By EMANUELLA GRINBERG and LAUREN SILVER
QUINCY, Ill. (Court TV) – An Illinois man convicted of killing his estranged wife was sentenced to life in prison Friday.
In May, a jury convicted Timothy Bliefnick on charges of first-degree murder and home invasion for the February 2023 death of Rebecca Bliefnick.
Timothy raised eyebrows when he appeared on an episode of “Family Feud” that aired in January 2020 and told host Steve Harvey that his biggest mistake on his wedding night was saying “I do.”
Rebecca, 41, was found shot to death inside her Quincy home on February 23. On March 13, the Quincy Police Department announced it had arrested Timothy on a no-bond warrant. Josh Jones, lead trial attorney for the Adams County State Attorney’s Office, described the “horrific crime” as “an act of domestic violence.”
Court records indicated that Timothy filed a petition to dissolve his marriage to Rebecca in 2021. The court docket for their case showed a number of entries, including each party filing temporary restraining orders against the other.
Prosecutors declined to reveal their evidence before the trial because the judge in the case sealed pretrial motions. Timothy’s attorney, Casey Schnack, told Court TV he is innocent and that a prowler may be to blame for the murder.
Since Rebecca’s murder, her parents, William and Bernadette Postle, have represented her in probate court proceedings in an effort to prevent the defendant from accessing money from the couple’s estate to fund his defense, WGEM reported. Court TV has reached out to the attorneys representing both sides of the probate case.
DAY 6 – 5/31/23
- The jury hears closing arguments:
- The jury reaches a verdict
- READ MORE:
DAY 5 – 5/30/23
- Prosecutors rested their case against Tim Bliefnick after calling 46 witnesses over five days. Bliefnick is expected to decide on Wednesday morning whether or not he will testify in his own defense.
- Becky’s friend, Christine Mandel, who worked for the Bliefnick’s in their CrossFit gym in 2013, testified.
- Mandel teared up describing conversations with Becky in 2022, in which Becky said that Tim “cares more about hurting me than anyone else” and said that she feared Tim “may lose his mind” and “go off the deep end” if he didn’t get what he wanted in the divorce/custody dispute.
- WATCH: Family Feud Murder Trial: Victim’s Friend Shares Text Messages
- Quincy Police Det. Nick Eddy walked jurors through the final pieces of evidence prosecutors say implicate Bliefnick.
- Eddy testified that he pred through millions of data points in the defendant’s WHOOP fitness tracker records looking for irregularities, and found periods when the tracker was disconnected in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 21, 22 and 23. Those times coincide with time periods when an unidentified cyclist was caught on surveillance camera riding in the direction toward Becky’s house and back.
- On Cross, Eddy said that he could not say conclusively how or why the fitness tracker disconnected, who was riding the bike in the videos or if it was the same cyclist in the different videos.
- DNA analyst Kelly Maciejewski testified that the defendant’s DNA did not match samples collected from items at the crime scene, except as a possible contributor to pieces of plastic found around the victim’s body, which prosecutors say might have been used to make a silencer.
- Investigators asked trace chemist James Riggins to compare the pieces of plastic to ALDI grocery store bags from the defendant’s home. Riggins said that the bags shared similarities but could not conclusively call them a match.
- The same was said for comparisons between a crowbar from the defendant’s home and pry marks on a window that investigators believe the shooter entered through. Toolmark examiner Kathryn Doolin testified that the two shared similarities, but not enough to make a complete identification.
- Defense attorney Casey Schnack argued for a directed verdict, saying that none of the evidence put Tim in the home when Becky is believed to have been killed.
- Judge Robert Adrian denied the motion.
DAY 4 – 5/26/23
- Timothy Bliefnick appeared to wipe tears away during a presentation of autopsy photos in court.
- During the testimony of forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton, prosecutor Josh Jones drew attention not only to the victim’s 14 gunshot wounds but to the special clothing and bandages she was wearing because of recent surgery. Becky’s surgery has been a recurring theme in testimony, likely to draw attention to her vulnerable state when she was killed and to make it clear that her crotchless pants and genital trauma were from surgery and not the result of sexual assault.
- The jury heard about Google searches and websites that were visited on the defendant’s home and laptop. The defense objected to the evidence because some of the searches had no time or dates attributed to them. Some highlights:
- Can you identify if a shotgun shell was shot out of a specific gun
- How to open a window from outside
- Can I force open my door with a crowbar if I lock myself out
- Can you just wash off gunshot residue … can gunshot residue be washed off.
- The jury heard about Facebook Marketplace purchases made through a John Smith account registered to Bliefnick’s iPhone. The purchases included bicycles bearing a strong resemblance to one found in his garage and another one found abandoned in an alley a block from the defendant’s home.
- On the morning of Feb. 14, 2023, between 1:10 am and 1:48 am, the defendant’s phone went down a rabbit hole doing numerous rapid-fire searches for how to look up a license plate number that belonged to Ted Johnson, whose car was parked outside of Becky Bliefnick’s home while he was spending the night.
DAY 3 – 5/25/23
- Gary Collins, a friend of the Bliefnicks, testified that in July 2022, a tearful Becky confided in him that she thought Tim was hiding assets and said, “If anything ever happens to me, it will be Tim.” She also said she didn’t want her children around Tim’s father unsupervised.
