What You Need to Know about Bart's Case
Facts of the Case: On June 15th, 1998, a divorced father, Barton (Bart) McNeil, had custody of his daughter Christina for the night, per child care arrangements with this ex-wife, Tita McNeil. Around 10:30 pm, Bart put Christina to bed. Inexplicably, a few hours later, Bart found Christina awake in the bedroom smiling and talking. Bart told Christina she needed to get some sleep and tucked her back into bed. He awoke at 7:30 am and followed his regular routine. After calling to Christina to get up and receiving no response, Bart went into her room to check on her. Bart found his daughter lifeless in her bed. He immediately called 911 (Listen to 911 call or read transcript here) and attempted to perform CPR, but to no avail. Paramedics arrived and confirmed the worst: three-year old Christina was dead. It was later indicated by the coroner that she had been smothered to death.
Initially, Bart had no idea what could have caused his daughter's death. But as he observed the state of Christina's room, Bart began to notice something wasn't right. The window fan that had been in the first floor bedroom's window had fallen to the floor. There were two holes cut in the window screen right above the latches, which were unlatched. Bart started to believe that someone had intentionally removed the screen to gain access to his daughter's room. Two days after Christina's death, the criminal investigation began to center around Barton McNeil. Bart was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with her death. As Bart awaited trial for the murder of his daughter, he and his attorneys began to piece together what had happened to Christina.
As the day wore on, Bart tried to recount any noteworthy events over the last 24 hours that may have related to Christina's death. Bart's thoughts kept returning to the window fan. It had been securely braced in the window the night before, where it had been since the day he moved in two months earlier, after moving away from his increasingly erratic girlfriend. Also nagging Bart's was his now estranged girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, showing up moments after the paramedics arrived. Bart's relationship came to a bitter end when Bart broke up with Misook just minutes before he left Misook to pick up Christina for the night. At the latest, Christina died no later than 12 hours after Barton's breakup with Misook, and may have even died as little as five hours afterwards.
Not wanting to stay at the scene of his daughter's death, Bart needed to return to his apartment to pick up his clothes for his intended stay at his ex-wife's, Christina's mother. Upon his arrival at the apartment, Bart walked down the pathway abutting the building, which connected the back
parking lot to the apartment's entrance. As he passed by his daughter's still open ground floor bedroom window, Bart discovered two slit holes cut into the window screen immediately above the latch releases, holes that were not previously in the screen, with the screen itself now unlatched and off its track, precariously resting in the window frame. Much to Bart's horror, the thought now occurred to him that the bedroom window fan had not merely fallen out of its window mount; someone had removed it, obviously to get access to his daughter. Bart now
confronted the inescapable conclusion that Christina may have been murdered by an intruder. It didn't take long for him to deduce who that intruder had been.
Bart summons police and implores them to investigate.
Bart then made frantic 911 calls requesting that police come back and investigate Christina's death. It took a series of calls to 911 (listen to first series here and second series here) and the cavalier-ness with which the police respond is unbelievable. One detective can be heard saying, "What the hell is his problem?" Upon their eventual arrival, Bart explained he was certain that Christina's death had been a murder by someone who had gained access through the obviously tampered with bedroom window. Barton informed them of his suspicions and called for the immediate arrest of his estranged girlfriend, Misook Nowlin. (Transcript of first 911 series here and second 911 series here).
Bart proceeded to show the Bloomington Police Detectives the evidence he'd found with the cuts in the screen, which had obviously been tampered with, and the displaced fan on the floor; and asked them to investigate further. Instead, this is where things start to turn a little sideways. They notice some so-called "undisturbed cobwebs" in the window sill and begin to act as though they've stumbled onto the clue of the century. Two notable things happen here: 1) they are wrong about their assumptions of cobwebs (click here for more info) and; 2) they ultimately destroyed whatever evidence there might have been while trying to document and collect it (click here for video or see below).
During the course of a two hour interview on the evening of June 16th, Bart discussed in some detail countless events and circumstances related to his ill-fated relationship with Misook that led up to his breaking up with her, all easily verifiable and could be corroborated with minimal effort-all of which were consistent with Barton's near certainty that Misook had killed his child. Along with Bart filling them in on his first hand observations of Misook's increasingly thinly veiled psychopathological behavior, Bart gave the police a detailed timeline as to the months, weeks, days, and hours leading up to Christina's death. Having filled in the detectives on all of this crucial information, Barton was certain that Misook would be arrested within hours.
The next day Barton returned to the Bloomington Police Department to provide more information about Misook and do whatever he could to assist their investigation. Instead, Barton was whisked into a camera-equipped interrogation room, only to find the detectives were not as friendly as they had been the day before. Much to Barton's dismay, Misook had not been arrested and incredibly, no investigation had even begun, pertaining to her. Knowing he was innocent and in an effort to get the police to concentrate on the person Barton was positive was the one who murdered Christina, Bart agreed to cooperate with more questioning. He had only one condition-that his interrogation be recorded on the video/audio tapes from the ceiling-mounted camera in the interrogation room. (Police and prosecutors have since refused to disclose the location or even admit the existence of this evidence). Fending off vile untrue accusations leveled against him by his interrogators, Bart vehemently continued to maintain his innocence, while countering his interrogators with a litany of events and circumstances far more consistent with Misook being responsible for the murder of Christina, most of which were either documented, verified, or could be corroborated with minimal investigative effort. Unfortunately, it was all for naught, for unbeknownst to Bart, he was already on a fast-track to a guilty verdict. This interrogation wore on for seven hours until it culminated with Barton's arrest.
Jury Trial or Bench?
Why did you opt for a bench trial rather than a jury trial? Was this your decision or your lawyer's and what was your thinking behind it? Do you think it would've turned out differently if you had a jury? (Click here for response)
More to come...
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