Jennifer Lockmiller was born on January 11, 1971, to Richard and Norma Lockmiller in Decatur, Illinois. She was the youngest of five children and the only daughter.
Jennifer was a 1989 honors graduate of Eisenhower High School in Decatur. After high school, she attended Illinois Wesleyan College (IWU) in Bloomington, IL, before transferring to Illinois State University (ISU) in Normal in 1992 to study journalism.
Jennifer was beautiful, brilliant, and full of potential. At the age of 3 1/2 years old, she taught herself to read by watching the children’s television show Electric Company.
Between seven and 14 years of age, she studied piano at Millikin University‘s preparatory program and often gave recitals.
She also overcame obstacles, including an eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa. When she was a freshman in high school, Jennifer wanted to lose a few pounds. But her dieting turned into a full-blown addiction, and she was hospitalized several times after that.
Jennifer and her mother, Norma, started a local chapter of a national support group for the eating disorder and began speaking publicly about the condition.
When she entered IWU, she relapsed and was put on medication, which seemed to help. By the time she transferred to ISU, Jennifer had overcome the illness.
Jennifer loved music, especially songs from The Beatles. She even named the family dog, Abbey, after the Beatles album, Abbey Road. But her passion was writing. She was a gifted writer and started a student job at ISU’s newspaper, The Daily Vidette, in January 1993.
Jennifer Lockmiller’s future looked bright, but unfortunately, someone took that all away on a hot summer day.
The Murder of Jennifer Lockmiller
When Morgan Keefe had not heard from her friend, Jennifer Lockmiller, 22, for a few days, she went to Jennifer’s apartment located at 412 N. Main Street in Normal, Illinois, around 2:10 p.m. on August 28, 1993. The door was unlocked, so Morgan went inside. She found Jennifer dead, a pair of scissors protruding from her chest, and a ligature wrapped tightly around her neck. There were indications of a sexual assault.
Jennifer Lockmiller had been dead for two to four days.
Morgan called Normal police. When they arrived, they noticed the apartment was not in disarray and showed no signs of a struggle or forced entry, which meant Jennifer likely knew her killer.
The ligature around Jennifer Lockmiller’s neck was the cord from her alarm clock. Police pulled three sets of fingerprints from the clock: one from her current boyfriend, Michael Swaine, another from her ex-boyfriend, Alan Beaman, and a third from an unidentifiable source. Michael was Alan’s roommate at one time. The Pantagraph reported that Michael had moved in with Jennifer just days before her murder.
Police questioned the two men immediately after the killing and released both men without charges. According to The Pantagraph, “police hauled one of them off in handcuffs because he was agitated, not because he was a suspect.” It’s unclear if it was Michael or Alan.
Investigators also examined Jennifer’s car, but it is unclear if anything came from this.
Two months after her murder, police announced a prime suspect and a $10,000 reward for information leading to this case’s solving. They did not name the suspect but said he had the means and motive to commit the murder.
Jennifer’s News Story
Jennifer Lockmiller had been developing an angle for a story for ISU’s, The Daily Vidette about the Normal Police Department. This was her first assignment for the school year. Her mother warned her to be careful about what she wrote, “Because you never know when you might need their help.”
While no sources did not go any further with this news story, I felt it was worth mentioning. Why did Norma issue the warning?
Police arrested 21-year-old IWU student Alan Beaman on May 17, 1994, for Jennifer Lockmiller’s murder. Alan and Jennifer had dated for several months but broke up in March 1993.
Alan was a theater major from Rockford, Illinois, about a two-hour drive north from Normal. People who knew him said he wasn’t capable of murder; he was “warm, very gentle, kind, and frustrated.”
But police disagreed. After interviewing the friends and family of Jennifer Lockmiller, they learned that Alan had a temper and was also very jealous of anyone Jennifer may have been dating after they broke up, especially his roommate.
A couple of Jennifer’s friends said Alan had broken doors to Jennifer’s apartment, and at times, she had “chairs propped against her door to keep him out.” One of the girls had sprayed Alan with mace to get him to leave.
The couple had broken up about 18 times during their relationship but always worked things out. One of Alan’s friends said the couple break up one week and be engaged the next.
