Cassano case: Judge finds probable cause

Cassano case: Judge finds probable cause

URBANA — A Champaign County judge found there was ample evidence for a Mahomet man to be tried for the murder of his former high school classmate nine years ago.

Michael Henslick, 30, showed little emotion as Judge John Kennedy declared that his trial would go forward before Judge Heidi Ladd. About 50 people crowded Kennedy’s courtroom Thursday afternoon for a hearing that took 11 minutes and 40 seconds.

During that time, State’s Attorney Julia Rietz questioned Champaign County Sgt. David Sherrick about the nine-year investigation into the murder of Holly Cassano.

Sherrick testified that Cassano’s mother, Toni, found her daughter dead inside her mobile home on DuPage Street in Mahomet on Nov. 2, 2009.

Sherrick said an autopsy revealed she had been stabbed 55 to 60 times.

Shortly after the killing, vaginal and rectal swabs, as well as bloodstains from her legs, were sent to the Illinois State Police crime lab, where scientists developed a DNA profile for an unknown man.

Over the years, about 100 samples from suspects were sent to the lab, but none matched the unknown DNA profile, Sherrick said.

Work done this summer by a private genetic genealogy company hired by the sheriff's office revealed that the DNA found inside Cassano’s home had possibly come from Henslick, who had lived in the same mobile-home park.

Despite having been court-ordered in a criminal case to provide a DNA sample, Henslick never did so.

In late August, after sheriff's detectives learned that he was a possible match, Sherrick said they followed Henslick and picked up discarded cigarette butts to use for comparison samples.

“It was a full match,” Sherrick said of the comparison between the DNA on the cigarette and the evidence from the murder scene.

Sherrick was one of three detectives who interviewed Henslick following his Aug. 28 arrest. Asked if he admitted his role in the crime, Sherrick replied, “He did. He said he stabbed her. He said all over.”

Sherrick said Henslick admitted that scars he still has on the inside of both forearms came from the attack on Cassano.

Sherrick said detectives took DNA samples from Henslick after his arrest and learned Wednesday from the state crime lab that they indeed matched the blood and semen samples collected at her mobile home in 2009.

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