Court: Man entitled to new trial in killing of woman, 94
ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — A mentally disabled man convicted of killing a 94-year-old woman nearly 20 years ago is entitled to a new trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.
The court’s unanimous opinion last week affirmed a 2020 ruling that vacated Andrew Royer’s murder conviction in the death of Helen Sailor, and found that he did not receive a fair trial. Sailor was found strangled in her apartment at a high-rise near downtown Elkhart in 2002.
The court found that the Elkhart police detective who interrogated Royer, now 45, disregarded his mental disability and fed him details of Sailor’s murder during interrogation. The detective was removed from the Elkhart homicide unit prior to Royer’s 2005 trial, and this information constituted newly discovered evidence, the court said.
“Simply put, Royer did not receive a fair criminal trial,” judge Melissa May wrote in the appellate court’s April 8 decision.
Royer was released from prison in April 2020 after 16 years of incarceration following the ruling by special judge Joe Sutton of Kosciusko County. It was unclear when or if Royer would stand trial again in Sailor’s slaying, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Indiana’s attorney general’s office had appealed Sutton’s ruling to the state appeals court.
Royer, who confessed to Sailor’s killing in 2003 after being interrogated for two days, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, according to his attorneys at the time.
Royers attorney’s filed an appeal in June 2018 seeking to overturn his conviction, arguing that his murder confession was coerced. They also argued that he was sentenced to 55 years in prison based on bad policing, poor work by his defense lawyer, false witnesses statements and law enforcement concealing evidence.
Royer’s co-defendant, Lana Canen, was also convicted in 2005, but she released in 2012 after a detective recanted his testimony that linked her to the case based on fingerprint evidence.