(WJHL) – The attorney for one of the six people convicted for killing almost an entire family in Greene County in 1997 spoke on Monday.
In 2021, a law was passed in the State of Tennessee which would allow incarcerated individuals to petition to have a fingerprint analysis conducted if there is evidence that has not yet been analyzed and that could essentially make a difference in the terms of their conviction and sentence.
Karen Howell, who has been convicted in the killings has filed one such petition, according to her lawyer William Milliken.
Howell’s attorney said they hope to establish that Jason Bryant, one of the other defendants, was the only shooter involved, and that could impact the sentences of the other defendants including Howell.
“Our understanding is that the guns were not subjected to fingerprint analysis at the time of the original investigation, so that is essentially what the petition is asking for, is for that analysis to be done,” Milliken stated. “The ultimate goal, I think, is a re-sentencing where, hopefully, Ms. Howell’s comparatively lesser role in the crime is taken into account.”
The murders took place on April 6, 1997. The Lillelid family of four was traveling back to their home in Knoxville from a religious conference in Johnson City when they stopped at a rest area on I-81 in Baileyton. The Lillelid family consisted of the father, his wife Delfina, son Peter, who was 2 at the time, and Tabitha who was 6.
The father Vidar Lillelid, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, approached a group of six young people with which he shared his faith.
During this encounter, the six people reportedly decided to kidnap the Lillelid family at gunpoint. The family was taken in their vehicle to Payne Hollow Lane where they were shot and left lying in a ditch on the side of the road. Though seriously injured, the two-year-old Peter survived.
The six kids, Jason Bryant, who was 14 at the time, Karen Howell, 17, Crystal Sturgill, 18, Natasha Cornett, 18, Edward Mullins, 19 and Joseph Risner, 20, were allegedly on a cross country crime spree and decided they needed a new car.
All six then attempted to flee to Mexico but were caught at the border two days later and were taken into custody. They were all brought back to Greene County, where they were tried as adults and convicted of the murders.
In addition to Howell, Sturgill and Mullins have also filed petitions.