The prosecution and defense traded barbs during closing arguments Wednesday in the home invasion murder trial of Family Feud contestant-turned-estranged husband Tim Blifenick, 40, in the death of nurse and mother Becky Bliefnick, 41, on Feb. 23, 2023, in Quincy, Illinois. While the Adams County State Attorney’s Office methodically presented a mountain of circumstantial evidence that the defendant executed Becky in her home, the defense told jurors that the prosecution’s “game show” presentation produced “literally no evidence in this case, folks, that Tim committed this crime.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones told jurors that the case presented only one proposition: “Did the defendant do it?” — and did the prosecution prove that beyond a reasonable doubt?
He began by walking through the state’s circumstantial case by talking about the “blue bike with no reflectors” at the center of a grainy but telling video. Prosecutors allege that the bike in question was purchased on Facebook by the defendant under a burner John Smith account on his phone, which also contained evidence of highly suspicious internet searches.
Bliefnick rode that bike to Becky’s home, knowing that she would be there alone and pried open his son’s empty bedroom window with a crowbar “just like he read on the internet,” Jones said.
“The defendant looked down at her, looked her in the eye and shot her 14 times,” Jones said. “He shot her with a gun with a homemade silencer that he read about on the internet.”
The prosecutor said that the eight shell casings found around Becky’s body matched 27 shell casings that were later found in Bliefnick’s home.
“They were fired by the exact same gun,” he said of all the shell casings.
‘Becoming more vengeful and more predictable’
Evidence showed that Becky feared that Bliefnick would lash out amid their “brutal and contentious divorce,” as the defendant put it during a Feb. 10 call to police — 13 days before Becky was murdered, prosecutors said.
“I’ve gotta give a gun back to that crazy bitch,” the defendant was quoted saying. “I don’t feel safe around her.”
Jones noted that the person claiming not to feel safe was active in CrossFit and was inducted as recently as 2009 into Quincy University’s football hall of fame due to his accomplished career as a linebacker.
Witness testimony from Becky’s friend Melissa Young attributed these statements to the defendant, as well: “You’ll be dead before you get my money”; “I’m tired of playing your stupid little game.”
Additionally, there was plenty of evidence that Becky told others that she was the one who was afraid, prosecutors said.
“If things really don’t go his way, I feel he can be very unstable and unpredictable,” she said in one representative fearful statement.
“He will be pissed and he will do whatever he feels like doing” if I am awarded custody of the kids, she said in another.
In another statement, Becky said she believed Bliefnick had “serious mental health problems, and he’s becoming more vengeful and more unpredictable.”
More Law&Crime coverage: Trial of Family Feud contestant-turned-estranged husband began with devastating truth about Becky Bliefnick’s murder
She expressed fear that he would try to “punish me somehow” and worried seeking an order of protection would both put her in more danger and run the risk of losing the ability to see her three sons, Deacon, Greyson, and Arlin, prosecutors said.
Another time, she told her sister Sarah Reilly that “If something ever happens to me, make sure the No. 1 person of interest is Tim.”
Prosecutors reminded jurors that the evidence showed that Becky said Bliefnick “literally cares more about hurting me more than anything else” and that she would “literally would NEVER trust Tim to ever let him in my house if it was just us.”
Jones pushed back on the notion that the defendant had a right to be at the residence and, therefore, couldn’t have committed the crime of home invasion.
“There was a court order that said thou shalt not and the defendant was told not to be there,” Jones said. “He did not have a right to be at that house.”
‘We know what John Smith did’
The prosecution said that the “John Smith” who purchased the blue bike with no reflectors had long brown hair, as Bliefnick had at the time of the murder. He bought a black Mongoose bike that was in Bliefnick’s garage. John Smith drove an orange rust CR-V, like Bliefnick, and got notifications on his phone about the blue bike with no reflectors that was “sold to a tall, athletically built man,” said the prosecutor.
“Do we have to look outside to know that it’s raining?” Jones asked rhetorically. “We know who John Smith is and we know what John Smith did.”
