Heitbrink trial, Day 3: prosecution rests (update)

By Gary Scott on October 19, 2015 at 1:03pm

The Robert Heitbrink murder trial has concluded its third day of activity, and the prosecution has rested.

Heitbrink, the former Jacksonville Realtors Association president, is accused of stabbing his father-in-law, 70-year-old William McElhaney, to death in Heitbrink’s garage at his 37 Ivywood Drive residence in July 2013 while Heitbrink’s wife and children were asleep upstairs.

This morning, testimony focused on forensic experts from the Illinois State Police who talked about samples of blood, DNA and fingerprints that were taken from the crime scene.

The only knife that blood was found on, out of the dozens of knives that were in the house the morning of the alleged murder, is the knife prosecutors believe is the one that was used in the stabbing, a Spartan steel knife.

It was revealed that William McElhaney’s blood had a “major profile” on the Spartan knife blade, and that no blood from Heitbrink was detected on the knife, despite his blood being swabbed from a leg wound he apparently suffered at some point during the alleged altercation.

No “latent” fingerprints were detected on the Spartan knife or three other knives that were tested.

During the afternoon portion of the trial, testimony was heard from Dr. Jeff Harkey, a forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy in Bloomington on McElhaney.

We learned that there were a total of ten stab or cut wounds inflicted on McElhaney, the majority of which were between his backside and ankles. The stab wound that apparently cut his femoral artery, leading to massive blood loss, was detailed as three-and-a-half inches deep.

There was also a stab wound to the head, as well as bruises, contusions, and lacerations, all described as blunt-force injuries, and facial wounds. Harkey testified that there were at least three impacts leading to four different injuries.

Harkey said McElhaney died of blunt force injuries as a result of being beaten, stabbed and cut. He said all of the stab wounds were consistent with the Spartan knife.

During cross examination, Harkey answered “no” to questions posed by the defense asking if he could say who was the aggressor in the incident, and if he could say what the physical position of McElhaney was.

Harkey said Heitbrink was “most likely” behind McElhaney. He had indicated that the sharp end of the knife used- the Spartan knife had a non-sharp side- was on the end of the wound facing towards McElhaney’s ankle.

Harkey, when asked by special prosecutor Charles Colburn, testified that defensive wounds would have been the types of wounds leading to large areas of blood seen underneath the skin on the tops of McElhaney’s hands.

However, when asked by the defense if the injury could have been caused by a struggle for the knife, he said “yes”, and added it was “more likely” that the same injury to the other hand was caused by a hand gripping another hand that was gripping a knife than just one hand gripping the knife.

It was indicated McElhaney had a blood-alcohol content of .244, which, mixed with prescription medication, Harkey said was a dangerous combination because both were sedatives.

As was previously reported, the McElhaneys and Heitbrinks had drinks to celebrate the return of the family from vacation, and then Robert Heitbrink and William McElhaney continued to drink later into the evening.

The prosecution then rested following Harkey’s testimony. Heitbrink’s defense attorneys, if they choose to have a case, will begin at 9 a.m. tomorrow, which will be followed by closing statements and a jury deliberation.

Heitbrink’s attorneys claim the stabbing was self-defense.