Donald Whalen goes home after family posts bond in 1991 murder case

Whalen defense team
Donald Whalen (center) and his defense team after his release Friday from the McLean County Jail.
(Photo by Howard Packowitz/WJBC)


By Howard Packowitz

Donald Whalen said he wanted to go home after spending almost the last 28 years in prison for his father’s murder. The Bloomington native, now 52, walked out of the McLean County Jail Friday evening after his family posted a $100,035 cash bond.

Whalen was serving a 60-year sentence for the beating and stabbing death in 1991 of his father, William Whalen, at a bar the elder Whalen owned in Downtown Bloomington.

Whalen’s release on bail followed Judge Scott Drazewski’s decision on Friday not to reconsider his earlier ruling ordering a new trial for Whalen. The state quickly filed an appeal to a higher court.

After his release, Whalen embraced family members including mother Coleen, then spoke with reporters.

“I’m ready to go home with Mom, and my brother. I have granddaughters that I’m ready to spoil rotten, and I’m going to,” Whalen said.

“I know there are going to be a lot of questions about a new trial and dismissal of charges, but I really want to know what the Bloomington Police Department is doing to find out who really killed my Dad. That’s what I want to know.”

Defense lawyer Elliot Slosar from the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project said it’s hard to describe his emotions watching Whalen reunite with family.

“Everybody in Bloomington knows the Whalen family is resilient. They’ve stood by Donny for 30 years because he’s innocent, and they’ve always known that,” said Slosar.

“Hopefully, the McLean County prosecutors office and the Bloomington Police Department will do what Donny asks, which is go find the real killer.”

According to Slosar, prosecutors filed a frivolous appeal and have no chance of winning a re-trial.

As a condition of his bond, Whalen has to wear a GPS device on his ankle so authorities can monitor his whereabouts.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at


WJBC Voices: Jay Bee, CEO

Much of the legal analysis in law school is taught via the hypothetical question, wherein the professor poses a set of facts embodying the issue studied, and asks students to predict the outcome, based on those facts. 

WJBC Voices: Understanding TIF investments

As we near another local election, understanding what a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district is and its role in economic development seems unclear to many I talk to.