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URBANA — Toni Cassano sat on the steps of her daughter’s Mahomet home alone Nov. 2, 2009, waiting for help moments after finding Holly Cassano murdered.

Holly was supposed to have been at her mother’s home two streets away at 9 a.m. that day but didn’t show up.

When Toni Cassano couldn’t reach her by phone, she went to the trailer on DuPage.

“I found her lying on the floor on her back face up. I saw her naked with blood all over her and stab wounds. She had some clothing on but it had been moved around,” Cassano said.

“I sat down beside her and put my hand on her leg,” she said.

Asked by State’s Attorney Julia Rietz how Holly Cassano felt, her mother replied “very cold, very stiff.”

“I said a prayer to God, then called 911. I stayed inside just a few more minutes, then forced myself to go outside because I did not want to contaminate anything,” Cassano said.

Jurors and observers sniffled and wept quietly during the powerful testimony Tuesday morning, the opening of the murder trial of Michael Henslick.

Cassano was the fourth of 19 anticipated witnesses.

In opening statements to the eight women and four men, Rietz said Miss Cassano suffered from upwards of 60 stab wounds, some of them defensive.

Trails of blood throughout her home suggested that the killer had also been injured.

Rietz said the DNA from that blood was ultimately linked to Henslick.

“You will hear him in his own words initially deny, then ultimately admit” that he killed her.

Rietz said Henslick knew Miss Cassano and went to her house to visit on Nov. 1 or 2.

“She was kind to him. They talked. He fell asleep. At some point, he got a knife from the kitchen and with rage and jealousy stabbed her repeatedly and sexually assaulted her on the floor.”

Henslick’s attorney, first assistant public defender Lindsey Yanchus, denied that her client killed Miss Cassano.

“This case is not simple. Pay attention to the leads not followed. Pay attention to the evidence not tested. Pay attention to assumptions made by law enforcement,” Yanchus said.



Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).