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Misook Wang is currently behind bars for one murder. But is it possible she was responsible for killing another person as well?
On Sept. 5, 2011, Larry Tyda reported his 70-year-old wife, Linda Tyda, missing to police. Linda, a Chinese immigrant, worked as an interpreter and left in the early morning hours to meet a prospective client in Bloomington, Illinois.
“She gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, ‘I’ll see you in a little while,’” Larry told "Snapped: Behind Bars," airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
Larry and Linda’s son, Don, and Don’s wife, Misook Wang, also seemingly became worried when Linda didn’t arrive home.
“Don tried to figure out what’s going on with his mom, and maybe somebody kidnapped her or something,” Misook told producers from an Illinois prison. “So I said, ‘Oh, my god, I just can’t sleep, I just can’t eat.' Just crazy. Every day is crazy.”
Misook had a rough childhood in South Korea following her mother’s death. There, she met her first husband, Andy Nowlin, an American stationed there with the U.S. Army. She followed him back to the states when he left in 1988. Soon after, they married and had a daughter. But Misook felt the financial strain of the relationship. It took a toll on their relationship.
“She was just so money-hungry,” Nowlin told producers. “I was working two full-time jobs, working 80 hours a week, it still wasn’t enough.”
Nowlin soon discovered Misook was having an affair with a coworker and after 10 years of marriage, the pair finally called it quits.
Misook wound up getting a job as an interpreter, and it was there that she met her second husband, Don Wang. Misook translated in Korean, while Don translated in Mandarin. The couple bonded over work and sharing different Asian cuisines. In 2003, they married.
Misook had a close-knit relationship with Don’s mother, Linda.
“Linda [was] just like my mom to me,” said Misook. “She was nice to me and helped me out.”
After Larry contacted the police on the evening of Sept. 5, 2011, investigators traced Linda’s calls to a cell tower in Bloomington, where she was supposed to meet the prospective client. Police focused on finding out who the mysterious client was.
A stunning break came seven days after Linda’s disappearance when a Chinese-speaking waitress went to the police. According to the waitress, a well-dressed woman entered the Bloomington restaurant and paid her $500 to make a call to Linda pretending to be a prospective client in need of a translator.
Security camera footage confirmed that the woman was Misook Wang, who made the request only one day before Linda went missing.
Before dawn the following day, Linda went to meet the client in the parking lot of a grocery store. As shown in the surveillance video later pulled by investigators, Linda met Misook instead of the prospective client.
Both women exited their cars, and a verbal altercation erupted. Misook tried to stop Linda from leaving and pulled at her arm and purse. But just as the fight was about to come to a boiling point, they suddenly stopped. The women got in their cars, and it was Linda who followed Misook in her car. Misook led her to her sewing and alterations business.
In light of the waitress’ statement and unearthed surveillance video, authorities brought Misook in for questioning. Meanwhile, investigators searched her sewing shop where they made a shocking discovery: In the dumpster behind Misook’s shop were Linda’s cut-up identification and credit cards, as well as the clothes Linda was last seen wearing when she disappeared.
Misook came clean and confessed to killing her mother-in-law, but she claimed it was self-defense. In a recorded interview with police, Misook said Linda got between Misook and Don’s marriage. Misook also believed that Don was having an affair with Linda’s assistant, an extramarital union supposedly approved by Linda.
“I feel like betrayed,” Misook said from behind bars. “That moment I have been betrayed. I feel like, you know, [Linda] never told me what’s going on. And that I’d trust her like my own mom.”
Misook’s attempt to have Linda meet her under false pretenses was a last-ditch effort to keep her family together, Misook claimed.
Misook eventually led detectives to a nature preserve 70 miles away from the shop, where she buried Linda’s body.
While sitting in jail and awaiting trial, Misook wrote letters in Korean to relatives. In them, she admitted Linda had a life insurance policy, of which Don would have been the beneficiary. Misook believed she’d be entitled to half of what Don inherited.
A jury found Misook guilty of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to 55 years in prison.
“I’ll probably never forgive her for what she’s done,” Linda’s husband, Larry, told producers. “Whatever she got, she deserved.”
The media attention brought renewed interest to another local case from 1998: the murder of 3-year-old Christina McNeil.
“I believe Misook was indeed the person behind my daughter’s murder, just as I maintained since day one,” Barton McNeil, who is currently serving a 100-year sentence for his daughter’s murder, told "Snapped: Behind Bars."
