 31 reported in February that the Downstate Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois at Springfield, was reviewing McNeil’s case and would potentially take it on.
McNeil’s cousin Chris Ross spoke with WJBC’s Beth Whisman about McNeil’s supporters and their efforts to appeal his conviction. They have started the websiteFreeBart.orgto try and gain public support for his case.