2021 November 12 News Article – The Pantagraph – Watch now: Post-Conviction process in 1998 Bloomington murder case could be expedited

November 13, 2021 by Kade Heather


BLOOMINGTON — Barton McNeil’s quest for exoneration and a new trial for his 3-year-old daughter’s 1998 death could be fast-tracked to an evidentiary hearing which would include testimony about his petition for post-conviction relief filed on his behalf earlier this year.

McNeil, 62, is serving a 100-year prison sentence on murder charges in the June 15, 1998, suffocation death of his daughter, Christina McNeil, in Bloomington. McNeil was found guilty of the charges in a 1999 bench trial.

McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Koll said in a brief status hearing Friday that prosecutors have recently learned of appellate court guidance that could allow the case to skip second stage review and move directly to an evidentiary hearing.

Judge William Yoder scheduled a hearing for Dec. 10 to check the status of the state’s attorney’s decision on whether to move forward to an evidentiary hearing or to ask for second stage review.

Bart McNeil is hoping to prove his innocence in the 1998 murder of his daughter, Christina, by proving that his former girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, committed the crime. DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH

McNeil’s lawyers, Stephanie Kamel and John Hanlon, of the Illinois Innocence Project and the Exoneration Project, filed a 65-page petition for post-conviction relief in February based on new evidence that was not available at the time of his trial.

An evidentiary hearing would allow the court to hear new evidence and expert testimony.

This July 28, 2017, file photo shows Bart McNeil explaining in Menard Correctional Center his efforts to prove his innocence in the 1998 murder of his daughter, Christina, by advancing his theory that his former girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, committed the crime. DAVID PROEBER, PANTAGRAPH FILE PHOTO

The petition notes that “advances in the science of child abuse pediatrics confirm that there is no evidence whatsoever that Christina was sexually abused,” which prosecutors had alleged of McNeil during his trial, “and, therefore, the evidence presented to the trier of fact regarding McNeil’s alleged motive was entirely false.”

Court documents also said: “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.”

Nowlin, who now goes by the last name Wang, was convicted in 2012 of murdering her 70-year-old mother-in-law, Linda Tyda, by strangulation in September 2011.

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Hours before Christina McNeil’s death, McNeil and Nowlin got into a heated argument at a restaurant because McNeil was breaking the relationship off, he told The Pantagraph in a recent interview.

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

A window fan removed from his daughter’s bedroom window is one piece of evidence Bart McNeil suggests offers proof that an intruder entered and smothered his daughter, Christina. DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH

Prosecutors at the time, however, concentrated efforts on McNeil and suggested that he was the only person around at the time of his daughter’s death.

Prosecutors also said at the time that a spider web was found the next day – about 12 hours later – on the outside of the window, indicating there was no intruder.

Christina’s bike was parked in the front of the duplex at 1106 N. Evans St. in Bloomington where Bart McNeil was accused in the 1998 murder of his daughter.