UPDATE: Mansfield man charged in '90 strangulation death of wife


Listen to this article

MONTICELLO — The husband of a woman who died 26 years ago in rural Mahomet has been charged with his wife's murder.

On Thursday morning, Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades filed first-degree murder charges against Gregory J. Houser.

Houser, who listed an address in the 100 block of South Columbia Street in Mansfield, is expected to be arraigned before Judge Tim Steadman on four counts Monday at the Piatt County Courthouse.

A warrant for Houser's arrest was reportedly served at about 5 p.m. Thursday. Houser was being held at the Piatt County Jail on Thursday night.

Houser is being charged with strangling his wife, Sheryl Ann Houser, 29 years old at the time, on or about Oct. 4-5, 1990.

The couple were in the midst of divorce proceedings, and Mrs. Houser had filed sexual-assault charges against her husband two weeks earlier.

Mrs. Houser was found dead wearing only a nightgown, with a yellow nylon rope around her neck, in her rural Mahomet garage. According to court documents, the body of Mrs. Houser, a nurse at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, was found by her 6-year-old son.

Co-workers had been concerned when Mrs. Houser failed to show up for work on Oct. 5. When some of them called the home, the boy said his mother was "asleep in the garage with a rope around her neck."

Police also found a used condom lying on the floor between the interior of the home and the garage.

In July of this year, a coroner's jury ruled the case a homicide.

During the inquest, a forensic pathologist gave an opinion that Mrs. Houser's death looked more like a homicide than a suicide.

Dr. Scott Denton said petechial hemorrhaging on Mrs. Houser's face, a possible thumb mark on her neck and the fact that neck bruises did not line up with the position of the tightly wound rope pointed to homicide.

Denton said the cause of death was strangulation, with an attempt to conceal the strangulation death as a self-inflicted hanging.

In the request for an arrest warrant, filed Thursday by Piatt County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. J. Russell, evidence listed in the request included:

– A used condom found inside the home adjacent to the garage contained the DNA of Sheryl Ann and Gregory J. Houser;

– a latex glove fingertip found in the turns of the rope found around Sheryl Houser's neck;

– while undergoing divorce proceedings, Sheryl Houser filed sexual assault charges against Gregory Houser on Sept. 20, 1990. (Gregory Houser was later acquitted of those charges in a trial that took place after Sheryl Houser's death).

— Steve Hoffman contributed to this report


Tim Mitchell is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is tmitchel@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@mitchell6).