The prosecutor emphasized that every single time that this individual — the defendant — rode the bike it just happened to be the case that Tim Bliefnick’s cellphone, laptop, and WHOOP armband “mysteriously” showed no activity at all relevant times, including when the murder took place.
On Feb. 13, 10 days before the murder, Becky’s new boyfriend Ted Johnson visited her home. There was no search on Bliefnick’s computer from 2:02 p.m. until 1:10 a.m.; he made a phone call at 7:38 p.m. and did not do so again until 1:32 a.m., the prosecutor said. Meanwhile, the defendant’s fitness-tracking WHOOP device lost connection around midnight and “mysteriously reconnects” around the time he conducts some 200 internet searches over 38 minutes, as the prosecution told it.
“How do I find the owner of a license plate,” was one such alleged search.
Jones said that the 1:32 a.m. phone call that followed was to the Missouri Department of Records, seeking to identify the person behind the license plate number and their vehicle’s VIN number.
The prosecution noted that the defendant must have been present outside of Becky’s home and saw Johnson’s car parked there.
“He started to lose his mind,” just as Becky predicted, Jones said.
‘He waited until the boys were with him’
On Feb. 22, the day before the murder, Bliefnick had sex with another woman rather than picking up his boys from school, Jones said. After Becky was dead, on the other hand, Bliefnick acted strangely, according to the prosecution.
He allegedly called his sons’ school at 11:51 a.m. on Feb. 23 and told them not to let the kids walk home. The school secretary thought it was unusual as Bliefnick had never done that before, Jones said.
The defendant was doing everything he could to make sure the boys didn’t see their mother shot 14 times, Jones continued. Bliefnick allegedly sat in the parking lot of the school for an hour waiting for his kids, when just one day earlier at that time he was having sex with someone else, the prosecution said.
“Only after he picks up the boys does he text Becky’s dad” that he’s concerned about Becky’s whereabouts, Jones said. “He waited until the boys were with him.”
When Becky’s dad called Bliefnick back, he didn’t answer. Prosecutors said that was because the defendant knew he needed someone else to find Becky’s body.
“When the defendant finally calls that phone back [at 4:14 p.m.] what does he do? He lies,” Jones said. He allegedly said the school called him to come pick up the boys.
“That’s not what happened. We know he called the school,” Jones said, before asking: “Why did he lie?”
“Just four days later, investigators found the blue bicycle with no reflectors ditched half a block away from Tim’s residence,” Jones added.
‘Can you just wash off gunpowder residue?’
The prosecution said the investigation established that the defendant had an “empty gun safe” and that there was “no laptop activity at these times when we see these bike rides.”
“Every time we see that person on the bike we don’t have cellphone activity, we don’t have computer activity and his WHOOP is mysteriously and coincidentally disconnected,” Jones said. “What more do you need to see?”
Then Jones showed jurors Google searches, like: “how to force open my door with a crowbar”; “Average Quincy, Illinois police response time”; “How can I check if a gun is registered to me”; “Does my WHOOP record the exact times I wear it?”; and “Can you just wash off gunpowder residue.”
Jones indicated that some of these searches were damning because they contained details about the crime that were not released to the public. There was no mention of a crowbar publicly, for example, nor mention of the use of a silencer.
All of the searches, in the view of the state, amount to: “Are the police going to be able to catch me?”
“Every piece of evidence, every single witness points to one person and one person alone,” Jones said.
“In fact, only the defendant had a motive to kill — to execute — Becky,” he added. “The divorce was coming up, he thought he was going to lose, he thought he wasn’t going to get what he wanted and just like Becky predicted, the defendant lost his mind.”
“Only the defendant is to blame for executing Becky,” Jones concluded. “Find the defendant guilty,” as that is what “justice demands,” he told jurors.
‘Sympathy is not evidence’
Defense attorney Casey Schnack spoke next and told the jury that the state’s case is “dripping with sympathy and lacking in any hard evidence.”
