Man Serving 100 Years Maintains Girlfriend Killed His Daughter

Bart McNeil was convicted of killing his 3-year-old daughter in 1998.

A crime-scene tape closeup.
Prathaan / Thinkstock

Bart McNeil was convicted of killing his 3-year-old daughter in 1998.

An Illinois man who has served almost 20 years of a 100-year prison term for killing his daughter maintains that police did not spend enough time linking his girlfriend to the crime.

Bart McNeil told police he found the body of 3-year-old Christina McNeil on June 16, 1998, when he went to wake her after an overnight stay in his Bloomington apartment. When an autopsy showed the toddler had been sexually abused, McNeil was arrested the following day.

From the time he was taken into custody, McNeil pleaded with investigators to re-examine possible evidence in his apartment. He claims a screen from the window leading to his daughter’s room had been cut, indicating an intruder killed her. But McNeil said it wasn’t just any intruder. He knew who police should arrest. He told them to “go get ” Misook Nowlin, a woman with whom he had a three-year relationship, and the person he said “murdered” his daughter.

Police did investigate Nowlin and learned she and McNeil ended their relationship the night before the child’s death. She was brought to the Bloomington Police station where investigators observed her interacting with McNeil inside an interrogation room. When she failed to admit involvement in the crime, police cut her loose, and the investigation remained focused on McNeil.

McNeil says the investigation did not turn to his ex even after police learned he was scheduled to testify against her in a criminal case the day after Christina was found. In that case, Nowlin was convicted of unlawful restraint for refusing to leave her apartment during a domestic dispute. McNeil said she had a history of violence toward Christina, but authorities put no stock in those allegations.

McNeil was convicted of first-degree murder in 1999 after a week-long trial. His lawyer was barred from introducing evidence that pointed to another suspect.

Today, McNeil is represented by the Illinois Innocence Project and claims DNA from a hair found in Christina’s bed belongs to Nowlin. Lawyers say the hair had to have been left the night of the murder because the bedding was freshly laundered and Nowlin hadn’t been in the apartment for several days.

In a bizarre turn of events, Nowlin, otherwise known as Misook Wang, is serving 55 years in prison for murder in the 2011 strangling death of her mother-in-law. McNeil’s lawyers say there are similarities between the killing and that of their client’s daughter.

As his team of three post-conviction lawyers from Chicago prepare to argue new evidence, McNeil’s case is being featured on the Suspect Convictions podcast hosted by journalist Scott Reeder. The multi-episode series chronicles the story from Barton’s original 911 call to interviews inside the Menard Correctional Center.