DECATUR - The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project has received a handful of telephone calls since the airing Saturday night of a television program on the Karyn Hearn Slover murder investigation.
The program on the Discovery Channel was the premiere episode of a new series titled "Reasonable Doubt: Guilty or Innocent."
Karyn Hearn Slover, 23, went missing Sept. 27, 1996. She was shot, dismembered and dumped in Lake Shelbyville. Her ex-husband, Michael Slover Jr., 34, and his parents, Michael Slover Sr., 58, and Jeannette Slover, 57, were convicted in 2002 of her murder and are serving 60-year prison sentences. They maintain they were wrongly convicted, and the Innocence Project is helping them with a potential post-conviction petition.
Bill Clutter, director of investigations for the project, de ;clined to comment on the substance of the calls, but said they sounded promising for the Slovers.
"We certainly would encourage anyone that has information to contact us," Clutter said.
The program was a dramatization based on police reports, trial transcripts, the Slovers' appeal and other documents. Some dialogue was fictionalized.
At the conclusion of the show, mention was made of a "promising development" for the Slovers based on a tip police received that a group of teenagers had been talking about committing the murder. In a tele ;phone interview Monday, Clutter said he hasn't seen anything in police reports that would exclude the teenagers as suspects.
Police and prosecutors involved in the Slover investigation say they thoroughly checked out just such a lead. Moultrie County Sheriff Jeff Thomas, an investigator on the case, said police interviewed the teens, searched the drains of a hotel room where they stayed in Champaign and confirmed they were not in the Decatur area the night Karyn Slover went missing.
"There was nothing that pointed to them being involved in the Slover case," Thomas said.
Clutter also plans to look into a fingerprint found on the Findlay Bridge, where authorities believed the body was dumped. That fingerprint did not match the Slovers'. Determining who it belongs to would point to another suspect, Clutter said.
The Slovers are appealing their convictions. The Slovers' attorney, John McCarthy, and prosecutors have filed briefs with the 4th District Appellate Court. No date has been set for oral arguments.
Macon County State's Attorney Jack Ahola said there are no other suspects besides the Slovers. He considers the investigation to be open and will conduct genetic testing on cat hair that prosecutors think could link Mary Slover, the sister of Michael Slover Jr., to the crime. She has repeatedly denied any involvement.
Police found cat hair in the car Karyn Slover was driving the day she disappeared and took samples of cat hair from Mary Slover's former residence in Springfield. The cat hair was at issue during a custody hearing in which prosecutors stripped Mary Slover of custody of Karyn and Michael Slover Jr.'s son, Kolten. Mary Slover had adopted the boy in 1999.
In withdrawing custody in 2003, Macon County Associate Judge Scott B. Diamond ruled Mary Slover was an unfit parent because she was involved in the concealment of Karyn Slover's death. The custody hearing concluded before an appellate court gave prosecutors permission to test the hair.
Mary Slover unsuccessfully appealed Diamond's ruling to the 4th District Appellate Court and is awaiting word about whether the Illinois Supreme Court will hear her case.
Mary Slover's attorney, Dan Davlantis, said he does not think she will be charged with any crime unless she wins back custody of Kolten, now 11 and living with his maternal grandparents. In an e-mail, he said Mary Slover was not in Macon County when the murder was committed.
"It is also clear that Judge Diamond ruled there was no evidence linking Mary to the actual murder and that can and would be raised in a double jeopardy argument if the state was somehow able to manage a murder indictment," Davlantis said.
Stephanie Potter can be reached at spotter@;herald-review.com or 421-7984.