Dog DNA Helped Solve Case Of Illinois Woman Whose Body Was Found Dismembered In Lake
23-year-old Karyn Hearn Slover, the mother of a 3-year-old son, was about to move out of state to pursue modeling when she was murdered.
A young mother in Illinois hoping to begin a modeling career was brutally murdered shortly before she was set to leave for Georgia, and it took six years for her killers to be brought to justice.
On Sept. 27, 1996, Karyn Hearn Slover borrowed her new boyfriend David Swann’s Pontiac Bonneville so she could pick up her 3-year-old son Kolten from the Mount Zion home of his paternal grandparents, Michael Sr. and Jeannette Slover.
The couple said 23-year-old Karyn never showed up and the vehicle was located shortly before 10 p.m. that evening on the side of a highway outside Champaign. The engine was running and a purse and half-eaten candy bar were inside.
Two days later, body parts and chunks of concrete were found in garbage bags on the shores of Lake Shelbyville. Investigators used dental records to identify the victim as Karyn and determined she had been shot multiple times in the head and her body dismembered with a power tool.
Investigators initially focused on Karyn’s ex-husband, Michael Jr., since he reportedly had a history of violence during their marriage. His alibi, however, checked out. The day Karyn went missing, a colleague at the grocery store where Michael Jr. had a job as a security officer verified seeing him. He then taught a karate lesson and went to work his second job as a bouncer at a local tavern.
Investigators also ruled out Karyn’s boyfriend, Swann, as her killer after verifying he was at a rehearsal dinner for a wedding he and Karyn were to attend the next day. Surveillance video confirmed he stopped to get money at an ATM during a critical 45-minute period of the evening police believed Karyn was murdered.
The paternal grandparents of Karyn and Michael Jr.’s toddler, Kolten, then became the focus of the investigation. The Illinois Times reported Karyn had custody of the child but she was required by the court to leave her son with Michael Sr. and Jeannette while at work.
“One time she said she felt kinda funny bringing Kolten to her ex-in-laws to be babysat every day,” Jeannette told the publication. “I told her not to think of me as an ex-in-law. I told her think of me as Kolten’s grandmother.”
According to the Decatur Herald-Review, an ex-boyfriend of Karyn’s claimed to police that the grandmother was very possessive of Kolten and once told the child that “one day you’ll be all mine.”
Detectives began to compile evidence against Kolten’s grandparents and came to believe that the couple lured Karyn to her death, The Illinois Times reported.
Though police never found blood evidence tying the couple or their son to the case, detectives determined concrete and cinder remnants found in the plastic bags containing Karyn’s body likely came from Miracle Motors, a used-car lot Michael Sr. and Jeannette owned.
Investigators also found on the property rivets and a metal button they said matched one from the victim’s jeans as well as a fabric button that may have come from her blouse.
A murder weapon or a power saw was never located.
Perhaps most damaging to the defense, investigators reportedly traced DNA from a dog hair found stuck to tape securing one of the plastic bags found in the lake back to a black Labrador Michael Sr. and Jeannette owned.
Authorities arrested the pair in January 2000 and charged them with first-degree murder. The couple’s son, Karyn’s ex-husband, Michael Jr., was also taken into custody and faced the same charge.
During trial, prosecutors alleged Jeannette and Michael Sr. killed Karyn, dismembered her body at the car lot and then disposed of the remains — all with some help from Michael Jr. The three all denied their involvement in the crime.
According to reports, Karyn was on the verge of moving to Georgia to pursue a modeling career when she died. Prosecutors claimed Michael Sr. and Jeannette were concerned she would take Kolten away from them so they carried out the gruesome crime in order to win custody of the boy after his mother was out of the picture.
A jury in the largely circumstantial case convicted the three Slovers of first-degree murder in 2002 and a judge sentenced each to 60 years behind bars. Michael Sr. and his son both received an additional five years for concealment of a homicide.
A court eventually granted Larry and Donna Hearn — Kolten’s maternal grandparents — custody of the boy.
Jeannette, 72, and Michael Jr., 50, are currently incarcerated in prisons in Illinois. Michael Sr. reportedly died at age 74 in June 2022.
Despite the convictions, Jeannette and Michael Sr.’s daughter insisted in a 2005 interview that her family had nothing to do with Karyn’s death.
“They didn’t do it — but there’s someone out there who did,” Mary Slover said. “Part of what’s so horrible about this isn’t just that they destroyed my family, it’s that someone got away with doing this to Karyn.”