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Crystal nabb

Krystal Naab

Real Name: Krystal Lynn Naab
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Ramsey, Illinois
Date: July 23, 1991


Details: Sixteen-year-old Krystal Naab lived with her mother, Helen, and siblings, Curtis and Melody, in a trailer in Ramsey, Illinois. In July 1991, she had just completed her sophomore year in high school. She was an average student known for her independence, love of children, and help of the elderly. She had a steady boyfriend whom she planned to marry. At 4pm on July 23, Curtis came home from work and found Krystal lying in a pool of blood near the entrance to the living room. She had been stabbed eighty-one times with a pair of sewing scissors.
After unsuccessfully trying to revive Krystal, Curtis drove to a neighbor’s house to call for help. The police arrived soon after. The phone was found ripped off the wall. The scissors used in the murder were found on the kitchen counter. Helen told the police that they were normally kept in the living room China cabinet. Based on the scene, police believed the killer cleaned up the trailer after committing the crime.
Crime scene technicians believed the killer most likely got cuts on their hands during the attack. In a brutal stabbing, blood can make the killer’s hand slide onto the blade, causing the cuts. One technician said that the killer would most likely have cuts on the outside of their fingers or on their palm.
Several neighbors told police they had noticed a small white pickup truck, most likely a Dodge Dakota, parked outside the trailer from around 10am to 3pm that day. Based on these sightings, the police theorized that Krystal socialized with her killer before the murder.
Next, the police talked with Curtis. They asked him if he knew anyone with that kind of truck. He told them that his friend from high school, Stuart Heaton, had that kind of truck. He said that Stuart used to live about three miles away and had visited the Naabs’ trailer on a few occasions. However, he also said that he had not seen Stuart in about two or three years.
Police located Stuart in nearby Bluff City, Illinois, where he worked as a carpenter and roofer. He did, in fact, own a 1989 white Dodge Dakota pickup truck. He and his wife, Karen, had married two years earlier, several months after he lost touch with Curtis. At the time of the murder, she was pregnant with their first child. At 8:15pm, state troopers arrived at his home and told him they wanted to ask him some questions. They then put handcuffs on him and took him to the police station. He told them that he had not done anything wrong.
While at the station, the police noticed that Stuart had several small cuts on his hands. They asked him where he had gotten them. He told them that he banged his hands while working on a roof. The police took photographs of the cuts. It was noted that they were on the outside of his fingers and on his palms. A large cut was noticed on the back of his right calf. A cut was also noticed on his forehead. However, he said it was a pimple.
Police next asked Stuart about what he did that day. He told them that he left his house at 9am and went to the lumber yard where he worked in Vandalia, Illinois, twelve miles from Ramsey. He said he did several carpenter’s errands and gave an estimate for a roofing job. When a detective asked him where he had given the estimate, he asked them why they were questioning him. He maintained that he had done nothing wrong.
Prosecuting attorney Don Sheafor says that two crime scene technicians told him that night that Stuart had the cuts on his hands in the places where they expected them to be if he was the killer. It was noted that they were “paring-type cuts,” normally caused by opened scissors, and they matched the wounds inflicted on Krystal. The technicians told Sheafor that Stuart was “our man.”
Sheafor says that for a while, though, the cuts were the only thing connecting Stuart to the crime scene. A search of his home, truck, and clothing turned up no incriminating evidence. He was released from police custody the next day. But Sheafor felt that it was too big of a coincidence for the police to say that the person they were looking for had these certain cuts, and the suspect they immediately picked up had exactly those cuts.
Stuart says that he knows for a fact that he is innocent. He says that if the investigators were as good as they claimed they were, they would have checked and found out that he always had cuts on his hands. He says the cuts were a few days old and not abnormal. He notes, “A carpenter without cuts on his hands is not a carpenter. He’s an observer.” He and his supporters also claim that Krystal’s killer would have had significant cuts on their hands, which he did not have. The arresting officer reported that there were no visible fingernail marks or injuries on Stuart.
Krystal’s stepmother, Mary Naab, says that they were told shortly after the murder that Stuart had been “picked up” for the crime. Afterward, they learned he was a suspect because of the cuts on his hands, forehead, and leg. She says that as the police continued their investigation, they learned that several people had seen Stuart’s truck at the Naabs’ trailer.
