McLean County judge to decide if Barton McNeil case moves to 3rd stage of evidentiary hearing in ‘98 murder

Bart McNeil (blue) traveled to McLean County on Thursday for court from the Pickneyville Correctional Center. (Photo courtesy: HOI/ABC)

By Heart of Illinois ABC

BLOOMINGTON – It will be at least two months before the Illinois Innocence Project learns what evidence they can present in the case of Barton McNeil, the Bloomington man convicted of killing his daughter in 1998. This is because both the state and McNeil’s counsel agree a 3rd stage evidentiary hearing is necessary.

McNeil’s legal team is fighting for him to be exonerated for the death, saying he’s been wrongfully locked up for more than 8,000 days.

The judge will decide what classifies as new evidence to be presented.

The Illinois Innocence Project argues their newly found DNA evidence corroborates an out-of-court confession by Misook Nowlin, McNeil’s ex-girlfriend, that she killed 3-year-old Christina McNeil in 1998.

The state, however, argues that much of the evidence isn’t new, and the hair of Misook Nowlin could have been lingering for days and weeks and it doesn’t mean she could have killed Christina.

The state argues McNeil’s team is trying to use the evidentiary hearings as a retrial for McNeil, which is not the purpose of the hearings.

The courtroom was about half-full on Thursday, mostly with supporters of McNeil. This includes friends from high school, old coworkers, family and even strangers. Those in attendance today tell us they will continue to show up to these hearings because they believe in McNeil’s innocence.

Ultimately, the state wants to dismiss most pieces of new evidence from being presented. The Illinois Innocence Project says their new evidence and expert analysis will prove the 1999 bench trial for McNeil was flawed and he did not kill his daughter.

This was a 2nd stage hearing; the judge now has about 60 days to decide whether a 3rd stage evidentiary hearing is necessary and what evidence will be allowed to be presented by the defense.

McNeil’s friends say it’s “too much of a coincidence” that Nowlin went on to kill her mother-in-law in 2011, and they believe she killed Christina, too.

Heart of Illinois ABC can be reached at


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