Prosecution focuses on lab results, surveillance video, device data Tuesday in Bliefnick trial
QUINCY (WGEM) - The jury trial of Timothy Bliefnick, the Quincy man being charged with fatally shooting his estranged wife continued Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.
Messages from a friend on March 14, 2022
The first witness to take the stand on Tuesday was Christine Mandel. She and Rebecca Bliefnick worked together at QTown CrossFit for a few years before moving to California around 2015.
Prosecutors admitted and published Facebook messages from Mandel to Bliefnick on March 14, 2022. Evidence shows Bliefnick was a “nervous Nellie,” and that “if Tim doesn’t get it his way, he may literally lose his mind.” Bliefnick’s messages claim her husband wanted everything, including money, sole custody and the marital home.
Several objections were made by both the defense and prosecutors during Mandel’s testimony. Counsel and the judge went behind closed doors for roughly five minutes. Schnack was objecting to Mandel’s responses. Specifically, if Mandel referred Bliefnick to any domestic violence agency, police or her family for help. Mandel responded, “I did what I thought was right.”
Mandel said her and Bliefnick had discussed options to keep her safe.
She was released from her subpoena.
Crime lab tests by ISP
Second up was Illinois State Police Crime Lab DNA expert Kelly Maciejewski. She tested bicycle handlebars, door handles, work gloves, an Aldi bag and other items.
In week one of the trial, prosecutors said they believed Timothy Bliefnick used a blue Schwinn bike to travel to and from Rebecca’s home the night of the shooting. Those bike handlebars were tested and Maciejeski said she recovered a limited amount of DNA. She said Ted Johnson was not a contributor. She said there was strong support for Rebecca’s DNA on the Aldi bag.
She was released from her subpoena, but prosecutors are calling more crime lab officials.
Aldi bags, shoe prints and tool marks
Tuesday morning’s witness testimony is relying heavily on Illinois State Police Crime Lab officials. Jim Riggins was the third witness Tuesday. He compared Aldi bags found at Timothy Bliefnick’s home to pieces of plastic that were found at the crime scene.
Riggins compared a total of 18 bags to the plastic pieces.
By color and texture, Riggins confirmed there are strong similarities between the bags and plastic pieces. However, his report came back inconclusive because he was not able to compare the pieces to the bag that was actually used in the Feb. 23 shooting.
During Schnack’s cross-examination, Riggins reiterated the fact that the report was inconclusive. He was released from his subpoena.
Kathryn Doolin, an ISP Crime Lab official, then took the stand. Doolin specializes in tool marks, shoe marks, and other specialized areas.
She was given a carpet cutout of a shoe print found at the crime scene directly next to the window that was used to gain entry to Rebecca Bliefnick’s home. Her reports came back inconclusive, as did tests with a crowbar. However, she can’t eliminate that tool from making the tool mark, Doolin said.
During Schnack’s cross-examination, she inquired about the shoes given to Doolin to test. Doolin confirmed both shoes given to her did not match the footwear impressions in the carpet. Doolin confirmed the multitool was eliminated completely and she could not, with any scientific certainty, say the crowbar made those marks on the window.
Shell casings are a match
Directly out of morning recess, ISP Crime Lab firearm specialist Vicky Reels took the stand. Reels examined eight shell casings found at the crime scene and determined they were all to be fired from the same gun.
She then examined 27 shell casings found in Timothy Bliefnick’s basement and determined they were all fired from the same gun. In comparison, Reels said the 27 casings from Bliefnick’s home are a match to the ones found at the crime scene. Reels said each gun leaves its own unique markings on a shell casing.
Last week, it was testified that a 9mm handgun was a primary dispute between Timothy and Rebecca Bliefnick. It was testified that Timothy had never returned the firearm to Rebecca. When police searched Timothy’s home on March 1, they found several firearms but not a 9mm.
Timothy’s WHOOP Fitness band
The final witness to testify Tuesday was Quincy Police Detective Nick Eddy. He examined more than 1 million lines of data from the defendant’s WHOOP Fitness band that was obtained from a search warrant.
During the prosecution’s direct examination, the Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney presented evidence that identified gaps in the disruption of data tracking. Those gaps begin on Feb. 14 from 12 a.m. to 1:10 a.m. Another gap was found on Feb. 21 from 12:45 a.m. to 2:11 a.m. Another gap between 12:42 a.m. and 1:16 a.m. on Feb. 22 and a final gap on Feb. 23, the night of the shooting, from 12:36 a.m. to 2:01 a.m. Eddy said those were the only gaps in the 1 million lines of data he observed.
A picture of Timothy Bliefnick on March 1, the day police searched his home, shows him wearing a WHOOP Fitness band.
Surveillance video tracks a bicycle rider
As Eddy took the stand for well over an hour, prosecutors examined surveillance video in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, Feb. 21, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.
The video shows a subject riding a bicycle on each of those dates between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. roughly.
Jones presented a video of a rider on each of those dates of the rider traveling past the bus barn, past a residence at 224 S. 20th Street, and then again in the other direction within the same hour. Less than half a block from Timothy’s home, police found an abandoned bike by the bus barn after Rebecca was found dead.
Surveillance video at Taylor Heimann’s house, who is Rebecca’s next-door neighbor, shows a subject walking up and down his driveway on those dates.
The defendant’s cell phone
Detective Eddy was also responsible for examining Timothy’s cell phone. Prosecutors’ evidence showed the phone was locked on Feb 21 from 12:44 a.m., unlocking at 5:30 a.m. On Feb. 22 Bliefnick’s phone was locked at 12:50 a.m. and unlocked at 1:15 a.m. On Feb. 23 the phone locked at 12:28 a.m. and unlocked at 2:07 a.m.
Prosecutors are attempting to correlate the phone lock history, the WHOOP Fitness band inactivity and the surveillance video of the bicycle rider to one another.
Motion for directed verdict denied
As jurors left the courtroom, counsel and the judge stayed behind to discuss a motion made by the defense. Timothy Bliefnick’s attorney Casey Schnack said the prosecutors have not fully fulfilled their duty to present a burden of proof.
Schnack said the prosecutors’ theory of Bliefnick leaving three children at home in the middle of the night, riding a bike to Kentucky Road, killing his wife and riding bike isn’t proven.
She stands by the fact that video surveillance cannot truly identify the bike rider, or even if it is a male or female. She stands by the fact that the bicycle found by the bus barn cannot be linked to Tim, although Jones disagrees. Schanck voiced again the inconclusive results of the crowbar and the shoeprint. Furthermore, she believes many of the witnesses that testified last week were “hearsay witnesses,” describing only what Rebecca Bliefnick decided to tell others on her own will.
Jones countered by stating each piece of evidence cannot be viewed as a single piece of evidence but as a whole. He noted the search history, the WHOOP Fitness band data and the purchase of a blue bike via Facebook that matches what was found at the bus barn.
Judge Robert Adrian denied the motion. The defense will begin their case on Wednesday, at which point Schnack said they won’t show any evidence. Schnack said Timothy has not yet “made a firm decision” if he will testify or not.
No media outlets will be allowed to broadcast or stream the trial live. However, WGEM News will be in the courtroom throughout the trial and will live blog via Twitter.
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