By EMANUELLA GRINBERG
QUINCY, Ill. (Court TV) –An Illinois jury convicted a former gameshow contestant of first-degree murder and home invasion for the shooting death of his estranged wife amid bitter divorce proceedings.
The Adams County jury reached its verdict against Timothy Bliefnick Wednesday afternoon after hearing closing arguments and deliberating for several hours. The verdict was read before a packed courtroom of family and supporters of the defendant and the victim, Rebecca “Becky” Bliefnick.
The 40-year-old father of three faces up to life in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Aug. 11.
“The judicial process cannot bring her back nor can it heal our wounds, but we are relieved that the verdict delivers justice, and we are thankful for all who made it a reality,” Becky’s sister, Sarah Reilly, told reporters after the verdict.
Bliefnick’s father and brothers declined to comment as they left the courthouse. His lawyer, Casey Schnack, said they were “disappointed” with the jury’s verdict but respected the decision and planned to appeal.
Bliefnick drew gasps from a “Family Feud” audience three years ago when he joked that his biggest mistake on his wedding night was saying “I do.” The comment did not come up in his trial, but marital strife was central to prosecutors’ theory of motive. Bliefnick’s defense maintained he was innocent and that even though there was plenty of evidence of a contested divorce, none of it proved that Bliefnick killed Becky.
Becky’s friends and coworkers testified that she was fearful of Bliefnick and what he might do to her if he didn’t get what he wanted in their divorce. In a Sept. 2021 text message to her sister, Becky said her husband should be the “number one person of interest” if anything happened to her.
The couple was due in court on March 3 for a hearing in their divorce over several contested issues, including:
- Tim wanted more parenting time than Becky.
- Becky thought Tim was hiding assets.
- Tim wanted his father to have unsupervised visits with his sons.
- Becky did not want Tim’s father alone with their sons.
Becky never had her day in court. Her father, William Postle, testified to finding her bullet-ridden body in her Quincy home the afternoon of February 23, 2023, after Bliefnick texted Postle saying he had not heard from Becky all day. Becky had messaged Bliefnick on Feb. 21 asking him to keep their sons an extra day because she wasn’t feeling after undergoing surgery.
“When Becky sent that message, she showed weakness to a predator,” Adams County Assistant State Attorney Josh Jones said in his closing argument. “He knew he’d have an opportunity.”
Investigators surmised the killer scaled the side of Becky’s home, pried open a second-floor window, leaving a footprint inside the bedroom, and forced their way into Becky’s bedroom, shooting her 14 times.
In the state’s closing, Jones focused on the timeline investigators built around Becky’s last outgoing call on February 23 at 1:11 a.m., a misdial to 911. Quincy Police detectives collected surveillance video from three locations, a school bus parking lot, a private residence, and Becky’s neighbor’s home, and found video of a person riding a bicycle in the general direction of Becky’s home and back after midnight on February 14, 21, 22 and 23.
The prosecutor acknowledged that investigators could not identify the bicyclist or determine if it was the same person each night, a point Bliefnick’s defense emphasized throughout the trial. But Jones said it was no coincidence that the bicyclist videos coincided with times when Bliefnick’s WHOOP fitness tracker was disconnected and his iPhone was locked, suggesting he was the cyclist.
“On the days when we don’t see the defendant on the bike, his WHOOP is fine. The only gaps are when he’s on a bike and he’s headed to Becky’s house.”
Prosecutors further tried to implicate Bliefnick with evidence from the crime scene. Jones reminded the jury of testimony from a firearms analyst who compared shell casings around Becky’s body with shell casings from Bliefnick’s home and concluded they were fired from the same firearm. Pieces of plastic were also found around Becky’s body that Jones argued came from a homemade silencer. A forensic chemist testified that the plastic pieces resembled ALDI grocery bags found in Bliefnick’s home, but the analyst could not conclusively say they matched. DNA testing of the plastic pieces yielded similar results, that Bliefnick could not be excluded as a contributor to genetic material on the bags nor could he be conclusively linked to the bags.
In the defense closing, Bliefnick’s lawyer emphasized that no forensic testing conclusively linked Bliefnick’s DNA or fingerprints to any items collected from the crime scene – not to the chair he’s believed to have used to reach the second floor, not to Becky’s bedroom doorknob, not to the shell casings. A comparison test of the pry marks on the window and a crowbar found in the defendant’s home revealed similar characteristics but not a match.
“We all feel sorry for Becky and her family… But sympathy is not evidence, and it cannot be used by you,” Bliefnick’s lawyer, Casey Schnack, told the jury. “There’s no evidence that he committed a crime. A lot of motive, but not a lot of evidence.”