Bloomington, Illinois’ Barton McNeil is currently America’s worst ongoing wrongful conviction ever. Learn more about his personal fight to get justice for his daughter, Christina, and the legal battle being waged on his behalf to obtain his freedom by two innocence projects. When Barton was arrested he was 39 and after 24 years of wrongful incarceration, is now 62. One only has to listen to his early morning 911 phone call and subsequent phone calls later that day summoning police return to know of his supreme innocence. Click here to watch/listen.
On June 15th, 1998, a divorced father, Barton McNeil had custody of his daughter Christina for the night, per child care arrangements with this ex-wife, Tita McNeil. Tita worked the third shift at the local hospital. Proud to be such a large part of raising three-year old Christina McNeil, Bart routinely had custody of his daughter, sometimes four or five days a week.
Around 10:30 on this particular night, Bart put Christina to bed after her supper. Inexplicably, a few hours later, Bart found Christina awake in the bedroom smiling and talking. Not overly concerned with this behavior, Bart told Christina she needed to get some sleep and tucked her back into bed.
Bart awoke at 7:30 the next morning and followed his regular routine. After calling to Christina to get up and get dressed and receiving no response, Bart went into her room to check on her. Bart found his daughter lifeless in her bed. He immediately called 911 and attempted to perform CPR, but to no avail. Paramedics arrived and confirmed the worst: three-year old Christina was dead. It was later indicated by the coroner that she had been smothered to death.
Initially, Bart had no idea what could have caused his daughter’s death. But as he observed the state of Christina’s room, Bart began to notice something wasn’t right. The window fan that had been in the first floor bedroom’s window had fallen to the floor. There were two holes cut in the window screen right above the latches, which were unlatched. Bart started to believe that someone had intentionally removed the screen to gain access to his daughter’s room.
Two days after Christina’s death, the criminal investigation began to center around Barton McNeil with Barton charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with her death within 24-hours of her passing. As Barton awaited trial for the murder of his daughter, he and his attorneys began to piece together what had happened to Christina. The day before Christina’s death, Bart ended his increasing dysfunctional relationship with his girlfriend, Misook Nowlin. Christina was murdered less than twelve hours after Barton’s dramatic showdown with Misook in a public restaurant.
Among the items of evidence recovered from the scene were the window screen, Christina’s fitted bed sheet and pillowcase, and Christina’s clothing. The sheet was never tested for DNA profiles and Christina’s clothing were not tested. In 2014 the court allowed the fitted bedsheet and pillow case to be subjected to touch DNA analysis. The results known in 2016 showed Misook’s DNA located in no less than six quadrants of the victim’s bedding. A single hair strand was also located in the pillowcase and confirmed through DNA analysis to belong to Misook.
At trial, Bart was precluded from presenting evidence regarding Misook’s involvement in this offense. As no evidence at the time supported her having been inside Christina’s bedroom. In July of 1999, Barton McNeil was found guilty of first-degree murder of his three-year old daughter and sentenced to life in prison.
As Bart worked to prove his innocence through appeals, Misook Nowlin was making news. In September 2011, Mistook Nowlin made headlines for the murder of her mother-in-law, Wenlan Tyda. Tyda’s murder occurred shortly after Misook’s new husband asked for a divorce, under eerily similar circumstances. In December of 2012, Misook Nowlin was convicted of strangling Tyda and sentenced to 55 years in prison at Loganville State Prison she now resides at.
The realization that Misook is in fact capable of murder under extremely similar circumstances, coupled with the incomplete forensic evidence presented at Bart’s original trial, has prompted the Illinois Innocence Project and the University of Chicago Law School Exoneration Project to review Bart’s case and assist him in his pursuit of proving his innocence.
If writing Barton include his name in the subject header and direct your e-mail to: [email protected] He replies to all who take the time to write him as it keeps his head in the game. Besides devoting most of the last 24-years in prison trying to reverse his wrongful conviction and get justice for his daughter, Barton likes music, movies, and is an avid reader and stays up to speed with current world events.
Three in depth Special News Reports by local area media outlets Week-25 (NBC), WMBD (CBS) and HOI (ABC) aired in May 2022 on the cusp of a court hearing. Consider watching each that includes interviews of Barton himself.
