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Thread: Michael Henslick arrested for 2009 murder of Holly Cassano, arrest made through familial DNA

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    Michael Henslick arrested for 2009 murder of Holly Cassano, arrest made through familial DNA

    Another one bites the dust after thinking he got away with it for almost a decade.

    https://abcnews.go.com/US/man-arrest...ry?id=57480270

    A man is in custody for the 2009 killing of a 22-year-old Illinois mother after he was tracked down through the same technology used to catch the suspected "Golden State Killer."

    Michael Henslick, accused of killing Holly Cassano in November 2009, was taken into custody without incident Tuesday in the parking lot of a mall in Champaign, the Champaign County Sheriff's Office said at a news conference Wednesday.

    Henslick and Cassano both lived in the same community of about 2,000 people when she was killed, and they both had attended the same high school at the same time, the sheriff's office said.

    They had mutual friends and acquaintances but that was extent of the relationship, Walsh said.

    Authorities never had a tip that indicated Henslick was involved in the killing, the sheriff's office said.
    Henslick was found through Parabon NanoLabs' genetic genealogy testing -- the same type of technology used to arrest the suspected "Golden State Killer" in April.

    In Cassano's case, the suspect's DNA was collected at the crime scene and uploaded to genetic genealogy databases for comparison.

    The sheriff praised the Parabon technicians' work in the case, saying they "tracked the DNA's ancestors literally back to the 1800s, and from that worked forward to the present, building a family tree."

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    https://www.news-gazette.com/news/lo...b09c1ddd4.html

    Toni Cassano said her faith has sustained her the last 10 years as police looked for the person who took her only daughter out of her life, then found him and brought him to justice.

    "I have spiritually forgiven him, but that doesn’t mean I think what he did was OK,” the Villa Grove woman said. “I do believe that he needs to pay for what he did, and that’s between him and God.”

    As Cassano was talking with The News-Gazette on Friday afternoon, word came that a jury had reached a verdict in the murder trial of Michael Henslick, just an hour after it began deliberating. She was stunned by the speed of jurors’ decision.

    Since unwittingly being thrust into the spotlight in 2009, Toni Cassano has been the model of composure and civility, freely talking to the media as the search for her daughter’s killer went on.

    Then, after Henslick’s arrest, she measured her words carefully as she attended almost all of his court hearings.

    While testifying Tuesday about how she found her daughter’s slain body, cold and stiff, she held it together on the witness stand, choking back a sob.

    In the hallway outside the courtroom on breaks this week, she spoke kindly to Henslick’s mother and aunt and did her best to comfort her own relatives and friends who were hearing the grisly details of how Holly Cassano’s life ended.

    But when Judge Heidi Ladd read aloud the guilty verdict, Toni Cassano buried her face in her hands and sobbed, her body visibly heaving for several seconds. Her adult son next to her put an arm around her and held tight.
    'A weight lifted off me'

    So how has she not let the grief consume her?

    “God. I look at this as my faith journey. I start out knowing God. When this happened, I hated God,” said the mother of two, who is raising her late daughter’s only child, now 12.

    So as not to prejudice Henslick’s right to a fair trial, prosecutors were not allowed to introduce evidence that Holly Cassano was a mother to an 18-month-old girl at the time of her slaying.

    The judge even forbade the lawyers from sending the jury a photo of Miss Cassano’s purse on her daughter’s bed because in the background was a pull-up diaper.

    However, in a picture shown to jurors of the mostly naked Miss Cassano on the floor of her bedroom, there was a child’s plastic tricycle just inches from her foot that may have given them a clue.
    https://www.news-gazette.com/news/lo...27c79feec.html

    The verdict is in: A Champaign County jury on Friday found Michael Henslick guilty of the 2009 murder of Mahomet's Holly Cassano.

    Jurors found that the crime was committed in "an exceptionally brutal and heinous manner, indicative of wanton cruelty," which means Henslick could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

    Henslick's sentencing was set for March 20 at 1:30 p.m.

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    They ought to bury that motherfucker alive under 12 tons of dirt and let him suffocate and scream his bloody goddamn head off as he dies.

    Sorry ass motherfucker. Make him suuufffffferrrrrrrrr.
    Don't like what I have to say? I respect that. Now go fuck yourself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevansvault View Post
    They ought to bury that motherfucker alive under 12 tons of dirt and let him suffocate and scream his bloody goddamn head off as he dies.

    Sorry ass motherfucker. Make him suuufffffferrrrrrrrr.
    Looks like the sentencing was delayed due to COVID, so there is still time to submit your choice of punishment to the court!