Barton "Bart" McNeil is the man Misook had an affair with while married to her first husband, Andy Newlin.
On the morning of June 16, 1998, Bart said he went to wake his daughter up for preschool when he tripped over a fan and found her dead.
With a history of asthma that required past hospitalization and no apparent trauma to the body, authorities soon declared the 3-year-old girl died of natural causes.
But Bart said his mind kept returning to the fan on the bedroom floor and how it had been firmly mounted in the window the night before. He conducted his own investigation, which led him to the house’s exterior by the bedroom window. He discovered plants had been stepped on, there was a scuff mark under the window, and two holes had been cut in the screen where someone presumably unlatched the screen to get inside.
“This is when I knew Christina had been murdered,” Bart told producers.
Bart called 911 for the second time that day, telling them Christina’s death was a homicide and begging investigators to return. He told police that they needed to look at his former lover, Misook Wang, then known as Misook Newlin. He said he’d recently ended things with Misook after a tumultuous relationship that lasted four years.
According to Bart, Misook had a violent streak. He claimed she often physically and verbally attacked Bart, leading neighbors to make several calls to 911. In the final incident, Misook allegedly pushed Bart while he was trying to leave the apartment with Christina in his arms.
She was charged with domestic assault, and was due to be sentenced on June 17, just one day after Christina was found dead.
Bart had moved into his own apartment with Christina, but said Misook stalked him in the weeks leading up to Christina’s murder. He finally agreed to meet her on June 15 at a restaurant.
At the restaurant, Misook screamed at Bart before storming off, as seen by several witnesses. When Bart later left the restaurant, Misook was sitting in his car, demanding that Bart get Christina.
“She’s like, ‘Let’s go pick up Christina, let’s go pick up Christina,’” Bart claimed. “I said, ‘No, you are not coming with me to go get Christina.’”
Later that evening, at around 10:30 p.m., Misook allegedly called Bart’s apartment and asked where Christina was sleeping.
Then at around midnight, Bart said he noticed something strange.
“I was walking to the bathroom, and I was walking past the bedroom door, I heard a voice,” Bart told producers. “It spooked me for a minute because it sounded like Christina was talking to somebody in her bedroom.”
When he checked on Christina, she was alone, but sitting upright and smiling. By morning, Christina was dead.
Authorities looked at Misook, who failed a polygraph test when questioned about Christina’s death. Misook also claimed that she spoke to her brother in Korea at around 2 a.m., but phone records showed no such call.
Bart begged detectives to do more, but he became a suspect when the autopsy results came back and showed signs of sexual abuse.
“This is a bunch of crap,” a livid Bart said to detectives in a taped interrogation. “This is my daughter.”
Autopsy results also put the time of death at 10:30 p.m., which contradicted Bart’s timeline.
Barton McNeil was arrested for Christina’s murder.
Bart’s defense attorney tried to introduce Misook as an alternative suspect in the case, but the judge barred any mention of Misook. At a bench trial, the judge found Bart guilty of first-degree murder and handed down a life sentence.
“When the guilty verdict was rendered, I felt that my life was over,” said Bart. “It looks like I’m going to serve the rest of my life in prison for something I didn’t do. And worst of all, my daughter’s killer’s never going to pay a penalty for what was done to her. That’s what hurt the most.”
Ten years later, Misook was charged with killing her mother-in-law, Linda Tyda.
Linda Tyda’s murder called attention to Christina’s case. Soon, the Illinois Innocence Project, among others, joined in the fight to free Barton McNeil.
A brand new look at Christina’s case by Bart’s post-conviction defense team cast doubt on Bart’s conviction.
New investigators did touch DNA testing and determined that Misook’s DNA was on Christina’s bed and inside her pillowcase.
Furthermore, they cited that the sciences previously used to determine the time of death and evidence of sexual assault were defunct practices. A new look at the medical examiner’s findings proved that not only did Christina die at a time that matched Bart’s timeline, but there was no evidence Christina was sexually assaulted.
Bart’s defense team has filed a petition for a new trial, but there is no timeline for a judge to return a ruling.
Misook has never been charged with Christina McNeil’s murder and denies any wrongdoing.
“I’ve got nothing to do with her, this case,” Misook claims from an Illinois prison. “Anytime [Barton McNeil] want to talk to me, you know, I can talk to him about it.”
Misook is scheduled to be released from prison in 2067.
Barton McNeil remains in prison today, where he hopes a judge to rule in favor of a new trial.
For more on this case and others like it, watch "Snapped: Behind Bars," airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
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