DNA leads to arrest in Cassano case

Local News

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Michael Henslick has been right under law enforcement’s nose for nine years.

He was even arrested several times for other crimes. But, he wouldn’t show up for his probation hearings, so the state’s attorney says he was never required to submit DNA. For years, the sheriff’s office has gotten tips and looked at certain DNA. They sent it to private labs and, for years, they’ve said they knew it was an Hispanic male who murdered Holly Cassano. But, it wasn’t until Monday the sheriff’s office says it finally linked Henslick to the crime.

“This has been a very long process and we wish we could have come to this conclusion earlier” said the State’s Attorney.

Henslick lived doors away from Holly Cassano in Candlewood Estates. They had mutual friends from when they attended Mahomet High School. After Cassano’s murder in 2009, police looked at DNA evidence. In 2015, they sent it to a private lab and said whoever stabbed and raped Cassano could be an Hispanic male.

“We know we have a male suspect. We know that, for a fact. We have tons of evidence and we need to be led in the right direction. One small piece of this puzzle could solve the entire case” said Ed Ogle.

 In February, the sheriff’s office decided to send out DNA evidence again. Chief Deputy Allen Jones said “In May, 2018, we received the snapshot phenotype report which produced trait predictions for the associate person of interest in our case.”

It gave hair color, eye color and ethnicity, but they wanted more, so they got a Genetic Geneology. Sheriff Dan Walsh said “It tracked DNA ancestor, literally, back to the 1800’s and, from that, worked forward building a family tree.”

That report gave them a potential suspect. That’s when Michael Henslick was brought to their attention, but it was a cigarette butt he threw away which police say pinned him to the crime. “We basically have been following Mr. Henslick for two days and, in 24-hours.”

Thanks to the state crime lab acting fast, they were able to connect Henslick’s DNA to the evidence they had in just 24-hours. It’s something Sheriff Walsh says he’s never seen before.

Investigators had two search warrants; one for his former place at Candlewood estates, the other for his new residence. It’s still an open investigation. He’s charged with four counts of first degree murder. If he’s found guilty, he faces 20 – 60 years for each count. He’s being held on $10 million bond.

His bond is so high because he has a record. His first arrest was in 2009 for drug possession. The state’s attorney said he went under the radar until 2015 when he was again arrested for possession. He failed to appear in court and for probation several times and was even told to submit DNA at one point, but never complied. He finally appeared in court Monday on charges of possession and a charge of felony domestic violence.  

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