CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Almost nine years after Holly Cassano was brutally stabbed to death, a man has been charged with murdering her.
Michael Henslick, of Mahomet, was arrested Tuesday night. Investigators say DNA evidence linked him to the crime.
Cassano was murdered November 2, 2009. The 22 year old was found stabbed dozens of times in her home in Candlewood Estates, a mobile home park in Mahomet.
Toni Cassano says apart from being shocked, she’s feeling just about every emotion there is. Over the last nine years, she, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, and the entire Mahomet community refused to let the case go cold. Now, everyone is hoping to close it for good.
“At approximately 6:15 pm, yesterday, August 28, 2018, the sheriff’s office arrested Michael F.A. Henslick in the parking lot of the Market Place Mall in Champaign,” CCSO Chief Deputy Allen Jones announced at a news conference.
It’s the arrest Toni Cassano has been waiting almost nine years for. Nine years of vigils, balloon launches and ceremonies. Nine years of sitting down for interviews; each time hoping it would be the last.
“I just want the public to know that the answer’s still out there,” Cassano said in 2016, “Somebody still knows something.”
Ever since Holly was found stabbed to death and sexually assaulted, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office has worked to find her killer, while Toni worked just as hard to keep her daughter’s memory alive.
“I had several different scenarios in my head,” she says, “Several different endings.”
Toni says she was always aware the suspect could be someone she know, but she hoped she didn’t.
“I never even knew his name<” she says, “I didn’t know he even existed.”
After Henslick was arrested, Toni learned he lived just two houses away from her parents. Henslick’s other neighbors were just as surprised.
“It’s totally shocking,” says neighbor Jerry Hieser, “No way. No way. I just never thought about, I’ve never seen anything out of the ordinary out here.”
“Four houses away from us. He’s living there,” says neighbor Jason Painter, “When it first happened, they had those Justice for Holly bumper stickers. Pretty much, in Mahomet, everyone supported it. For at least the last three-four months, he’s been here. He’s had to have seen that sticker on the back of our van.”
Toni says she’s most grateful that, if Henslick is the killer, he’ll never be able to hurt Holly’s 10-year old daughter.
But, beyond that, Toni says she’s heard enough because, God knows, she’s been through enough.
“I don’t really have it in me to know who he is, what he’s about. I really don’t care,” she says, “All of that is just wasted energy because none of it’s going to bring Holly back.”
Toni says she would have nothing to say to Henslick. Now, she’s asking for family members and friends of hers and Holly’s to pack the courtroom as Henslick’s case moves forward.