2021 December 11 News Article – The Pantagraph & Quad City Times – Watch now: State moves to dismiss McNeil’s petition for relief


BLOOMINGTON – Prosecutors have until April 1 to file a motion to dismiss Barton M. McNeil’s petition for post-conviction relief from his 1999 murder conviction for his 3-year-old daughter’s death.

McNeil, now 62, is serving a 100-year prison sentence for his daughter Christina’s 1998 suffocation death, but he has claimed his innocence since. He has accused his ex-girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, of the murder which occurred June 15, 1998, on the same night McNeil broke off the relationship with Nowlin.

Christina McNeil pictured in November 1996.

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

Lawyers from the Illinois Innocence Project and the Exoneration Project filed a 65-page petition for post-conviction relief and a new trial for McNeil’s daughter’s death based on new DNA evidence and advances in scientific evidence.

McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Koll said in a court hearing Friday that she chose to file a motion to dismiss McNeil’s petition – which, if granted, would significantly curb McNeil’s renewed effort toward exoneration – instead of bypassing the step to an evidentiary hearing on the petition, which she raised as a possibility in McNeil’s last hearing in November.

Barton McNeil, 62, at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center in 2021. McNeil is serving a 100-year prison sentence on murder charges for the 1998 death of his 3-year-old daughter Christina. Lawyers from the Illinois Innocence Project and the Exoneration Project began representing him about seven years ago and filed a petition for post-conviction relief in February.

McNeil’s lawyers John Hanlon, Stephanie Kamel, Leanne Beyer, Lauren Myerscough-Mueller and Karl Leonard have until April 21 to respond to the state’s attorney’s motion to dismiss McNeil’s petition. Defense lawyers indicated Friday that they will file a response.

Judge William Yoder scheduled a half-day hearing for May 12 for arguments regarding the state’s attorney’s request to dismiss McNeil’s petition for relief.

McNeil is expected to be present at the May 12 hearing. He was not present at the hearing Friday or in November.

If the judge rules in McNeil’s favor following the May 12 arguments, an evidentiary hearing would be set. That hearing would focus on the details and new evidence laid out in McNeil’s petition. It also would include expert testimonies and cross-examinations.

McNeil, who has gained more hope and attention after the innocence projects picked up his case, and when his and Nowlin’s stories were told in an episode of the Oxygen Network’s “Snapped: Behind Bars,” said in a brief interview with The Pantagraph Friday morning that he’s “elated” about the continuous and increasing support.

“I think it’s just fantastic,” McNeil said from the Pinckneyville Correctional Center prior to Friday’s status hearing. “As long as my words are being heard, Christina now has a voice. And her voice has been unheard all these years, so more than anything, I’m glad that the truth is finally becoming known of who really stole my daughter’s life, and hopefully some larger-scale justice will come from this.”

Jeff Boyer is a close friend of McNeil after they worked together at a Bloomington restaurant. McNeil was a manager, while Boyer was working there during his time as a student at Illinois State University.

Boyer, who attended Friday’s hearing, said he lost connection with McNeil after his conviction, but that McNeil reached out to him a few years ago. They now write to each other every few months.

Jeff Boyer, left, is a close friend of Barton McNeil, right, after they worked together at a Bloomington restaurant. Here they are pictured in 1998. McNeil is serving a 100-year prison sentence on murder charges for his 3-year-old daughter Christina’s 1998 death, but he has claimed his innocence since.

“I believed in him at the time when I visited him at the jail when he was locked away,” Boyer said after Friday’s hearing. “Just my conversations and the time that I spent with Bart, it was watching movies, it was listening to music, it was talking about his daughter at the time.”

When asked about the time passing between status hearings, Boyer said, “It’s the process that we have to go through.”

“There’s been some momentum building up to this point and I think that’s the thing to keep in perspective here, is that getting justice for Christina and getting justice for Bart is going to take some time,” Boyer said. “Hopefully this man will be set free because there’s a lot of us here that knew Bart as a kind and loving person, so this man hasn’t even been able to mourn the loss of his daughter the right way, and so, it may just take some time.”

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