Timothy Bliefnick made headlines in his hometown of Quincy, Illinois, when he appeared in a 2020 episode of Family Feud. Cheerful, well-dressed, and with a party watching in support from home, Mr Bliefnick answered one of the game show’s prompt questions by joking that the worst mistake on his wedding night was saying “I do”.
His answer drew an audible gasp from the audience, with host Steve Harvey quipping that Mr Bliefnick was going to face “a lot of hell to pay” when he got home. Mr Bliefnick rushed to clarify that it “was not his [answer] to say” and that he loved his wife Rebecca “Becky” Bliefnick.
“I’m going to get in trouble for that, aren’t I?” Mr Bliefnick told Mr Harvey with a teasing smile. A year after the episode aired, the Bliefnicks filed for divorce.
Mr Bliefnick’s next turn in the headlines would come under vastly different circumstances. In March of this year, he was charged with breaking into his estranged wife’s home and shooting her 14 times.
He is now standing trial on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion. Prosecutors say the killing marked the end of a long string of domestic violence and threats by Mr Bliefnick against Becky.
As a jury prepares to decide his fate, this is everything we know about the case:
Loved ones first became concerned when 41-year-old Becky, a doting mother and travel nurse, failed to pick up her three sons from school on 23 February. Before discovering the gruesome scene, Becky’s father William Postle received a text from Mr Bliefnick, 39, asking him to check if she planned to pick up the children.
Mr Postle told jurors at the Adam County Court House on 23 May that he drove to his daughter’s home and found the front door open, which he described as unusual. After finding Becky’s body in the bathroom, he rushed to a neighbour’s house to call 911 as he had forgotten his phone.
Adams County Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones said that shell casings found in Mr Bliefnick’s basement matched the casings that were near his wife’s body. Crime scene investigators reportedly found Becky’s DNA in an Aldi bag found at her husband’s home.
Prosecutors also claimed that DNA links Mr Bliefnick to the crime scene. Another Aldi bag found at the scene was reportedly used as a homemade gun silencer by the killer.
Mr Jones said during opening arguments that Becky spent her last moments “terrified, bleeding, and alone.”
For the first week following Becky’s killing, Mr Bliefnick was not charged or arrested in connection with her death. But on 1 March, the Quincy Police Department served a search warrant at his home.
Mr Bliefnick denied any involvement but said through an attorney that he was surprised authorities didn’t show up at his door sooner.
“Given the circumstances, it is not surprising that the search warrant was issued and executed,” the attorney told local news outlet Muddy River News at the time. “My only surprise is that it took this long to do. It is just as important that QPD conduct such as investigation to rule Tim OUT as a suspect so that investigative efforts can be spent elsewhere.”
Mr Bliefnick was ultimately arrested on 13 March, and pleaded not guilty.
Throughout the first week of trial, prosecutors presented evidence they say proves Mr Bliefnick was the perpetrator in his wife’s murder. Investigators have also found chilling searches for “how to wash off gunpowder,” “average police response time,” and “how to open a door with a crowbar” on Mr Bliefnick’s online history.
Allegations of domestic violence
The couple filed for divorce in early 2021, court filings show, following 13 years of marriage. Becky had filed a restraining order against Mr Bliefnick and his father before the alleged murderer decided to also file one against his estranged wife.
Mr Jones said during opening arguments that Mr Bliefnick had reportedly told his slain wife that “she would not get his money.” According to the couple’s divorce attorney, Mr Bliefnick was expected to pay $2,100 in maintenance and $472 per month in child support.
Another attorney who took over the divorce case said the process was “very contested.”
The couple was reportedly also fighting over custody arrangements. Mr Bliefnick reportedly wanted his wife to have a psychiatric evaluation and Becky said it was his wish the children didn’t have any type of contact with her husband’s father.
Becky’s boyfriend Ted Johnson also took the stand on 23 May. Testifying for the prosecution, Mr Johnson said that Becky was looking forward to having her difficult divorce finalised.
Sarah Rilley, Becky’s sister, told jurors that she had first wanted to remain married to Mr Bliefnick to keep their family together, but in the months leading up to her death had become afraid for her life.
“If something ever happens to me, make sure the number one person of interest is Tim. I am putting this in writing that I’m fearful he will somehow harm me,” Becky reportedly texted her sister in 2021.
A text Becky sent to a friend in May 2021 read: “He has screamed in my face, he shoved me in front of the kids, and has thrown things across the room where the kids and I were standing.”
Another friend of Becky testified on 23 May that she had been told by Mr Bliefnick that she’ll be dead before [having] any of [his] money.”
At the time of Becky’s murder, there was a court order for Mr Bliefnick to return a gun to her. He had reportedly told police he didn’t want to do it himself but law enforcement said they couldn’t get involved as it was a court ruling.
‘We’ve watched, waited, and prayed for justice’
Becky is described in her obituary as a compassionate and generous mother who had found her true calling in nursing. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she was a travel nurse at the Northeast Regional Medical Center and Hannibal Regional Hospital in Missouri.
Family members and loved ones have also shared memories of the mother-of-three on social media. Following Mr Bliefnick’s arrest in March, a friend of Becky’s wrote on a Facebook post that the slain mother had been consumed by fear in the weeks leading up to her death.
“... [W]e’ve watched, waited, and prayed for justice,” the post read. “We have to listen to women when they fear for their or their children’s safety. This could have been prevented. It breaks my heart to know that these boys will grow up without their mama. We have to do better.”
A GoFundMe to support Becky’s children has raised more than $98,000.
“Despite the circumstances of her death, she is remembered for the life she cherished—a life of compassion, generosity, faith, and fierce love for her family,” the description of the fundraiser read.
Mr Bliefnick is facing between 45 years to life in prison if convicted.