ELKHART — A northern Indiana woman sentenced to 55 years in prison for allegedly helping kill a 94-year-old woman is now free after crucial fingerprint evidence in her trial was found to be inaccurate.
Lana Canen, 53, was released Friday from the Elkhart County Jail, where she had been transferred from a southern Indiana prison.
WSBT-TV and WNDU-TV report that a county judge authorized Canen's release after prosecutors dismissed her 2005 murder conviction in Helen Sailor's 2002 slaying. A police detective who had identified a fingerprint found at Sailor's apartment as Canen's admitted that his results were wrong.
"I feel like the system failed me," Canen told WSBT-TV following her release. She had been in prison for eight years.
Canen and co-defendant Andrew Royer were both sentenced to 55 years in prison for Sailor's death on Thanksgiving Day 2002. Prosecutors had said that Canen had conspired with Royer to rob Sailor. Royer, who allegedly strangled Sailor, is still serving his sentence.
But during Canen's appeal earlier this year, a fingerprint expert from Arizona discovered that Elkhart County sheriff's Detective Dennis Chapman had wrongly identified a fingerprint on a pill container found inside Sailor's Elkhart apartment.
Prosecutor Curtis Hill said the fingerprint was a central part of the case against Canen and that without it, he could not prove she was involved.
"There's just not an ability for me in good conscience to go forward and suggest that we have a sufficient amount to support a prosecution," Hill said.
He said the only way Canen could be charged in Sailor's death again is if investigators find other evidence against her.
Chapman was disciplined for his error and still works at the sheriff's department.
Canen said Friday after her release that she had not seen her now 10-year-old grandson, her daughter and other relatives since she was first arrested in 2004. She said that when she was freed from the jail, even car exhaust smelled "good."
She told WSTV-TV she had nothing to do with Sailor's killing.
"That's what's hard to think (is) that people would think I'm that kind of a monster that would do that to a 94-year-old blind woman," Canen said.