Judge rules probable cause in Houser case

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UPDATE: 4:32 PM

PIATT COUNTY — A man accused of killing his wife will go to trial for murder. It’s part of an investigation 26 years in the making. Greg Houser is accused of killing his 29-year-old wife, Sheryl, back in 1990.

Greg’s attorney says the timing of his arrest doesn’t make sense. He says there’s no new evidence in this case, but prosecutors seem to know some things he doesn’t yet. After he entered a not guilty plea, the judge told Greg he has to stay in jail while the court system goes to work because his bond request had been denied.

“Sheryl feared for her life,” said Renee Fehr, who is Sheryl’s sister. “We all feared for her life.”

Twenty-six years and two days after Sheryl was found dead, her husband was in court. Prosecutors say Greg killed her, but he says he didn’t do it. His attorney did most of the talking.

“He’s been the number one suspect in this case since 1990,” said Kevin Sanborn, who is Greg’s attorney. “He hasn’t fled. He hasn’t taken a trip to the Bahamas or Fiji or wherever people go to flee these types of charges. He stayed here because he didn’t do it.”

An Illinois State Police investigator talked about about the pair’s history. They were going through a divorce and living separately when Greg told Sheryl to stop by and they started fighting.

“Mr. Houser, Greg, tried to tie her up with a yellow rope,” said the investigator who we are not naming to protect his identity. He is an undercover officer and was the sole witness called to testify in Friday’s preliminary hearing.

Authorities say Greg sexually assaulted Sheryl that September day back in 1990.

“During that act, he repeatedly told her the divorce wouldn’t go through and she would not leave him,” said the ISP investigator.

Sheryl requested an order of protection after that. Just weeks later, she was found dead and hanging in the garage of her home.

“Approximately the shoulder blades up were lifted up off the floor by a yellow nylon rope,” said the ISP investigator.

The ISP investigator told the judge about evidence found near the scene of the crime. They saw a latex fingertip in the knot of the rope used to hang Sheryl. Police discovered more latex from a glove under a ladder near her body. Sheryl was not wearing latex gloves when she died. Authorities also found a condom with both Sheryl’s and Greg’s DNA inside the home in the room closest to the garage.

Since Sheryl died, authorities have been trying to figure out how she it happened. In July of this year, a coroner’s jury decided she was killed. Prosecutors say there have been more developments in the last couple years, even though the defense attorney argued against them.

“Counsel [Sanborn] doesn’t know about it,” said Asst. State’s Attorney Elizabeth Dobson. “He’s assuming it doesn’t exist. He doesn’t have that information yet and he doesn’t have the advantages that other people looking at the case have had more recently.”

“It’s not fear that my family and I have if Greg is allowed on bond,” said Fehr. “It’s terror.”

Sheryl’s family members say they just want justice.

“I believe the justice system failed my sister and her boys and my family 26 years ago,” said Fehr. “I certainly hope it doesn’t fail us again.”

Sanborn said the prosecutors had an emotional appeal, but lacked facts to support the case. For the most part, Greg stared straight ahead in court and didn’t make eye contact or turn around when Fehr talked about him. He also didn’t have a visible reaction after his bond request was denied.

Sheryl’s family didn’t want to make any other statements that could jeopardize the case, but you could see the relief on their faces when the judge denied Greg’s bond.

Greg was first arrested in August of 1990. That was for battery charges against Sheryl. Then Sheryl said he sexually assaulted her the next month. She was found dead in October 1990. The coroner’s jury held an inquest in July 2016 and then Greg was arrested for the murder charge in September 2016. A jury said Greg was not guilty of the sex assault charge from 1990, but the case didn’t go to trial until after Sheryl’s death.

Original: 11:03 AM

PIATT COUNTY — At a preliminary hearing Friday morning, a judge ruled there is probable cause Greg Houser killed his wife, Sheryl, in October 1990.

An Illinois State Police investigator was the sole witness who testified about the case from his perspective, as well as other reports he’d read.

Houser entered a not guilty plea.

During a bond hearing, one of Sheryl’s sisters testified the family was terrified about what Greg might do if he’s released on bond. The judge ruled against Houser having bond.

His next court appearance is scheduled for December. His trial is scheduled to start in January.

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