URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - Jurors and observers could be heard quietly weeping in court as the mother of Holly Cassano described finding her daughter's body.
According to The News-Gazette, Toni Cassano found Holly "lying on the floor on her back face up" on Nov. 2, 2009, in her Mahomet home. She said her daughter was naked and covered in stab wounds, and that her clothing had been moved around.
In that gut-wrenching moment, Toni Cassano said she felt "very cold, very stiff". She then put her hand on her daughter's leg and sat down next to her.
"I said a prayer to God, then called 911," she said in court Tuesday. "I stayed inside just a few more minutes, then forced myself to go outside because I do not want to contaminate anything."
The newspaper said Holly was meant to be at her mother's house at 9 a.m. on the day of her death, but never arrived. Michael Henslick is accused of murder in her case and began trial Tuesday morning.
Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Cassano had as many as 60 stab wounds, some of which were defensive. According to her, DNA from the scene linked Henslick to the crime.
She said Henslick had visited Cassano at her house on Nov. 1 or 2, 2009, before the attack.
"She was kind to him. They talked. He fell asleep," Rietz said. "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 defense attorney denied his alleged role in Cassano's death, asking jurors to "pay attention to the leads not followed", the "evidence not tested" and "assumptions made by law enforcement".
Toni Cassano was the fourth of a total of 19 anticipated witnesses as Henslick's trial moves forward.