Conviction overturned, new trial ordered in 2014 Geneva murder case

  • Because of improper testimony from an FBI profiler, the Illinois Supreme Court Friday ordered a new trial for Shadwick King, shown here testifying in his own defense on charges he strangled his wife, Kathleen, 32, in July 2014.

    Because of improper testimony from an FBI profiler, the Illinois Supreme Court Friday ordered a new trial for Shadwick King, shown here testifying in his own defense on charges he strangled his wife, Kathleen, 32, in July 2014. POOL PHOTO BY SANDY BRESSNER/KANE COUNTY CHRONICLE

 
 
Updated 1/24/2020 7:26 PM

Citing improper and damaging testimony from an FBI profiler, the Illinois Supreme Court on Friday ordered a new trial for Shadwick King, a Geneva man who was convicted of strangling his wife in July 2014 and staging her body on a railroad track to make it look like she collapsed while jogging.

King, now 52, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for first-degree murder of Kathleen King, 32, who Kane County prosecutors argued was killed in a jealous rage after she started an emotional affair with a man she met at Army training.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At trial, prosecutors argued that Shadwick King murdered his wife at their home on Geneva's east side and staged her body and cellphone on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks in an effort to make it look like she collapsed while jogging.

A forensic pathologist who performed Kathleen's autopsy ruled she was strangled, but an expert called by the defense said a heart condition killed her.

In a 21-page ruling Friday, the state's highest court overturned King's conviction, with the key issue being testimony from Mark Safarik, an FBI profiler and expert in "crime scene analysis."

An appellate panel in 2018 ruled that parts of Safarik's testimony should not have been allowed by Judge James Hallock, who has since retired.

The Supreme Court justices agreed with the appellate panel, saying in Friday's opinion that significant portions of his testimony went well beyond crime scene analysis, such as opinions and conclusions about Kathleen King's manner and cause of death, whether injuries on her body were made before or after her death, and if leaves on her body were consistent with leaves found in the couple's home.

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"That is hardly the same thing as being an expert in forensic pathology or botany, both of which are scientific fields into which Safarik's testimony repeatedly transgressed," read part of Friday's opinion.

"What happened here is that the jury was presented with a decedent whose cause of death was not only not obvious, but in fact hotly contested by two competing and highly qualified medical experts, one saying it was a homicide caused by manual strangulation and the other saying it was a natural death caused by sudden cardiac arrhythmia. Safarik was in no position to jump into the fray," the opinion continued.

King has been held at the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. His next court appearance in Kane County has not been set.

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