DECATUR - Nearly 15 years after the death of 23-year-old Karyn Hearn Slover, the three people convicted of her murder, all serving 60-year prison sentences, were dealt another blow to their hopes of having their convictions overturned.
Attorneys representing Michael Slover, Jeannette Slover and Michael Slover Jr. filed a motion in Macon County Circuit Court requesting the court issue subpoenas to several law enforcement agencies in order to investigate other suspects in the case.
A hearing was held on that motion in Associate Judge Timothy Steadman's courtroom on Aug. 24. On Sept. 1, Steadman denied the motion, citing that the trial attorneys already made "reasonable efforts to investigate the same alternative suspects."
In his ruling, Steadman pointed out that none of the statements made by a woman named April Pierce would be admissible as evidence. His ruling emphasized that the motion's premise, that these are viable suspects who should be further investigated, rested upon a flimsy foundation.
"For example, the defendants rely upon a statement of April Pierce saying, in substance, that one of the purported alternative suspects, Josh White, ‘believed' that another purported alternative suspect, Tim Roach, ‘may' have been involved in Karyn Slover's murder," Steadman wrote. "There is no suggestion that Mr. White had personal knowledge regarding the circumstances of the victim's death, or that Mr. Roach ever made an admission regarding the murder to him."
In response to the motion, Macon County First Assistant State's Attorney Jay Scott argued that while the law provides inquiry into constitutional issues in post-conviction proceedings, it does not permit a retrial of innocence or guilt. Scott wrote that the motion to obtain further information on alternate suspects is "nothing more than a fishing expedition."
Scott pointed out that the motion, filed by attorneys Peter Wise, J. Steven Beckett and Monica Hawkins, selectively referred to some witness accounts of the whereabouts of Karyn Slover at various times after she was last seen by friends, while ignoring other accounts.
"Though desired by petitioners, this court cannot ignore evidence introduced at trial," Scott wrote.
Michael Slover, his wife, Jeannette, and their son, Michael Slover Jr., ex-husband of the victim, were each convicted of first-degree murder by a jury.
Karyn Hearn Slover, a Herald & Review advertising sales representative at that time, disappeared after leaving work on Sept. 27, 1996. Parts of her dismembered body were found in plastic bags in Lake Shelbyville two days later. Slover was planning to move out-of-state along with her 3-year-old son. That move, which would have separated the boy from his father and grandparents, was believed to be the motive for the killing. After an extensive investigation involving several law enforcement agencies, the Slovers were arrested in January 2000. They were convicted on May 17, 2002, at a trial that lasted more than five weeks.
In an earlier effort toward overturning their conviction, Slover attorneys filed a motion to have a partial latent fingerprint, found on a bridge overlooking Lake Shelbyville, tested in the FBI's identification system. That motion was denied by Steadman on March 15, 2010, because the latent print was "not suitable for the requested testing" and had no potential to produce new evidence relevant to the Slovers' claim of innocence.
That ruling was appealed to the 4th District Appellate Court, in which arguments were heard on July 12. A ruling is expected within a few months.