Believing Alan had the motive and evidence (his fingerprints on the alarm clock) to kill Jennifer, police arrested him as he left a final exam.
From the beginning, Alan Beaman maintained his innocence and had an alibi – he was in Rockford at the time of the murder. However, police believed he had enough time to make the 4-hour round trip drive from Rockford to Normal to commit the murder, despite witnesses placing him in Rockford.
Trial and Conviction
Alan Beaman’s trial started in 1995. His demeanor did not help his cause at all. He was unemotional, cocky, and often seen smiling at reporters as if he liked the attention.
One of the prosecution’s key witnesses was Michael Swaine, Alan’s former roommate and Jennifer’s boyfriend at the time of her murder. He testified about Alan’s jealousy and anger over Alan’s breakup with Jennifer and how he and Jennifer hooked up. She had shown an interest in Michael, which did not sit well with Alan because he was still in a relationship with Jennifer.
On June 11, 1993, Swain and Lockmiller kissed, a move that precipitated a walk to the under-construction Sigma Chi fraternity house, where they consummated their relationship in the basement. They would have sex four more times, the last time coming less than a week before her murder, he said (Erickson, 1995).
Michael testified that Alan was not mad at first, but when Alan and Jennifer broke up for the last time, Michael consoled Jennifer at her apartment. A few minutes later, Alan arrived and pounded on the door, demanding to know who was inside.
Michael then claimed that out of fear, he ran to Jennifer’s bedroom closet, threw clothes on top of him, and hid from Alan, who managed to get into the apartment. Alan searched through the apartment, including Jennifer’s closet but did not find Michael. According to Michael, Alan also searched through Jennifer’s bathroom garbage can, looking for evidence of birth control.
Police ruled Michael out as a suspect because he was working in Elmhurst, where he stayed with his parents, between the estimated times Jennifer was killed – noon and 2:10 p.m.
During the trial, testimony revealed that Alan Beaman wrote numerous letters to Jennifer. Some were about sexual fantasies, and others expressing the anger of their breakup.
The trial ended in April 1995 with a guilty verdict. In May 1995, a judge sentenced Alan Beaman to 50 years in prison.
But this story was far from over.
13 years after Alan Beaman was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, Illinois’ highest court reversed the murder verdict.
The court said McLean County prosecutors violated Beaman’s constitutional right to due process of law and called for Beaman to get a new trial. (Erickson, 2008).
Alan’s lawyer, Karen Daniel argued to the high court in January 2008 about two things:
- The jury did not hear evidence that could have eliminated Alan as a suspect
- The jury also did not hear about another potential suspect, known only as “John Doe”, who had a romantic relationship with Jennifer.
According to The National Registry of Exonerations, “Doe lived less than two miles from Jennifer, had been charged with domestic battery and had a history of abusing his girlfriend. He had supplied Lockmiller with drugs and claimed she owed him money.” Another source said Doe failed a polygraph test, but this was kept from the trial.
During his appeal, Alan’s activities on the day of the murder were the main focus.
A bank receipt placed Alan in Rockford at 10:11 a.m. on the day of Jennifer’s murder. Two telephone calls were placed from Alan’s home in Rockford to a church he attended. This raised questions about whether he could drive from Rockford to Normal, kill Jennifer, and then drive back to Rockford before his mother came home from shopping. Unfortunately for Alan, there was no evidence regarding his whereabouts at the time of the murder.
2009 to Present
On January 29, 2009, prosecutors dropped all charges against Alan. Then, in 2012, DNA testing revealed the presence of two previously unknown male suspects. Alan and three other known previously considered male suspects were excluded from the results (Brady-Lunny, 2013).
In April 2013, Alan was granted a certificate of innocence by Judge Jeffrey Ford and awarded $182,000 in state compensation.
Less than a year later, in January 2014, Alan filed a federal lawsuit against police and prosecutors involved in his case, but it was dismissed. In March 2014, Alan filed a lawsuit in McLean County Circuit Court seeking damages, but this was also dismissed in June 2016. The Illinois Appellate Court upheld the dismissal in November 2017. However, in February 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the dismissal and sent the case back for further proceedings.
