WAUKEGAN, Ill. — A former suburban Chicago man who was freed from prison after his conviction for a 1999 murder was thrown out because of invalid evidence will receive $9 million in a settlement with law enforcement agencies involved in the case.
The Daily Herald reports Jason Strong, 42, will receive $6 million from the city of Waukegan. The remaining $3 million will be divided between nine other agencies that were part of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, which investigated the killing.
Strong, who now lives in Tennessee, was convicted in 2000 of killing Carpentersville resident Mary Kate Sunderlin, whose badly beaten body was found in a forest preserve near North Chicago in December 1999. Authorities said Sunderlin had been killed in a motel and her body dumped in the forest preserve.
Police said Strong confessed to the killings, though he maintained his innocence. He was sentenced to 46 years in prison.
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim dropped all charges against Strong in 2015, after Lake County prosecutors and Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office conducted a review of Strong’s innocence claim. Nerheim cited new medical and forensic evidence that contradicted testimony at his trial. Witnesses also recanted testimony.
Strong’s lawyer said he is grateful for the settlement and looks forward to moving on with his life.
Other than Waukegan, the defendants that are part of the settlement are Lake County, Vernon Hills, Round Lake Beach, Buffalo Grove, Libertyville, Lincolnshire, Barrington Hills, North Chicago and Park City. They are not admitting wrongful conduct or liability under the terms of the settlement.
Nerheim said Sunderlin’s killing remains under investigation.