Trial begins for man accused of killing woman in 2009

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Trial started for a man accused of killing and assaulting Holly Cassano in 2009.

State’s Attorney Julia Rietz delivered an opening statement Tuesday morning. She told the jury about Cassano getting off work, going home and Michael Henslick allegedly being at her house. He lived doors down from her in a mobile home park in Mahomet. The two were also familiar with each other because they went to the same high school and had mutual friends.

Rietz said on the night of the murder, Henslick slept on Cassano’s couch while she slept in the bed. She said he woke up, went to the kitchen, got a knife and stabbed Cassano to death. She said investigators found blood all over Cassano’s mobile home. They also collected semen and DNA samples and sent them to crime labs for evaluation.

The state’s attorney said they followed leads for years, including Henslick. She said he was arrested in August 2018 after DNA tested from a cigarette butt linked him to the crime. Rietz said in a statement to investigators, “You will hear him, in his own words, initially deny, but ultimately admit” to the offense.

In open statements from Assistant Public Defender Lindsey Yanchus, she said Henslick did not kill Cassano. She said the case is complex, but the state’s attorney was presenting is as simple. She said investigators used “physical aggression” while interrogating Henslick. “The only verdit you will be able to reach is not guilty.

The state’s attorney called up several witnesses including friends and family members. One of those was Toni Cassano, Holly’s mother. She said Holly was supposed to be at her house on Novemer 2. When she did not show up, she went over to Holly’s house and found her dead in the bedroom.

Another witness called was Doug Bialeschki, the first Champaign County Sheriff’s Deputy to respond to the scene after Cassano called 9-1-1. He said he radioed investigators when he saw Holly’s body. Medics arrived to confirm she was dead and he said he guarded the scene.

One more witness, Mike Kyrouac–a retired state police crime scene investigator–was called to the stand before trial was put on hold for a lunch break. The assistant state’s attorney, Trou Lozar, went over evidence exhibits with him to confirm he recognized them. They have not yet been published for the jury.

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