Court orders hearing in Slover case to consider new evidence

Chris Dettro

An appellate court has ordered a hearing to consider potential new evidence in the case of murder victim Karyn Slover, whose ex-husband and former in-laws are in prison for the killing.

A Macon County jury in 2002 convicted Michael Slover Jr., 38, and his parents, Michael Slover Sr., 61, and Jeanette Slover, 60, of murdering Karyn Slover, 23, in 1996. The three, all Decatur residents, each were sentenced to 60 years in prison.

However, students involved with the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois at Springfield developed evidence for a post-conviction petition that claims a key witness presented misleading trial testimony about a car’s tinted windows.

The petition says David Swann, who was Karyn Slover’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance, misled the jury when he described his car — the one she was last seen driving — as having clear, rather than tinted, windows.

A Macon County court had dismissed the petition without a hearing. The 4th District Appellate Court opinion Wednesday means one hearing must be held to determine whether the petition should proceed to a second hearing on its merits.

The appellate court said the Macon County judge did not give enough weight to the possibility that the evidence might have changed the outcome of the trial and to whether it could have been discovered sooner.

Karyn Slover disappeared after leaving work in the advertising department of the Decatur Herald and Review just after 5 p.m. on Sept. 27, 1996. Her dismembered body, in gray garbage bags sealed with duct tape, was found washed ashore at Lake Shelbyville two days later.

Macon County State’s Attorney Jack Ahola, who prosecuted the Slover case, said Thursday he couldn’t comment on the petition, but added that there should be “lots of court proceedings here in the next few months.”

Attorneys will have to be appointed for the Slovers before any hearing can be held.

A school bus driver who testified for the defense said she saw the car Karyn Slover had been driving headed east on Illinois 105 between Cerro Gordo and Bement at 5:25 p.m., shortly after Slover left work. The bus driver said the car had tinted windows.

Prosecutors’ theory of the case was that Slover drove directly after work to Mount Zion, 20 miles south of where the bus driver said she saw the car, to pick up her son, Kolten, who was being watched by Jeannette Slover.

Swann testified that his car did not have tinted windows, and the Slovers say his testimony discredited that of the bus driver.

Mark Camper, a student in the Wrongful Convictions class taught by John Hanlon during the spring 2005 semester at UIS, obtained evidence from S&K Pontiac GMC in Springfield that the car in question had factory-tinted windows.

 “If the jury had believed the testimony of the school bus driver, I’m convinced they would have found the Slovers not guilty,” Camper said. “Her testimony proves Karyn Slover didn’t go to Mount Zion after leaving work. She was driving in the opposite direction.”

John McCarthy of the state appellate defender’s office represented the Slovers in their petition.

The convictions were previously upheld by the 4th District Appellate Court.

Chris Dettro can be reached at (217) 788-1510.