- Prosecutors started by laying the foundation for their attempt to connect evidence from the crime scene to items in the defendant’s home by introducing crime scene photos and physical evidence collected from both locations:
- The window was pried open with a crowbar, and crowbars were found in the defendant’s home.
- Shreds of plastic were found around the victim’s body and plastic Aldi grocery bags were found in the defendant’s home.
- .9mm shell casings were found at the crime scene and at the defendant’s home.
- WATCH: Family Feud Murder Trial: Forensic Pathologist Describes Victim’s Injuries
- During cross-examination, the defense suggested that law enforcement cherry-picked items for testing and overlooked others.
- Sniffles and tears filled the gallery as prosecutors showed photos of Becky’s bullet-ridden body lying o her bathroom floor with wounds to her hands, back and side. Bullet fragments were found in the floor and bathmat underneath her, suggesting the shooter fired at her while she was on the ground.
- The jury was shown a blue Schwinn bicycle sans reflectors that prosecutors said Bliefnick used for late-night runs to Becky’s house – rides that were caught on “bus barn” street cameras – and dumped in an alley one block from his house after killing her. On cross, investigators acknowledged there was no way for them to know when the bike was dumped in the alley.
- Facebook Marketplace user Michael Blaesing described selling a bike similar to the one found in the alley. He could not identify the buyer beyond a basic description of a white man.
- The jury heard about three tests/simulations law enforcement performed:
- Officer Hollesteiner climbed up the side of Becky’s house and walked across the second-floor roof to a window that was pried open.
- Officer Benis timed bicycle rides between Becky’s street and the bus barn where security cameras captured a cyclist around the timeframe Becky is believed to have been killed.
- Officers wrapped a .9mm handgun with plastic Aldi grocery bags and fired multiple rounds, creating plastic shards similar to those found around Becky’s body.
- Tim’s neighbor said he asked him in January if he had security cameras that captured activity in Tim’s backyard. He did not.
DAY 2 – 5/24/23
- The state’s motive evidence came into focus as witnesses described the Bliefnicks’ contentious divorce from the legal perspective and from Becky Bliefnick’s perspective as she expressed it to friends and coworkers.
- Becky expressed fear of Tim, describing him as “erratic,” “vengeful” and “unpredictable” when things didn’t go his way to the point that she feared upsetting him. She said to look at her husband if anything happened to her.
- On cross, the defense pointed out that the witnesses’ accounts of Becky’s grievances dated back to in 2021 when the divorce was still fresh and details such as child custody were still being worked out.
- One exception was the testimony of Melissa Young, who said Becky looked “mentally and emotionally exhausted” when they bumped into each other at TJ Maxx.
- Young said Becky was desperate to get the divorce over and “asked for prayers.” She said Tim was hiding money and had told her “she would be dead” before she got any of his money.
- Attorneys and the children’s guardian ad litem described the Bliefnicks’ divorce as highly contested with both sides struggling to agree or communicate, but no red flags suggesting domestic violence that weighed against the defendant.
- In January 2023, Becky rejected Tim’s proposal to finalize the divorce under terms that included 60-40% parenting time in his favor, no child support, and decreased maintenance (alimony) payments.
- A major sticking point for Becky was her insistence on supervised visits between her sons and the defendant’s father.
DAY 1 – 5/23/23
- In the state’s opening, Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones said that weeks before a critical hearing in their divorce case, the defendant turned off his fitness tracker in the early morning hours of 2/23/23 and left his three sons alone in his home so he could bike undetected to his wife’s home, pry open a window with a crowbar, force his way into her bedroom and shoot her 14 times with a gun equipped with a homemade silencer, leaving behind a footprint and shell casings that matched shell casings later found in his home.
- The prosecutor said Becky Bliefnick told friends that she was scared of what the defendant might do to her to get custody of their three sons and texted her sister that he should be the “number 1 person of interest” if anything happened to her.
- In the defense’s opening, attorney Casey Schnack said the evidence against her client was “dripping in reasonable doubt.”
- Schnack said forensic testing excluded Tim or was inconclusive, and that he could not be identified in a security camera footage that prosecutors say places him at Becky’s home when she was killed.
- Schnack accused prosecutors of building their case around a motive of a messy divorce, but warned the jury that getting a divorce is not an element of murder.
- William Postle, Becky’s father, got choked up as he described finding his daughter’s body in her home the afternoon of 2/23/23 after the defendant texted him saying that he could not reach Becky.
- Becky’s neighbor, Rolla Wike, described overhearing Tim tell Becky’s mother on the phone that their sons’ school called him because Becky failed to pick up the boys the afternoon of 2/23/23.
- The school’s secretary, Roberta Hutson, testified that it was Tim who called the school that afternoon to say he would be picking up the boys instead of having them walk to their mother’s home.
- Ted Johnson, the man Becky was dating when she died, got choked up describing his last phone call and texts with Becky the night before she was killed. He also attested to sleeping at her home the night of 2/13 to 2/14, when prosecutors say the defendant was caught on camera prowling around Becky’s house, then later did an internet search on his phone for Johnson’s license plate.
- During the testimony of Becky’s sister, Sarah Reilly, the jury heard about a text Becky sent in September 2021 in which Becky said her husband should be the “#1 person of interest” if anything happened to her.