Authorities determined that Stuart’s truck was “identical” to the one seen outside of the trailer on the day of the murder. However, some of the witnesses reportedly described a truck that was somewhat different from his. One witness said they had just driven past the trailer at around 10:15am that morning when they passed a white pickup truck heading in the opposite direction. She identified Stuart as the truck’s driver. However, she did not come forward with her sighting until two months after the murder. Another witness described unusual and distinct “thick” hubcaps on the truck they had seen parked outside the trailer. Stuart’s truck had the same hubcaps.
A mailman delivered mail to the trailer at 12:25pm that day. Krystal was alive at that time and waved to him. While there, he noticed that Stuart’s truck was parked in the trailer’s driveway. He knew Stuart and specifically identified the truck as belonging to him. However, the mailman reportedly did not mention the truck when the police initially interviewed him. Another witness, who saw the truck leaving the trailer’s driveway at around 3pm, gave a physical description of the truck’s driver. It matched Stuart’s physical description.
Two men said they had seen a white truck speeding down the road about a mile from the trailer and five miles from Stuart’s mother Dovie Heaton-Bergin’s home that afternoon. One of the men said that Stuart’s truck looked like the one he had seen. According to Dovie’s statement to the police, Stuart showed up at her home a short time later.
When Stuart was initially taken into custody on the day of the murder, there were toolboxes in his truck. The witnesses noted that the truck they had seen did not have any toolboxes in it. A neighbor told police that he had helped Stuart put the toolboxes in the truck several hours after the murder (and after the witness sightings).
On September 11, 1991, Stuart was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder. He was arrested later that day. He voluntarily waived his right to a speedy trial. After obtaining a search warrant, police took a blood sample from him for DNA testing. An autopsy had been performed on Krystal. She was three months pregnant, and a trace of semen was found in her pubic hair. Her boyfriend had been eliminated as a suspect. The police wanted to find out if the semen matched Stuart’s DNA.
The police believed Krystal was raped, although the autopsy could not confirm that. She was found face down, and her t-shirt was tucked into the back of her underwear. The police claimed that blood flow patterns showed that she was on her back when she was killed. They believed that the killer had turned her over and tucked in her shirt in order to cover up the sexual assault.
For more than four months, Stuart languished in jail, awaiting the DNA test results, which he felt would exonerate him. However, when his lawyer forwarded the test results, they were not what he had hoped for. There was a chance that his DNA matched the semen sample found on Krystal’s body. Despite this, he remained optimistic.
Stuart says he did not know as much about DNA and genetic testing then as he does now. When he read the results, he hung onto the fact that there was “only a chance” that the DNA was his. He felt the test was not exact and that the police could not say it was a match. He believed that that meant there was reasonable doubt.
Dovie says that when she read the results, she knew there was no way that Stuart had committed the murder. She also claims that all the other forensic evidence found at the scene – hair, skin, tissue, blood, fingerprints, fibers, and a bloody palm print – did not belong to him. Crime scene technicians stated that none of the fingerprint, blood, hair, or fiber evidence collected from the scene could be positively identified as coming from Stuart. She says it is impossible for him to have been in the trailer from 10am to 3pm and not leave something behind.
The police claimed that Stuart cleaned up the crime scene with rags, removing his hair and fingerprints. Dovie says there is no way someone could clean up their own physical evidence and leave everybody else’s.
Notwithstanding the Dodge pickup and the cuts on Stuart’s hands, he and his family were confident going into the June 1992 trial. But they would be sorely disappointed. Krystal’s brother, Curtis, gave damaging testimony. He claimed that one night, between two and three years earlier, he woke up to find Stuart in the Naabs’ shared bedroom, talking to his older sister, Melody. He asked Stuart to leave.
Stuart, however, says that Curtis’ testimony was completely different from his mother Helen’s regarding that incident. Curtis had also previously told the police that he had answered the door and let Stuart in. Stuart says that on that night, when he stopped by, Helen answered the door. He says that he asked for Curtis, she went and got him, and they sat down at the kitchen table, drank a couple of beers, and talked.
Prosecutors claimed that this visit linked Stuart to Krystal. However, her best friend claims that she had never mentioned him before. For reasons unknown, she did not testify at the trial. The other links to Krystal came from the witnesses who placed Stuart’s truck at the Naabs’ trailer on the day of the murder. Prosecutors theorized that he killed her because she rejected his sexual advances. The coroner testified that Krystal most likely died between 12 and 2pm.
Stuart’s wife, Karen, was called by the prosecution as a hostile witness, as was his mother, Dovie. Their testimony indicated that he might have changed clothes on the day of the murder. Karen testified that in the morning, he had a t-shirt on. She believed he was wearing sweatpants because he could not fit into his jeans.