WEEK-25 NBC News Piece “DIGGING DEEPER: Bloomington man convicted of daughter’s death more than two decades ago seeks freedom” by NBC News Anchorwoman Amber Krycka
WMBD CBS/Fox News Piece “Barton McNeil’s team provides ‘proof of innocence’ in court Thursday” by CBS/Fox News Special Correspondent Austin Schick
HOI ABC News Piece “Barton McNeil Fights for Exoneration in the 1998 Death of His Daughter” by ABC News Anchorwoman Jenise Rebholz
The reader might also like to know the Oxygen True Crime Network produced a season premiere for “Snapped: Behind Bars” featuring Misook Wang and Barton McNeil’s case that aired in September 2021. Misook herself prior to this show’s taping was no less then 3 True Crime TV shows Evil In-laws, Broken Ties and an earlier Snapped episode detailing her 2011 macabre strangulation murder of her mother-in-law Linda Tyda. The 90 minutes Snapped: Behind Bars television show is available on YouTube for $1.99 with a link to it that can be found HERE.
Barton is very fortunate to be represented by two of the only three saintly innocence projects in Illinois, University of Illinois Law School’s Illinois Innocence Project in Springfield and University of Chicago Law School’s Exoneration Project. With his legal team now having worked over ten years on his case since the time his ex-girlfriend murdered her mother and it became obvious Barton had been telling the truth all along.
In addition to the touch DNA findings, other evidence including medical reports were subseqnetly obtained by the legal team that were made a part of his eventual petition seeking a new trial which was filed in February 2021.
However the filing by both innocence projects was foreshadowed by the judge assigned the case in McLean County, Judge William Yoder, who formerly served as McLean County State’s Attorney from 2002 to 2011. This is the same office that oversaw Barton’s many appeals from 2002 to 2011 made before the Illinois appellate and Illinois Supreme Court during his tenure, whose appeals were challenged with the aid of his office. This is also the same office that was formerly run by State’s Attorney Charles Reynard who along with his first assistant State’s Attorney Teena Griffin, wrongfully prosecuted Barton in 1998. While William Yoder was the McLean County State’s Attorney, each of Barton’s 2005 and 2006 appeals before the higher courts of Illinois fell on deaf ears with the higher courts siding with the McLean County State’s Attorneys office run by William Yoder who claimed their predecessor’s prosecution of Barton was just and sound.
To be expected then, in October 2022, Judge Yoder ruled that virtually all of the cited new evidence by the two innocence projects obtained by them both over a 10-year period did not meet in his view the standard required for the evidence to be heard in a 3rd Stage Evidentiary Hearing. He ruled that only two cited pieces of new evidence out of a total of eight, met this standard. The two items that remain regard Misook having confessed to her former husband Don Wang that she admitted to him of murdering Christina during a fit of anger. Further in his ruling it can be shown that based upon Illinois law there was no way for Judge Yoder to get around the hearing of this important evidence otherwise the entire Petition likely would have been rejected by him.
So as of the time of this writing then, to take place later in the year of 2023, is to be scheduled a 3rd Stage Evidentiary Hearing in McLean County presided over by Judge Yoder. The basis of the hearing to determine whether there exists enough new evidence based upon the Misook confession made to her former husband Don Wang to warrant Barton a new trial.
Below can be found a succession of the legal filings to bring a person completely current on the legal aspects of the case beginning with the 2021 Petition. The Petition was filed by Barton’s legal team from both innocence projects presenting all of the New Evidence that would show a juror that Barton was indeed innocent.
The Petition is then followed below by McLean County State’s Attorney office motion to dismiss the Petition.
This is then followed by the two innocence projects rebuttal to the arguments contained in the Motion to Dismiss.
And one can read the Judge’s ruling made in October 2022 where he sides with McLean County State’s Attorney arguments. Thereby protecting the same office once run by Judge Yoder himself from 2002-2011.
And as mentioned previously, that prior to Yoder holding this office from 2002-2011, that the preceding State’s Attorney before him was outgoing State’s Attorney Charles Reynard (later also to become a local area Judge), who ran this office from 1987-2002, and who was the person who wrongfully convicted Barton McNeil is the first place.
Conflict of interest? We think so. If you too think this is wrong make your voice heard on FreeBart Facebook by posting a comment to this effect.