In January 2015, then-Illinois Governor Pat Quinn pardoned Alan Beaman on actual innocence. Normal police reopened the case after receiving a phone tip in 2018.
In May of this year, Alan asked the court to reconsider his lawsuit against the police officers and prosecutors in the murder case.
UPDATE March 2023: Alan Beaman case may return to McLean County judge
Who Killed Jennifer Lockmiller?
Now that Alan Beaman has proven his innocence, the question remains: Who killed Jennifer Lockmiller? Who was “John Doe,” and where is he now? Why hasn’t he been arrested? Why did the police focus solely on Alan instead of going after the real killer?
Jennifer Lockmiller is buried at Mount Gilead Cemetery in Decatur, IL. Jennifer Lockmiller’s father, Richard Lockmiller, passed away in 2012. Her mother is still alive as of this writing and living in Decatur, IL. Two of her brothers still reside in Illinois. Her oldest brother, Dr. Richard Lockmiller, has lived in California for years. Jennifer has several nieces and a nephew.
Today, Alan Beaman is 46 years old, married, and has a daughter. He still resides in Rockford, Illinois.
Michael Swaine has two children and lives in Oak Park, IL, according to his Facebook page.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I live only 2 hours from Normal, Illinois, and I was in the Bloomington-Normal area in June of this year. I am a few months older than Jennifer. At the time of her death, I was married and pregnant with my first child. I don’t recall hearing about her death back then, but when I recently came across her case, I felt such a strong connection to her and knew I would write about it.
I want people to know Jennifer and her story.
She and I have a few things in common. We are about the same age, both from Illinois, our fathers were born in the spring of 1929, I am the baby of the family as she was, and we share a passion for writing. I feel if we had been allowed to meet, we’d have been fast friends.
As I was doing my research, I initially thought Michael Swain had killed her, until I read he was ruled out and had an alibi. Plus, DNA ruled him out, too, apparently.
When I read about “John Doe,” I got angry. He seems the likely suspect, and I don’t understand why he is still walking the streets. Who is he? Why hasn’t his name been released? Is he in prison for another crime? When did he have a relationship with Jennifer? She was with Alan and then Michael. Was this during her time at IWU?
The murder was committed sometime between Aug. 24th and August 28th. Police estimated her death to have occurred between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 2:10 p.m. This confuses me because I originally assumed they meant on the 28th, but early reports say she may have been dead two to four days. Her death date is listed as the 28th, the day Morgan found her body. 🤷
The school year had just started. Did her neighbors hear or see anything? An argument, a person, something? She lived in an apartment complex, so you’d think somebody would have heard or seen something.
I found it interesting that she was strangled and stabbed. It had me thinking that two people committed the murder. If you’re going to strangle someone, why stab them? Did the killer stab her first? The stabbing did not kill her; the strangulation did. Why a pair of scissors? The closest thing to grab at the moment? And why did the killer leave them in her chest? I feel almost like the scissors are something a female would grab. I can also see a female not pulling the scissors out. That was just strange to me.
- “Alan W. Beaman.” The National Registry of Exonerations. https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3018
- Arney, Steve. “Prime Suspect in Lockmiller Death Reported.” The Pantagraph. October 27, 1993.
- Brady-Lunny, Edith. “Free and Clear.” The Pantagraph. April 26, 2013.
- Erickson, Kurt. “Beaman Painted as Obsessive.” The Pantagraph. May 25, 1994.
- Erickson, Kurt. “High Court Reverses Murder Verdict.” The Pantagraph. May 23, 2008.
- Gilfand, Sharon. “Jennifer Lockmiller Remembered as Aunt, Friend, Poet.” The Pantagraph. September 24, 1993.
- Magney, Reid. 1993a. “Brilliant Woman Overcame Obstacles.” Herald and Review. August 30.
—. 1993b. “Family, Friends Say Goodbye to Slain Student.” September 2.
- Miller, Roger. 1993a. “Body Was That of Strangled ISU Senior.” The Pantagraph. August 30.
—. 1993b. “Slain ISU Student ‘Trusting, Kind.” August 30.
- Pantagraph Staff. “Range of Reactions Follows Arrest of Beaman.” The Pantagraph. May 18, 1994.