However, on the evening of the murder, Karen reportedly told the police a different story. She said that he was wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans that morning and sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt when he picked her up that afternoon. The prosecution theorized that Stuart had hidden the t-shirt and jeans because they had been bloodied during the murder.
One of Karen’s coworkers testified that Stuart had stopped by their workplace to see Karen that afternoon. Karen reportedly told her coworker that she was surprised that he had stopped by at that time and that he was acting strangely. However, Karen denied making these statements when she testified at the trial.
Dovie and her husband testified that Stuart visited their home at 3:25pm that afternoon. They lived about six miles from the trailer. They said that he was wearing dark blue sweatpants and no shirt. She and Stuart’s sister testified that he went horseback riding that afternoon as well.
Several witnesses also took the stand to establish an alibi for Stuart between 10am and 3pm on the day of the murder. However, Prosecutor Sheafor shot holes in their testimony. One witness said he saw Stuart at a gas station in Vandalia at 10am. His defense claimed he could not have gotten to the trailer for the 10:15am sighting. However, Sheafor said it was possible for him to get there in that timeframe.
Another witness said he had seen Stuart buying a soda at 10:30am at a store twelve miles from the trailer. However, the witness admitted that the sighting may have been at 9:30am instead of 10:30am. A clerk at the lumber yard said that Stuart had come there between 11:30am and 12:30pm to pick up an estimate of materials, but he was not sure if it happened on the day of the murder. A friend of Stuart’s said she saw him pulling out of the lumber yard’s parking lot at 12:40pm that day. Her statement, however, was impeached because of their friendship.
Against his family’s advice, Stuart decided not to testify on his own behalf. He says his court-appointed lawyer had not prepared him to take the stand. He also says his religion teaches that faith must be put in God rather than anyone else, including oneself. He claims that if he had testified, he would have said that he did not have a relationship with Krystal and had an alibi for the time of her murder.
As the capstone of the prosecution’s case, an expert witness, Dr. Robert Allen of the American Red Cross Blood Services laboratory, testified that Stuart’s DNA matched the semen sample found on Krystal’s body. He said the chances of the DNA profile from the sample randomly matching another white male were 1 in 52,600. Those odds, relative to other cases where DNA has been used as evidence, are, in fact, not very impressive. The odds needed before many experts feel comfortable are more in the neighborhood of one in a million. Nevertheless, the jury found Dr. Allen convincing.
On June 24, 1992, after deliberating for ninety minutes, the jury found Stuart guilty of first-degree murder. He says he was expecting a “not guilty” verdict. He says that after he got into the county jail with his family and friends, he began to cry. But he and his loved ones decided that they would go on and keep fighting it. He says he does not quit. His mother, Dovie, says that she feels for Krystal’s family. She says that she knows what it is like to lose a child. But she says that the worst thing to happen is to put the wrong man in prison for it.
At Stuart’s sentencing hearing, a woman testified that he had sexually assaulted her around Halloween 1986. She said she had passed out during a drinking party, and when she woke up, he was raping her. She was fifteen at the time. The woman’s friend also testified, claiming that Stuart had said he would “take care of” the alleged victim. They said they did not report the crime at the time because they feared being punished by the friend’s parents.
Another woman testified that Stuart had scratched her car with a rock when she rejected his sexual advances. She was also fifteen at the time. He was arrested for that crime, but the charges were dismissed when Dovie paid for the car’s damages.
On July 31, 1992, Stuart was sentenced to life in prison at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois. The judge ruled that Stuart would never be eligible for parole. Following Stuart’s conviction, David Protess has been researching his case. Protess is an investigative journalist and Professor of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He is convinced that the DNA evidence was the linchpin of the prosecution’s case, and without it, they had a weak, circumstantial case.
Protess says that the jury was “wowed” by the scientific evidence of 1 in 52,600 odds against Stuart, which led to his conviction. Protess says that a weak case was made strong based on this evidence, which he believes is “phony.” His research has led him to conclude that the real killer is still at large and that Stuart was railroaded.
Protess says that if Stuart had not owned a white truck, he would not have even been a suspect in the case. Protess searched Illinois’ Department of Motor Vehicle records and found that in Fayette County alone, there were more than 100 white trucks that were similar to the kind that Stuart drove. In narrowing the search down, he identified twelve white Dodge Dakotas, including Stuart’s. One of these vehicles belonged to a man with a lengthy criminal history who knew Krystal and reportedly threatened her family. Prosecutor Sheafor claims that they adequately investigated this man, but others disagree.
