ELKHART — Lana Canen, an Elkhart woman who was convicted in 2005 of murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison, was released Friday morning after the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office determined it did not have enough evidence to pursue her charge.
Canen’s conviction was vacated Oct. 12 after it was determined certain evidence presented at her trial in 2005 did not match.
Canen, now 53, appealed through the Indiana Court of Appeals. Earlier this year her attorney, Cara Wieneke, sent fingerprints that were taken at the crime scene, as well as Canen’s, to a private examiner, who sent results back showing the prints did not match.
Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department detective Dennis Chapman, who initially examined Canen’s fingerprints and those in the evidence, testified during an evidentiary hearing in August that he no longer believed that a fingerprint found on a prescription container in the victim’s room matched Canen’s little finger.
After the Court of Appeals ruled in Canen’s favor, Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill joined in a motion to the Elkhart Circuit Court to set aside the conviction. Hill said in a statement “it is reasonable to believe that the jury relied upon Detective Chapman’s testimony in considering the evidence against her.”
All files and evidence were thoroughly reviewed to evaluate the status of the Canen prosecution, but “after reviewing the file and re-examining the trial as well as the evidence available going forward, there is insufficient evidence in which to proceed with a successful prosecution of Lana Canen,” said Hill in a statement.
Canen was arrested and charged with murder in the 2004 death of Helen Sailor, 94. Sailor was found dead in her Waterfall High Rise apartment the morning after Thanksgiving in 2002. The night of Thanksgiving, she had dinner with her family, and they dropped her off at her apartment.
The prosecutor’s office said that Canen and her co-defendant, Andrew Royer, had conspired to rob Sailor and that Royer killed Sailor during the robbery. Royer was also sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Hill held a press conference Friday afternoon where he said Royer remains in prison. Royer appealed his case in 2011, but it was denied.
Canen’s family did not know about her release until Friday morning, when she showed up at the house of her mother, Sandra Brinson.
Canen’s niece, Jennifer Canen, said she was hoping to see her after getting off from work later on Friday. “We’re all very happy really,” she said.
Canen’s family had been following her case closely, but it was still a surprise, even for Canen, that she was released on such short notice.
“We’re all elated about that, because we knew she didn’t do it from the very beginning,” Brinson said.
Brinson said her daughter will be living with her for now. “She’s going to have to start over and get all of her stuff,” she said.