Suspect Convictions Episode 8: Tough Questions For Bart | WGLT

Suspect Convictions Episode 8: Tough Questions For Bart

Dec 15, 2017

GLT is partnering with true crime podcast Suspect Convictions to explore the 1998 murder of 3-year-old Bloomington girl Christina McNeil.

Her father was convicted of the crime but has long maintained his innocence, claiming an ex-girlfriend was the real killer—the same woman later convicted in a separate murder. New episodes air Fridays on GLT’s Sound Ideas. You can also subscribe to the podcast. 

For the last seven weeks, Suspect Convictions hosts Scott Reeder and Willis Kern have raised questions about the conviction of Barton McNeil in the 1998 murder of his daughter.

Now, it’s your turn to ask the questions.

In Episode 8 of Suspect Convictions, McNeil answered questions submitted by our listeners and other true-crime podcasters. Those questions came from all over the country—we even got one from Australia—showing broad interest in two vexing Bloomington murders committed 13 years apart, with one woman associated with both. McNeil is now seeking a new trial, with help from the Illinois Innocence Project.

Here are a few of the questions answered by McNeil, who is serving his prison sentence at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois. Listen to the full episode to hear the rest.

Q: Did you feel like you got a fair trial?

McNeil said his relationship with his public defender was not good before and during his bench trial. McNeil recalled one specific pretrial hearing where his attorney seemed unprepared.

“My public defender seemed clueless of the basic facts and circumstances that were really important to whatever the hearing was on that day,” McNeil said. “While the prosecutors just steamrolled over him, during which he could’ve easily refuted what they said … he’d just sit their silently and just defer to everything the prosecutors said.” 

Q: When was the last time Barton saw Misook before the murder?

This is an important question. McNeil has long maintained that his ex-girlfriend, Misook (Nowlin) Wang, was the real killer back in 1998. That theory has taken on new resonance because Misook was later convicted in 2012 of killing her mother-in-law. McNeil’s lawyers say the two cases—both targeting females important to Misook’s loved ones—are similar. Prosecutors disagree.

McNeil said he and Misook had their final argument and breakup just hours before Christina’s murder. He said they clashed at a popular Italian restaurant in Normal, called Avanti’s.

While McNeil has accused Misook in Christina’s death, she’s never been charged with that crime. Misook is serving her own prison sentence in the 2012 case. She couldn’t be reached for comment. 

Q: The night of her death, Christina woke up and was heard talking, apparently to herself. Barton checked on her and put her back to sleep. Was that unusual behavior for Christina?

McNeil now suspects that the real killer—Misook, in his opinion—may have been already been in the apartment bedroom when he went to check on Christina after she woke up overnight.

“It was highly unusual,” McNeil said. “(Christina) usually slept through the night.”

McNeil said he heard his daughter talking—to herself, or to someone else in the room—and her “gaze seemed transfixed behind me. She was very pleased with herself.” Could someone else have already been in the room, and Christina was playing a “game” with them to keep it a secret?

“I feel terrible about my shortcomings. I wasn’t alert or suspicious enough,” McNeil said.

Listen to Episode 8 of Suspect Convictions:

On Next Week’s Episode: Exploring the DNA evidence in the McNeil murder case.

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