BLOOMINGTON — A woman accused of killing her mother-in-law demonstrated for a jury Monday how she says she choked the victim by holding her around the neck by a purse strap and sweater until the victim passed out.
“I was holding her like that, tight, very tight,” Misook Nowlin told the jury, gathering her own jacket around her neck. Nowlin, 47, of Bloomington is charged with first-degree murder in the strangulation death of Wenlan Linda Tyda on September 5, 2011.
Nowlin admitted choking Tyda — a woman she called Mom — but claimed self-defense in the fight with the 70-year-old Crest Hill woman.
“I thought I was dying there because she was choking my neck,” Nowlin said during her two hours on the witness stand.
In what was at times a confrontational exchange with Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Workman, Nowlin claimed that she had no choice other than to put Tyda’s body in a plastic tote two days after the incident and bury her in a Will County forest preserve.
“I did the best thing I could to make her comfortable,” said Nowlin, adding that she chose the burial spot because it was a scenic location. With her 5-year-old son asleep in the back seat of her car, Nowlin unloaded the container and buried Tyda, according to her testimony, with no witnesses — “only God, and me and my Mom.”
Workman challenged discrepancies between Nowlin’s testimony and her statement to police several days after Tyda’s disappearance, including details of the altercation.
“It kind of hard to remember facts when you make them up,” said the prosecutor.
In his questioning of Nowlin, defense lawyer Brian McEldowney asked the defendant about her reasons for luring Tyda to Bloomington by setting up a phony assignment for Tyda, a translator, to interpret Chinese. According to Nowlin, she wanted the chance to apologize to her mother-in-law for a dispute over Nowlin’s actions that lead to her husband, Don Wang, being fired.
The two women met at Cub Foods where they argued, said Nowlin, and the dispute continued after Tyda followed Nowlin to her Bloomington sewing shop.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen. I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” said Nowlin, sobbing and covering her face with her hands.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning.