Jury finds Michael Henslick guilty of killing Holly Cassano

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A more than decade-old murder case is closed.

Michael Henslick was found guilty of killing Holly Cassano in her Mahomet home in 2009. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Friday was a day the Cassano family has been waiting for, especially her mother, Toni. When the verdict was read, she cried. She said she is still processing this, but she wants to thank everyone for keeping the case and Holly on everyone’s minds over the years.

Over the last several days, the jury saw Cassano’s blood-splattered home and gruesome autopsy pictures of her body–which the forensic examiner testified was stabbed more than 50 times. “Did it appear that Miss Cassano struggled with her assailant,” asked Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Reitz to Scott Denton, a forensic pathologist. He said she “essentially bled to death from sharp-force wounds.”

A crime lab scientist testified that Henslick’s DNA was found on Cassano’s body and in her home. To confirm that, investigators showed the jury the cigarette butts they said Henslick tossed away–which they used to build his DNA profile.

After they arrested him, he agreed to talk. He told investigators he did kill Cassano by stabbing her “all over.” Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Chris Darr sat next to Henslick while he admitted to killing Cassano and having sex with her dead body. “That’s a difficult moment where you don’t want to fail the family, you don’t want to fail everyone on the team, who’s put a lot of time and heart and soul into this,” said Darr.

In closing arguments, Henslick’s defense team tried to discredit the DNA evidence and suggested the sheriff’s office had not done enough over nine years of investigating. That was an argument prosecutors–and the jury– ultimately rejected. The jury found him guilty after just an hour of deliberating.

As Toni left the courtroom, she gave the investigators a hug. she also hugged members of the Henslick family, who had also been watching the trial all week.

Henslick will be officially sentenced next month. He is looking at a mandatory life-sentence because the jury decided he committed the crime in an especially cruel way. Prosecutors said they will present even more evidence during a hearing for that.

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