ELKHART — A woman accused of murder has another chance to defend herself after the court vacated her conviction.
Judge Terry Shewmaker vacated Lana Canen’s murder conviction Oct. 12, after it was determined certain evidence presented at her trial did not match.
Her new trial is set for Dec. 17, according to court documents.
Canen had been originally sentenced to 55 years in prison following a conviction by an Elkhart County Circuit Court Jury in 2005. She was arrested Sept. 3, 2004, almost two years after 94-year-old Helen Sailor was found dead in her apartment, on Nov. 29, 2002.
According to family members, Sailor was dropped off at her apartment at Waterfall High Rise after a Thanksgiving dinner the night before.
Andrew Royer was arrested a year before Canen and was also convicted of murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Canen’s attorney, Cara Weineke, sent fingerprints that were taken at the crime scene, as well as Canen’s fingerprints, to a private examiner, who sent results back showing the prints did not match.
Dennis Chapman, the investigator from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department who did the initial examination of the fingerprints acknowledged the prints did not match after running another comparison.
The only positive match he had found originally was that of Canen’s left little finger. The fingerprint had been collected from one of Sailor’s medical containers in her apartment.
In a written statement, Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said it is “reasonable to believe that the jury relied upon Detective Chapman’s testimony in considering the evidence against her.”
MAINTAINING HER INNOCENCE
Weineke said Canen, now 53, always maintained her innocence, which is why she decided to go through the evidence again.
Jennifer Canen, Lana Canen’s niece, said her family has been supportive of Lana Canen and believes in her innocence since her arrest.
“She used to stay with my family, when I was 17,” Jennifer Canen said. “She was always nice, helping. I had a baby at the age of 18 and she always took care of my son and took him places with her.”
Jennifer Canen said she felt relief when she heard Lana’s conviction was vacated.
“We thought maybe now people will believe she was innocent and see that police officers make mistakes every now and then, they’re human,” she said.
Although Jennifer Canen has a full-time job and goes to school twice a week, she and her family have been following her case closely. If trial occurs they will be there to give her support, Jennifer Canen said.
“She’s lost a lot of years of her life,” she said. “It’s not fair.