DECATUR - A Canadian-made documentary on the Karyn Hearn Slover murder investigation opens by describing Decatur as being in the heartland of America.
Then it focuses on the "Welcome to Decatur!" sign at U.S. 36 and Airport Road. A narrator's voice describes the city: "It's a dirty little city south of Chicago that's barely changed since the 1930s. Riddled with factories and surrounded by soy fields, it's the kind of place many young people want to escape."
The narration left Karen Bellinger, office manager for the Macon County State's Attorney's Office, incredulous.
"That's bull," she said.
Bellinger joined investigators on the case and State's Attorney Jack Ahola in viewing a tape of the documentary Thursday at the Macon County Courts Facility. The episode of "F2: Forensic Factor" titled "Beauty Queen" was made by the Discovery Channel Canada and has no scheduled air date in the United States. Investigators and others interviewed for the program were sent a copy.
The program, which was partially filmed in Decatur and the surrounding areas in March, includes news footage and re-creations to document the investigation into the September 1996 murder of Karyn Hearn Slover. The title refers to Slover's desire to become a model.
It includes interviews with retired Illinois State Police Special Agent Mike Mannix, former Decatur police detective Mike Beck, Moultrie County Sheriff Jeffrey Thomas, Macon County Assistant State's Attorney Jay Scott, defense attorney Joseph Vigneri and others involved with the case.
Slover, 23, disappeared Sept. 27, 1996, after leaving her job as an advertising sales representative with the Herald & Review. She was shot to death and later found dismembered in Lake Shelbyville.
Her ex-husband, Michael Slover Jr., now 34, and his parents Michael Slover Sr., 58, and Jeannette Slover, 57, were convicted of murdering her in 2002 and are now serving 60-year sentences. Vigneri represented Michael Slover Jr.
If the characterization of Decatur left some involved with the case cold, comments by Vigneri got them hot under the collar.
Vigneri repeats a theme he argued while defending Michael Slover Jr.: Evidence found at the elder Slovers' car lot linking them to crime could have been planted by police.
On the third search of the former Miracle Motors car lot in March 1998, police found buttons and rivets consistent with the clothing Slover was wearing when she was last seen alive.
Vigneri said, "One has to ask themselves, if there were two previous searches, why on a third search does all this incriminating evidence suddenly pop up? So the question that was presented to the jury and which remains unanswered to this day is, could any human agency, ie. the police, have had any responsibility or any participation in that evidence being basically placed at the scene?"
Ahola, Mannix, Beck and Thomas said the answer to that question is an unequivocal "no."
"You would have had to have 20-something people in a giant conspiracy to plant evidence," Thomas said.
Stephanie Potter can be reached at spotter@; herald-review.com or 421-7984.