Officials: DNA testing helps solve 2009 cold case

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – Almost nine years after the murder of 22-year-old Holly Cassano, police have made an arrest in the case. The arrest would not have been possible without genealogy testing. 

On Tuesday, Michael Henslick, 30, was arrested in the parking lot of Market Place Mall in Champaign. Henslick is being charged with the Nov. 2, 2009 murder of Holly Cassano. She as discovered dead in her Mahomet mobile home. Police discovered Cassano had been stabbed 80 times and raped.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, police say they used advance DNA testing to crack the case. Police submitted the suspects DNA from the case to a genealogy company to help them find Henslick. 

It had been years since law enforcement talked publicly about the case. Around the time of the murder’s six year anniversary, in 2015, investigators told WAND News DNA evidence had led to a break in the case.

"Information was presented to us six years later,” said Lt. Curt Apperson in 2015, “and now we're going to have to go back and find this person. That's what's frustrating like if we had known this then, it may be a different story."

Law enforcement said they tracked the DNA and genealogy using online searches, obituaries and information dating as far back as the 1800s.

Once police connected the case to Henslick, they followed him for two days to obtain a DNA sample. They were able to get a sample off of a discarded cigarette. They said the received lab results on the DNA within 24 hours, the fastest they said they have ever gotten results.

Search warrants were executed Tuesday and during the early morning hours of Wednesday.

Police said Cassano and Henslick knew each other through mutual acquaintances, went to high school at the same time and lived in the same building.

Henslick will be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. He is charged with four counts of first degree murder. His bond is set at $10 million.

Henslick has a criminal history comprised of drug offenses and felony domestic violence charges.

His first offense was in 2009, the same year Cassano was murdered. He was put on first offender probation for drug possession. During that time Henslick avoided court orders for a DNA sample. 

Officers working the case say this murder has troubled them for years. They say they've viewed Cassano as part of the family. Many officers working the case worked it for years and used their own time to finally bring the case to a close.