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    [URL="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/national-disgrace-holes-dna-databases-leave-crimes-unsolved-decades-n1236748"]https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/national-disgrace-holes-dna-databases-leave-crimes-unsolved-de[QUOTE]

    'A national disgrace': Holes in DNA databases leave crimes unsolved for decades

    The man who murdered a young mother in central Illinois eluded investigators for nearly a decade. When they finally caught him in August 2018, they discovered he’d repeatedly dodged attempts to put his DNA into a criminal database.

    The killer, Michael Henslick, had grown up in the same neighborhood and attended high school with the 22-year-old victim, Holly Cassano. He’d been arrested several times since the November 2009 attack, and twice a judge ordered him to provide a DNA sample. Henslick blew the orders off.

    “If he’d given his DNA, we wouldn’t have had to wait nine years,” said Champaign County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Dwayne Roelfs, who worked the case from day one.

    The break finally came when Roelfs and his colleagues turned to genetic genealogy, a technique that allowed them to expand their search to direct-to-consumer DNA websites.

    When they found Henslick, who was later convicted of murder, they also exposed a weakness in the government’s vaunted national system of criminal DNA databases.

    Similar revelations of missed opportunities to solve crimes sooner have occurred across the country, as new investigative methods have led authorities to suspects who should have had their DNA collected and uploaded years ago.

    The national DNA database, known as CODIS, is arguably the most powerful crime-fighting tool in modern history. It holds more than 18 million people’s profiles and has produced more than 500,000 hits since it went fully online in 1998, according to the FBI. The database has also been used to reveal the true suspects in cases of wrongful conviction. But the system lacks thousands of profiles from convicted offenders and suspects — information that could hold answers to innumerable unsolved crimes, researchers and law enforcement officials say.

    Authorities in several states are now trying to go back and collect this missing DNA, a lengthy and expensive undertaking that has already led to arrests in dozens of cold cases. But expanding criminal DNA databases — many of which include people arrested but not necessarily convicted of crimes — also comes with risks.

    Black people are far more likely than white people to have their DNA profiles collected and stored in government databases — a reflection of a justice system that disproportionately targets people of color, researchers say. Rather than amplify those disparities by expanding the databases, they say, the government should spend more money on providing support to victims and improving police investigations.

    Holly Cassano’s mother, Toni Cassano, doesn’t blame anyone in particular for failing to collect Henslick’s DNA. But she wants federal law changed to prevent convicted offenders from dodging similar orders in the future.

    “I don’t believe anyone messed up,” she said. “I believe the system sucks. If I had to put the blame on something, I would put blame on the system.”
    Holly had been stabbed to death on the bedroom floor. Toni sat beside her and put a hand on her leg. Then she said a brief prayer and called 911.

    There was blood all over. Some of it was the killer’s. Investigators obtained a DNA profile that went into the state’s criminal database, but there were no matches. Nor were there any for the dozens of potential suspects police questioned in the months and years that followed. Leads dried up. The case went cold.

    Toni became an outspoken voice on her daughter’s behalf, staying in regular contact with detectives, handing out bumper stickers with Holly’s name and doing media interviews. She adopted Holly’s daughter.

    Henslick lived with his parents in the same mobile home park and had gone to high school with Holly. They did not know each other well, but had common friends, Toni said. He avoided suspicion, even after getting charged with other crimes.

    In 2015, Henslick was caught during a traffic stop with pot and cocaine, according to court records. If convicted, he’d have to provide his DNA. But Henslick failed to show up for court hearings. Eventually he pleaded guilty and was put on probation, a sentence that required him to give a DNA sample. But he never went to the probation office to provide it. He continued to miss court dates, and was arrested again, sentenced to more probation and ordered to give his DNA. Again, he ignored the order.

    A request to revoke his probation — along with domestic violence charges related to an alleged 2017 attack on a woman — were pending in court when detectives working the Cassano murder caught a break.

    Police in early 2018 turned to a Virginia company, Parabon NanoLabs, which specialized in a newly available investigative technique that was used to crack the Golden State Killer case. The method, combining consumer DNA databases and traditional genealogy research, allows investigators to find relatives of a suspect, then build family trees to identify the person.

    Parabon’s chief genetic genealogist, CeCe Moore, tried the technique with the Cassano murder and identified Henslick as a likely suspect. Investigators followed Henslick, picked up a cigarette he discarded and sent it in for testing. The DNA from the cigarette matched the profile from the murder scene. Detectives took him in for questioning, and he confessed, according to authorities.

    Henslick went to trial anyway, arguing that the confession had been coerced. He was convicted in February, and at sentencing, Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz cited Henslick’s skipping DNA collection, saying it had allowed him to hide “in plain sight here in our community.” A judge sentenced him in June to life without parole.

    Rietz considers the case a lesson in how easy it is for offenders to avoid giving their DNA. Now, when people in Champaign County are sentenced to probation, they are ordered to go straight to the office to give their DNA, she said.

    "This was definitely a wake-up call as to how we need to be on top of whether we are collecting DNA or not,” Rietz said.

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