THE FOLLOWING BARTON’S COMPELLING FEBRUARY 2021 POST CONVICTION APPEAL SEEKING A NEW TRIAL BASED ON EIGHT NEWLY CITED PIECES OF NEW EVIDENCE:
THE FOLLOWING MCLEAN COUNTY MOTION TO DISMISS CONTAINING A MYRIAD OF PITHY AND POORLY CONSTRUCTED ARGUMENTS:
THE FOLLOWING THE STRONG AND FORCEFUL INNOCENCE PROJECTS REBUTTAL TO THE STATE’S MOTION TO DISMISS:
Following the back and forth of the above filings between both parties, a public hearing was held on May 12th, 2022 presided over by Judge William Yoder. The hearing was intended to hear oral arguments presented by both sides.
By apparent legal strategy design, Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Koll, the author of the State’s Motion to Dismiss, and the sole signatory to the Motion to Dismiss, stood at the beginning of the hearing and addressed Judge Yoder stating she was not planning to “argue” anything contained in her motion to dismiss. She said that the arguments laid out in writing could speak for themselves. Despite their being poor and without merit. Arguments that were easily challenged and intelligently deconstructed by Barton’s formidable legal team.
With that the hearing was over in less than 15-minutes despite it being scheduled to be a several hour long hearing.
Present in the court room were numerous Barton McNeil supporters and all of the local press including the news anchorwomen for 2 of the local 3 media news stations ABC and NBC, Jenise Rebholz and Amber Krycka, and special correspondent with CBS/Fox, Austin Schick. Correspondents for The Pantagraph newspaper, Kade Heather, along with Edith Brady-Lunny of National Public Radio’s WGLT station, and syndicated columnist Scott Reeder of the Springfield based Illinois Times, who was also host of the award winning WGLT Suspect Convictions podcast featuring Barton’s case, were present as well. Barton’s legal team consisting of five attorneys from Chicago and Springfield who came to the hearing, were therefore denied the opportunity to publicly argue anything in court as relating to Barton’s case because of Ms. Koll’s crafted maneuver. Which no doubt was guided with the aid of others in her office.
Immediately following the hearing Barton’s cousin and principal advocate Chris Ross who traveled to the hearing from California had the following comments to make: Watch May 12th 2022 Post Hearing Comments to the Press by Cousin Chris Ross.
The following ruling was made by Judge Yoder on October 11th, 2022, over 6-months following the May 12th “nothing burger” hearing with Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Koll unwilling to argue the State’s position. In rendering his ruling, he had already reviewed Barton’s entire Discovery and Case File that all pointed to Misook. Barton’s many appeals that also continued to reference Misook and ineffective counsel again and again. He then reviewed the written arguments contained in both the 65-page February 2021 original Petition seeking a new trial, the State’s Motion to Dismiss counter, and Barton’s legal team response.
Despite all the towering mountain of evidence that pointed to Misook and Barton having wrongfully been convicted of murdering the daughter he loved 24 years ago, he made the following disastrous ruling setting the clock back for Barton to ever see justice for himself or for his daughter Christina. Judge Yoder’s ruling in further service of Misook Nowlin’s child murder getaway. He is a predecessor protectionist. Protecting his former State’s Attorney boss Charles Reynard who like Judge Yoder also later became a local area McLean County judge in the same court Judge Yoder now serves. We can only hope Judge Yoder does the right thing and recuses himself as it is within his power to do so.
JUDGE YODER’S WEAKLY ARGUED RULING OCTOBER 2022 WITH THE JUDGE APPEARING BIASED AND TAKING SIDES WITH THE FORMER MCLEAN COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY OFFICE HE USED TO RUN FROM 2002-2011:
Injustice thrives in darkened silence. Shine a light on Barton by making your own just voice heard. Visit with others like you who believe in Barton’s innocence by going to FreeBart Facebook and friending/subscribing to the site so you can receive periodic updates. On this site you can find many of the case file and discovery documents used to wrongfully prosecute Barton. Current and older news articles beginning in 1998 with Barton’s arrest are located here too. Take a look around and hopefully something catches your attention.
Please consider making a SMALL DONATION HERE of $5 or any amount for Barton to receive as it is going to be several more years before Barton receives his freedom. While his financial needs not great like the rest of us, small donations of $10, $25 or even $50 help make his life better behind prison walls. Prisoners have access to a commissary once a week where they can purchase toiletries, snacks and food. Barton has monthly expenses for subscriptions, e-mail credits, phone and postal services he uses to make his voice be heard. Any monies received that exceed his needs will go towards the Facebook promotional cost for expanding the public’s awareness of Barton’s case. Anything you send will be greatly appreciated and help his cause.