Following an 8-day jury trial, Gregory Houser has been found guilty of
the 1990 Murder and Sexual Assault of his wife, Sheryl Houser, in Piatt
County, Illinois (case number 16 - CF - 45). In 1990, Sheryl Houser's
death had been ruled a suicide until a Coroner's Inquest in 2016 deemed
her death to be a homicide. Shortly afterward, on September 21, 2016,
Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades charged Gregory Houser,
Sheryl's husband, with the murder of his then wife. Greg Houser, of
Mansfield, Illinois, has been in jail since being charged.
Johnson Law Group attorneys Kevin Sanborn and Todd Ringel tried the case
for the defense, while State's Attorney Dana Rhoades tried the case
with two Assistant State's Attorneys, one of whom was specially hired
solely for this case. Johnson Law Group is a criminal defense firm with
offices throughout central Illinois.
Defense Attorney Kevin Sanborn: "Although we respect the jury's verdict, an innocent man was
found guilty today. We look forward to an appeal and possible re-trial
in the case.."
Defense Attorney Todd Ringel: "Scarier than an innocent man facing life in prison is the fact
that the real killer is still out there. There are no winners in this
case: Sheryl was robbed of her life, and Greg essentially lost his after
the verdict "
Trial Evidence Summary:
The defense did not refute that Sheryl Houser had been murdered, but always
maintained Greg's innocence, yet much of the State's evidence
was devoted to proving that Sheryl's death was not a suicide. The
State's presented evidence that at the time of Sheryl's death,
Greg faced Sexual Assault charges in Champaign County, which alleged Sheryl
as the victim, but Greg was ultimately acquitted at a jury trial in that
case. Evidence also showed that it was Greg who had filed for divorce
before Sheryl's murder. Several witnesses testified to knowing Sheryl
well, and to her not being involved in a sexual relationship. However,
one witness, Walter Rohr, admitted on the stand to having a secret sexual
affair with Sheryl immediately before her death, which he did not disclose
for nearly 26 years. This witness also testified to having a friend of
his from Champaign change the locks on the family home, which was then
owned by both Greg and Sheryl.
The only evidence of a sexual assault was a condom next to a toppled-over
trash bag. There were no eye witnesses to the murder, and no forensic
evidence that linked Greg to Sheryl's death. To the contrary, blood
was found on Sheryl's nightgown, and DNA testing proved that it was
not Greg's blood. Even the State's own expert witnesses could
not agree on where that blood came from, stating that it was probably
morgue contamination, while another expert testified that it could be
that of one of the last people to see Sheryl alive.