Could the DNA sample found on Krystal’s body have belonged to someone other than Stuart? According to the statistical method used in his trial, there are more than 4,800 people in the United States whose DNA would have matched the sample. And when a new statistical method is applied, that number rises from 4,800 to around 48,000.
Stuart’s current attorney, Robert Byman, says that using DNA evidence to exclude somebody is generally accepted. If you look at one spot on a gene and they do not match, then you know those people do not match. Byman says the problem occurs when you try to include people. He says it can be proven, for example, that someone is not the father of a child by DNA tests, and it can be proven to 100% scientific acceptability. But when you try to prove who is the father or who is the murderer, that is where you can run into difficulties.
Byman and his associate, Michelle Malinowski, have taken on Stuart’s case pro bono. They believe that Stuart is innocent and that Dr. Allen, the DNA expert for the prosecution, used a controversial method when calculating the odds against Stuart. According to Protess, two years after Dr. Allen testified in Stuart’s case, he published an article with several other renowned scientists that rejected the statistical assumptions that he himself had used in the case.
Malinowski thinks that Stuart was convicted because the jurors were completely overwhelmed by the complexity of the DNA evidence. They saw it as infallible, when it was not.
Prosecutor Sheafor says it is not fair to “across the board” deny the use of DNA evidence because the probability is low. He thinks it should be admissible. He says they should let the jury determine whether the odds are low in relation to other cases and all the evidence in the case or whether they are significant.
The most critical issue with the DNA testimony in Stuart’s trial was the interpretation of the evidence. An autoradiogram, or autorad, of DNA taken from Krystal’s body was shown in court. Two distinct bands on it represent DNA from a region where individuals are very likely to be genetically different.

Heaton autorad

The trial boiled down to a debate between two expert witnesses over whether bands were present in the semen sample found on Krystal’s body. And if they were, did they match the bands on Stuart’s DNA profile? One autorad (shown to the right) compares Stuart’s DNA with DNA from the semen sample. The small pen point dots on the left borders mark the places where Dr. Allen said he saw bands linking Stuart to the semen. He said that while the bands are difficult to see, they are there. Sheafor also said that he could see the bands.
The defense expert, biochemistry professor Dr. Gary Litman, said he could not detect those critical bands. He also said at the trial that the DNA testing was the “worst quality DNA work I've ever seen done.” He believed that Dr. Allen’s lab was too subjective, and because an insufficient amount of DNA was extracted from the samples, the test results were inconclusive.
Malinowski believes that the two samples are not a match. According to Protess, the semen sample was an old, crusty material that was minute in quantity. He says it probably did not provide an adequate basis for even conducting a DNA test, and certainly not the type of DNA test that was done in this case.
Protess and his team unearthed a letter in which, prior to his reaching conclusions, Dr. Allen said, “...I hope that at least one of the two remaining markers will reveal a DNA profile belonging to the presumed assailant in this case.” Protess says that that statement is scientific subjectivity, and it should disqualify Dr. Allen as an expert in Stuart’s case.
It was also discovered that there were discrepancies in the identification of several key exhibits used in the trial, including the vial that contained Stuart’s blood. Its labeled number reportedly changed several times. Dr. Allen had incorrectly stated at one point that the DNA match had come from a vaginal swab. However, no swab was ever sent to him to test. It has also been noted that Dr. Allen did not follow some safeguards that are supposed to prevent bias in DNA testing.
Dr. Dan Krane, a DNA profiling expert at Wright State University, is certain that Dr. Allen did his best with what was available to him. However, Dr. Krane notes that the semen sample was not in the best condition. And it did not lead to clear-cut results. He says there were a lot of smudges, and it is difficult to say unambiguously whether a band is present or not.
Dr. Krane has co-authored articles on DNA testing with Dr. Allen. Yet, in Stuart’s case, he disputes Dr. Allen’s conclusions. After analyzing the evidence, Dr. Krane could not determine whether or not the semen was Stuart’s. He believes that there are bands in the DNA evidence that could actually exclude Stuart and that Dr. Allen may have ignored these bands. He believes that there may be other DNA profiles present as well.
Dr. Krane says that he would feel very uncomfortable sending someone to prison based on the DNA evidence alone. However, he notes that there may have been other compelling evidence he was unaware of. But the DNA evidence alone would leave a large area of doubt in his mind as to whether or not Stuart was responsible.
