Jury finds Bliefnick guilty on all counts, prosecutors seek life sentence

An Adams County jury returned the verdict after over four hours of deliberations.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 8:45 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 2:00 PM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - After more than four hours of deliberation, an Adams County Jury found the Quincy man accused of shooting to death his estranged wife guilty of all charges.

Those include two counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of home invasion. A sentence hearing is scheduled for Aug. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

“We should not be living in a world where a crime like this is possible,” said Rebecca Bliefnick’s sister Sarah Reilly. “My parents were robbed of their daughter, and as a parent myself I cannot imagine a greater torture.”

Bliefnick was cuffed and taken away without struggle following the verdict.

Trial began on Monday, May 22 with jury selection that took all of 9 hours. Witness testimony began May 23. Jurors heard from a total of 46 witnesses and were presented with more than 180 pieces of evidence.

Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones described the case as a team effort between prosecutors, investigators from Quincy Police Department, Illinois State Crime Lab officials and all other witnesses.

“This was the Nebraska offense in the 1980s,” Jones said. “Every witness carries the ball 1-yard down the field, 1-yard, 1-yard, 1-yard, and maybe you get a 5-yard witness or a 10-yard witness, but there’s not going to be a 75-yard run in this case, we were just going to hand the ball off and let our witnesses take the ball down the field for us.”

Jones and fellow Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck relied heavily on evidence that formed an exact timeline of the murder.

They utilized surveillance footage from the Quincy bus barn, a residence on South 20th Street and Rebecca’s next-door neighbor. Each of them linked within minutes of each other, including the times Timothy Bliefnick’s phone was locked, his WHOOP Fitness band was disconnected and his laptop didn’t make a search.

“If any one of those times didn’t work out then he’s not the guy, and every one of those times lined up perfectly,” Jones added.

At the sentencing hearing, Jones said prosecutors will likely ask for a life sentence.

“This is not a happy day because let’s not forget, those three boys have lost their mother and their father,” Jones said.

On Thursday, Timothy’s Attorney Casey Schnack released a statement thanking jurors and Judge Robert Adrian.

On behalf of myself, Tim and the entire Bliefnick family, I would like to thank the jurors for their hard work and effort they put into deciding this case. We would like to thank Judge Adrian for the manner in which the entire proceeding was conducted. We know he was under a lot of pressure to make evidentiary matters open to the press and that he has received criticism for that. Quite frankly, I don’t think this case could have been tried in Adams County had it not been for Judge Adrian’s position in this matter. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the Quincy Police Department for the hard work that they put into this case especially Emily Pezzella who collected 40 pages worth of potential exhibits. I think I acknowledged that in my closing argument, but I wanted to do that here again here today. As I stated it is our belief that the work of the Quincy Police Department exonerated Tim, but obviously the jury felt differently. As far as the trial is concerned, we are obviously disappointed in the verdict. We felt going into the trial, through the trial and still that there was not enough evidence to convict Tim beyond a reasonable doubt, but obviously the jury felt differently. While we disagree with their verdict, we certainly accept it. We all worked incredibly hard to get this matter done within 90 days and I’d like to congratulate Josh Jones and Laura Keck for their ability to that in the manner in which they did. As far as the media coverage is concerned, I know they have a job to do and I wish they understood that I have a job to do, some of them apparently don’t, but me or Josh or Laura commenting on anything while the case is pending can do nothing more than cause problems for everyone concerned. Obviously, the post-trial motions will be prepared and filed, I assume those will be open to the media and public in general and they can see those when they are filed. Assuming that none of those are granted.

Attorney Casey Schnack

Wednesday’s proceedings began with the announcement by Casey Schnack that Timothy Bliefnick would not be testifying.

Bliefnick won’t testify

15 minutes before the jury enters the courtroom, Timothy Bliefnick’s attorney Casey Schnack said her client is choosing not to testify. Judge Robert Adrian confirmed with Bliefnick, and Bliefnick replied in the affirmative.

Adrian said counsel will make their closing arguments today and the case should be in the hands of the jury around noon today. Schnack said she is not presenting any evidence today, either.

Closing arguments followed.

“Is it raining”

The prosecutor’s closing argument lasted more than an hour. “Is it raining,” Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones said to the jury. Jones said if you see someone walking inside with a coat and umbrella, you don’t need to look outside to know it’s raining.

Jones referenced this multiple times as he outlined an exact timeline of the days and even years leading up to Rebecca Bliefnick’s death. As testified yesterday, Jones once again showed video surveillance of a person riding a bike in the direction of Rebecca’s house on Feb. 14, Feb. 21 and Feb. 22. In a text in May, 2021, Rebecca said she “feared for her life.”

Jones also alluded to the WHOOP Fitness band data, phone lock history, search history, matching shell casings and more.

“Is it raining,” Jones said again. He claims you don’t need to continuously look over the video and other evidence to know it’s Timothy Bliefnick who killed Rebecca.

“Find him guilty,” Jones said in his final remarks to the jury.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt is a high burden, it is a monumental burden”

Timothy Bliefnick’s attorney Casey Schnack’s closing argument took around 30 minutes. “Those searches indicate nothing more than someone on the internet,” she said to the jury about Bliefnick’s phone searches.

Schnack called the testimony given by Rebecca’s friends as requests for sympathy, saying that divorce talk as a whole is a request for sympathy. Schnack said the state has not done its job in proving Bliefnick is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt is a high burden, it is a monumental burden,” Schnack said.

“She’s calling out for justice”

Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney John Jones immediately gave a rebuttal to Schnack’s closing argument. “It wasn’t a random prowler, it was the defendant,” Jones said.

Jones reiterated that the jury must look at the evidence as a whole rather than single pieces of evidence. He first mentioned this at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings when Schnack made a motion for a directed verdict.

Schnack said the final messages between Timothy and Rebecca were not alarming. Evidence shows the messages involve the exchange of their three children the day before she was found dead.

Jones claims Timothy used that to his advantage, to make sure the children were in his possession and not hers at the time she was killed. “He knew he had an opportunity,” Jones said to the jury. “She’s calling out for justice, she’s begging you to find the defendant guilty.”

Following the state’s rebuttal, Judge Robert Adrian presented jury instructions.


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