New trial ordered for Geneva man accused of murdering wife in jealous rage
Citing prejudicial and improper testimony from a former FBI profiler, a state appellate court has ordered a new trial for a Geneva man convicted of murdering his wife in July 2014 and staging her body on a set of railroad tracks.
A Kane County jury convicted Shadwick King, 51, of first-degree murder in the death of Kathleen King after a 2015 trial. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
At trial, prosecutors argued Kathleen's emotional affair with a younger man she met in Army reserve training earlier that year set King into a jealous rage.
Authorities said he strangled his 32-year-old wife in their Geneva home after a night of drinking and then placed her body on the Union Pacific railroad tracks to make it look like she collapsed while out running. A conductor spotted Kathleen's body and cellphone the morning of July 6, 2014, preventing the train from running her over and destroying evidence.
The appellate court ruled that testimony from Mark Safarik, a former FBI profiler turned forensic consultant, was improperly allowed, violating King's right to a fair trial.
"Under the guise of expert 'crime scene analysis,' Safarik basically offered his subjective opinion that the state's evidence was sufficient to convict (the) defendant. As the state admitted at oral argument, the purpose of Safarik's testimony was to 'plug the holes' in the state's case," Justice Kathryn E. Zenoff wrote in the unanimous decision.
The panel ruled Safarik's testimony that Kathleen died of manual strangulation was "especially egregious" because the defense and prosecution had presented contradictory medical testimony on her cause of death.
"Through Safarik's inadmissible testimony, the state essentially 'broke the tie' by presenting a second opinion ... We hold that Safarik's opinion as to the cause of death was so highly prejudicial that we must reverse the defendant's conviction," the ruling reads.
King's appeal also claimed that his request for a different trial judge was improperly denied, but the appellate court rejected that argument.
King is being held at the Hill Correctional Center near Galesburg, but eventually will be transported back to the Kane County jail to await a new trial. His next court date was not immediately available.
Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress, who represented King at trial and called him "innocent man" after the verdict, could not immediately be reached for comment.
At trial, Childress argued that Kathleen had fallen victim to a heart condition caused in part by intoxication, stress and lack of sleep. Childress also argued that Geneva police, which had no departmental experience investigating a murder, rushed to judgment in the case.