“Sympathy should not enter in your deliberations, and it is not something that should be considered by you when you go back to that jury room,” Schnack said. “We all feel sorry for Becky and we all feel sorry for her family. This is sad. When somebody dies, it’s sad. When somebody dies with kids, it’s sad. When somebody dies tragically, it’s sad. But we’re not here to decide if this is sad. We’re not here to prey on your sympathy.”
“Sympathy is not evidence,” she emphasized.
Schnack accused the prosecution of trying to “take away the presumption of evidence that all defendants enjoy.”
“It is simply a cry for sympathy because the case is lacking substantive evidence,” she said of the state’s case.
Schnack reminded the jury that Bliefnick is presumed innocent “until all of you are convinced that the state has proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“He does not have to prove that he is innocent,” said the defense lawyer. “This is the state’s burden, it’s not mine and it’s not Tim’s.”
Schnack further argued that all of the attention surrounding Becky and Bliefnick’s divorce was a smokescreen.
“It proves they were getting divorced” and “all it is is a request for sympathy,” she said.
At the start of the trial, Schnack told jurors that prosecutors could only prove that surveillance videos of the bike rider merely showed “somebody going somewhere.”
“But that’s all the video shows. You don’t know if this is a man or a woman. You don’t know if they’re young or old. We don’t know what race they are. We don’t know how tall they are. We don’t know how much they weigh. We don’t know what colors they were wearing. We don’t know where they were coming from. We don’t know where they were going. Heck, we don’t even know if this is the same person on each of these videos that you are going to see,” Schnack said previously. She repeated that at closings.
On Wednesday afternoon, Schnack reiterated that there wasn’t any DNA evidence that connected her client to the crime.
“You didn’t hear about any fingerprint evidence” or “hair or fiber,” she said. There was nothing on seized gloves, nothing in trash, no weapon, and “ballistics” was “subject to human error,” the defense continued.
Calling the Google searches the “elephant in the room,” Schnack insisted the prosecution could not tell jurors when those searches were done nor who did them,
“If these searches took place after Becky’s death, then the searches should indicate that it’s nothing more than Tim looking into the investigation like half of the town did,” Schnack said.
She said the state was inviting jurors to speculate.
“Guessing is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said, before noticeably accusing Jones of trying to turn this trial into a “game show.”
“The only verdict in this case should be not guilty,” she asserted.
‘The prowler’s right there’
In a brief rebuttal, Jones said it was clear that Bliefnick knew Becky would be home alone, that he knew to climb up the pergola on the side of the home and enter his son’s empty bedroom, and that the totality of circumstantial evidence — videos and how they relate to the move data, cell phone data, computer activity, searches that the defendant allegedly made — all pointed to one conclusion.
“The prowler’s right there,” he said of Bliefnick. “It wasn’t a random prowler, it was the defendant.”
In addition, Jones took direct aim at the defense’s dismissal of the Google searches by asking: If he was searching for this information after Becky was murdered, how did he know that a crowbar was used?
“He just got lucky and guessed?” Jones asked. “Nobody knew that a crowbar was used. That wasn’t released to the public. Nobody knew that a window was used. That wasn’t released to the public.”
“Nobody knew that the neighbors didn’t hear shots and there may have been a silencer” involved in the commission of the crime, he said.
In other words, per the prosecution, these searches contained details that only the killer would know.
If there was one cellphone call from Bliefnick that night, if there was one text, one Google search, one bit of WHOOP data, then he would he have been exculpated — but there wasn’t, Jones said.
Instead, as Jones said earlier, it was the “same thing every day” the bike rider rode through Quincy.
“The days when we don’t see the defendant on a bike, his WHOOP is fine,” Jones emphasized. “Those gaps are when he’s on a bike and he’s headed to Becky’s house.”
“He’s the guy!” said Jones of the defendant, the prosecutor’s voice rising for emphasis. “[Becky] knew this was going to happen.”
Judge Robert K. Adrian instructed the jury and the panel was sent out of the courtroom to begin deliberations around 1:50 p.m. EST.
Tim Bliefnick declined to testify Wednesday.
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Tim Bliefnick’s WHOOP data at center
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