Dr. Krane believes that the prosecution may have pressured Dr. Allen into finding a match between the two DNA profiles. Dr. Allen denies this. Another expert, Dr. Thomas Marr, also criticized Dr. Allen’s work. He says the work seemed “messy” and “irregular.” He claims that Dr. Allen made mistakes during the DNA testing, especially with the evidence handling. He says that Dr. Allen’s tests were “garbage” compared to the rigorous standards of scientific lab work.
Dr. Allen, who usually works with paternity cases, defends his work in Stuart’s case. He says it should not be a surprise that scientists disagree about DNA readings. He says there is subjectivity in every lab test. He also acknowledges that he would have reached a more “conservative” conclusion in this case if the test had been the sole basis for the conviction.
Dr. Allen further claims that the errors he made with labeling were “insignificant” clerical mistakes that did not affect the test results. He also defended his allegedly subjective statement; he says that he hoped there were results in the case, not necessarily that the results would implicate Stuart.
Krystal’s stepmother, Mary, notes that it was not just the DNA that convicted Stuart but also the people who saw him and his truck at the Naabs’ trailer at certain times that day. She thinks that their testimony helped convict him, along with the DNA evidence.
Prosecutor Sheafor has no doubt in his mind that Stuart killed Krystal. He says that Stuart killed her in an extremely vicious, sick manner. He says that Stuart is extremely dangerous and has to be locked up. He believes that if Stuart is released, he will kill again. He says the court system worked in this case.
Stuart maintains that he did not kill Krystal. He says he did not know her and had no reason to have a grudge against her or her family.
Suspects: Stuart Heaton was convicted of Krystal's murder based on the DNA evidence and witnesses placing him or his truck near the Naabs' trailer. He, however, maintains his innocence.
Stuart's supporters believe the real killer was a man who knew Krystal and had a criminal record. He owned a white Dodge Dakota similar to Stuart's.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the December 16, 1994 episode.
  • It was also documented on The Investigators.
  • Some sources say the Naabs’ trailer was five miles southeast of Ramsey and that witnesses saw the white truck parked there between 12:15pm and 3:15pm.

Results: Solved - In August 1995, Stuart requested to have his conviction overturned, claiming that his original attorney failed to represent him at his trial properly. He also alleged that there was new evidence to refute the accuracy of the DNA tests. Furthermore, he claimed there was “strong evidence” that another person killed Krystal. However, in June 1997, his request was denied.
In 1999, a panel of Fifth District Appellate Court judges granted Stuart an evidentiary hearing in which he could present evidence that his original attorney failed to properly investigate claims that the other man killed Krystal. According to witnesses who testified at the hearing, this man was seen with Krystal in the days before her murder. His brother owned a white Dodge Dakota truck like the one seen at the trailer, and he had been seen driving it.
One witness claimed he had overheard the man make incriminating statements, including that he had killed Krystal to punish her brother Curtis over an unpaid drug debt and that he had burned his bloody clothes in a burn barrel. However, it was noted that no one had seen the man with Krystal on the day of the murder, and he was not seen driving his brother’s truck that day. Also, the witness who allegedly heard the incriminating statements was a convicted felon. The other witnesses also did not come forward until after Stuart’s conviction.
Stuart also claimed that his original attorney did not produce evidence to support his alibi. He claimed that he made a phone call from his sister’s home at 3:24pm on the day of the murder, and he could not have made it from the Naabs’ trailer to her home in nine minutes. He claimed that phone records proved he made this call and that his original attorney did not produce them at the trial. However, his mother Dovie’s testimony conflicts with this claim, as she said he was at her house then. Prosecutor Sheafor also suggested that the call may have been made in an attempt to create an alibi for Stuart.
In July 2001, a Fayette County judge ruled that Stuart was entitled to a new round of DNA tests. However, these tests showed that there was an almost exact match between Stuart’s DNA and the semen sample found on Krystal’s body. The odds of the semen coming from a white male other than Stuart were 1 in 31 billion.
In 2003, Stuart was denied a new trial. In 2007, he filed a petition for “habeas relief,” but it was denied. Despite the DNA evidence, he and several supporters maintain his innocence. They have claimed that the DNA sample tested in 2001 was actually Stuart’s own sample instead of one from the crime scene.
Krystal’s father, Verle, and stepmother, Mary, have both since passed away.