A convicted murderer may see a new trial if a conviction vacation is approved by Elkhart Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker, according to a Friday afternoon press release from the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.
Lana Canen, currently incarcerated for the 2002 murder of Helen Sailor at the Waterfall High Rise apartments in Elkhart, may have her murder charges vacated, according to the release. 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 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 that 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 he no longer believed the fingerprint found on a pill bottle at the scene matched 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 the press release. "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," Hill said.
Capt. Jim Bradberry of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, said the department would respond later in the week with a formal statement.
The prosecuting attorney’s release said the vacation request, which comes jointly from the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and Canen, will be ruled on by Judge Shewmaker shortly.
"If Judge Shewmaker vacates the conviction, the murder charge against Canen will be reinstated," the release states.