Suspect Convictions Episode 7: An Unusual Crime, But Enough To Exonerate?
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.
Misook Wang is a convicted killer who, during a family dispute, tricked her mother-in-law into a fatal confrontation in Bloomington six years ago.
But does that crime mean she also killed 3-year-old Christina McNeil?
On this week’s episode of Suspect Convictions, hosts Willis Kern and Scott Reeder ponder the similarities between the two crimes, committed 13 years apart.
Wang, also known as Misook Nowlin, was convicted of murdering her mother-in-law, Linda Tyda, in 2011. Misook married Tyda’s son, Don Wang, after her breakup with Barton McNeil, who would later be convicted in Christina’s 1998 smothering death.
Tyda immigrated to the U.S. from China, first teaching English at Illinois State University and later running her own translating business. She met and married Larry Tyda, and the couple lived in Crest Hill in Will County, outside Chicago.
Misook and Don Wang were close to divorcing in 2011. That’s when Misook got a waitress at a Twin City Chinese restaurant to call Linda Tyda and ask her to drive the waitress from Bloomington to Chicago and provide interpreting services for $500. It was a ruse to get Tyda to Bloomington so Misook could confront her.
"I do find it interesting, but I don't find it exonerating."
Misook confronted Tyda in a grocery store parking lot in Bloomington and soon after strangled her to death. Misook concealed Tyda’s body in her sewing shop for two days. Stranger still, Misook’s 6-year-old son was with her during the murder and afterwards. And Misook said she took a nap in her sewing shop soon after killing Tyda.
“There’s a couple weird things here,” said Rick Barkes, a retired Bloomington police detective who worked the case.
Misook bought a shovel and a big blue tub at a Bloomington home improvement store, then asked a friend from church to unknowingly help her load the tub—containing Tyda’s body—into her car. She drove to Will County and buried the body in a forest preserve. After she was arrested, she led detectives to its location.
Misook is currently serving a 55-year prison sentence after being convicted in Tyda’s murder. She could not be reached for comment.
Barton McNeil’s attorney, John Hanlon with the Illinois Innocence Project, said he sees similarities between the two murders. McNeil has long argued that Misook was the real killer back in 1998, because she was upset with him over their breakup.
The IIP plans to file motions this fall in hopes of winning McNeil a new trial.
“Misook killed her husband’s mother—the female that person cared for the most. Christina McNeil was the person that Barton McNeil cared for the most,” Hanlon said.
Judge William Workman, who prosecuted Misook when he worked in the McLean County state’s attorney’s office, said the motive was money. Misook thought that her husband would get Tyda’s life insurance money, but only if she died before the divorce.
Mary Koll, an assistant state’s attorney in McLean County who’s studied the case, said she doesn’t see similar motives between the two crimes. She said the victims are also quite different—one was a child, the other an adult.
“It is very interesting. It is startling. It is unusual. But it does not change the evidence that was presented at the trial in (McNeil’s 1998) case, and that evidence is more than sufficient to convict Bart. I do find it interesting, but I don’t find it exonerating,” Koll said.
Listen to the full episode:
On Next Week’s Episode: Barton McNeil calls in from Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois to answer listener questions. People can still submit questions for Barton McNeil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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