Murder suspect wants interrogation tossed out
BLOOMINGTON – A Bloomington woman wants a judge to toss out incriminating statements she made to police last fall before she was charged with murdering her mother-in-law.
Misook Wang, 46, was arrested in September for allegedly luring her mother-in-law, Wenlan Tyda, to Bloomington, then choking her to death and trying to hide the body in a forest preserve. Wang claims it was self-defense, but police say it was an elaborate plan.
In a new motion to suppress, Wang attorney Brian McEldowney asks a judge to suppress what his client told police during a 13-hour interrogation at BPD headquarters. It was during that interrogation that she gradually revealed her culpability in the death and concealment of the body. She also participated in a walk-through video recording at the alleged crime scene.
“In increasingly direct terms, she made five separate requests for an attorney,” McEldowney claims in the motion. Despite her poor English speaking skills, some of the requests were plainly said and could not reasonably have been misunderstood, McEldowney claimed.
“Well I want to get a lawyer really, I need a lawyer,” she said at one point during the interrogation, according to a transcript.
McEldowney also claims detectives repeatedly tried to get Wang to waive her right to counsel.
“The procedures followed by police in this case were obviously calculated to circumvent the defendant’s right to remain silent,” the motion reads.
A hearing is set for May 30 on the motion to suppress.
Meanwhile, Wang’s name has also surfaced in the 1998 Bloomington murder of Christina McNeil. The 3-year-old victim’s father, Barton McNeil, is serving a life sentence for killing his daughter, but he’s long claimed that it was his ex-girlfriend Wang, also known as Misook Nowlin, who really killed her.
The Illinois Innocence Project is now reviewing McNeil’s case. Authorities say they’ve double-checked Wang’s connection to both cases and determined there are no new leads to follow related to any connection.
Conceding it was a “unique situation,” McEldowney said earlier this month that he doesn’t “believe there’s any real connection” between the cases.
Ryan Denham can be reached at email@example.com.
Illinois Innocence Project takes 1998 murder case
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Innocence Project is taking on a 1998 Bloomington homicide, hoping to exonerate convicted murderer Barton McNeil and expecting to get some help from new DNA evidence testing.
The Illinois Innocence Project is “in with both feet, in terms of giving this a thorough, thorough review,” said IIP Legal Director John Hanlon, who recently visited McNeil in prison. A “professional” referred the case to the IIP, but Hanlon declined to say who or describe their occupation.
“This was not a cold letter from Mr. McNeil,” he told WJBC on Friday. “This was from another professional who believed firmly that Mr. McNeil is innocent of this crime and wanted our assistance.”
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.
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 traveled to interview McNeil at Menard Correctional Center but later announced there were no new leads to pursue.
Seeking more documents
WJBC’s news partners, WMBD 31, first reported in February that IIP was reviewing the case. The IIP team includes Hanlon, an outside investigator, numerous law-school students, undergraduate students and Project staffers, according to Hanlon.
“Getting to this case is a long process,” Hanlon said Friday. “There is a ton of paper, and there’s more that I know we’re gonna be seeking.”
The IIP has received around 1,000 case referrals in its history, and the pace of those referrals is only accelerating this year, Hanlon said. Part of what elevated the IIP’s interest in McNeil’s case is that it was referred by “another professional,” Hanlon said.
“What we’re finding is that, not always, but very often some of the best referrals that come to us come from other professionals,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon’s specialty is DNA cases. Ultimately, the goal in such cases is to file a new motion for DNA testing on certain evidence, Hanlon said. Generally speaking, DNA evidence exists in only about 10 percent of serious criminal felony cases, he said.
“But we think it exists here,” he said. (If DNA testing is not possible, another IIP lawyer specializing in investigations would then likely get the case, Hanlon said.)
The public defender’s office is aware of Wang’s connection to the McNeil case and requested an audio copy of McNeil’s interview with WJBC in October.
McNeil and Christina’s mother were divorced when she was killed. Police and prosecutors said during McNeil’s trial that no one else could have killed Christina because there were no signs of forced entry. A pathologist also testified there was evidence Christina had been sexually abused – a possible motive.
McNeil told police in 1998 that he believed Nowlin was responsible, according to court records, including a letter from McNeil to a Bloomington detective.
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.