ELKHART — Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney Curtis T. Hill Jr. announced Friday afternoon the murder charge against Lana Canen has been dropped due to insufficient evidence.
Canen was convicted of the Thanksgiving Day 2002 murder of Helen Sailor at the Waterfall High Rise apartments in Elkhart. The prosecutor alleges that Sailor was killed during a robbery.
A centerpiece against Canen at the 2005 trial was fingerprint examination performed by Dennis Chapman, a detective with the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department.
During preparation for the August post-conviction hearing for Canen, Chapman reviewed the evidence that he had previously identified as Canen's fingerprint. Following this review Chapman acknowledged that he had been wrong in his assertion that the print had matched Canen's, the prosecutor said.
Canen had been accused of being an accomplice in the beating, robbery and murder of Sailor. Canen’s codefendant Andrew Royer was also convicted in the murder of Sailor and is currently serving a 55-year sentence.
Elkhart County prosecutor Curtis T. Hill Jr. said in a Sept. 28 statement that opinions changed on the validity of the conviction when Detective Dennis Chapman with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department changed his position on a fingerprint he previously matched to Canen.
Chapman said he reviewed the photographs of the fingerprints in preparation for an Aug. 16 post-conviction hearing for Canen. He determined that the fingerprint found on a pill bottle at the scene did not match Canen’s fingerprints, according to the release.
“After learning of Detective Chapman’s change in his opinion and a review of the evidence presented to the jury, I no longer consider Detective Chapman’s testimony at trial to be credible,” Hill said in a press release on Sept. 28. “As it is reasonable to believe that the jury relied upon Detective Chapman’s testimony in considering the evidence against her, it is clearly in the best interest of justice that the murder conviction against Lana Canen be vacated as we continue to re-evaluate the evidence and Canen’s role in the murder of Helen Sailor.
“We do not take this action lightly. While it is our responsibility to secure convictions when we believe it is right and just to do so, it is never right for us to preserve a conviction when to do so would not be just nor right.”
Now more than a month later, Hill made his announcement about dropping the murder charge.
Information will be updated later today.