Trial of 'Family Feud' contestant accused of killing wife enters 2nd week

ByMark Guarino ABCNews logo
Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The murder trial of a former "Family Feud" contestant accused of killing his wife enters its second week Tuesday in Quincy, a historic city in downstate Illinois that overlooks the Mississippi River.

Adams County prosecutors say Tim Bliefnick, 39, killed his estranged wife Rebecca Bliefnick, 41, in February at her house, located just minutes away from his own. Her body was found shot 14 times, officials said.

In 2020, Tim Bliefnick gained notoriety when he appeared on an episode of "Family Feud," telling host Steve Harvey his "biggest mistake" at his wedding was saying "I do" to his wife. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion. Tim Bliefnick faces life in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Dozens of witnesses, including friends and family of the couple and local police officers, testified in Adams County Circuit Court last week over four days. They revealed intimacies of the couple's troubled relationship, which had fractured during divorce proceedings and involved court orders of protection.

On Friday, Quincy police detective Eric Cowick testified that he reviewed records of phone and laptops owned by the couple. The greatest evidence originated from Tim Bliefnick's laptop, which included Google searches and website visits for instructions on how to pick locks, open windows from the outside, clean gunshot residue from a smoking gun, open doors with a crowbar and trace shotgun rounds fired from a specific gun.

Tim Bliefnick used an alias on Facebook to purchase a bicycle police found a half-mile from Bliefnick's home after the murder, Cowick testified. Prosecutors said videos from neighbors show someone riding a bicycle in the area between both homes in the days leading to the killing.

Tim Bliefnick's attorney, Casey Schnack, said the records of websites Bliefnick visited on his phone had no time or date stamp, which made them irrelevant and "only opens the door for speculation." In her opening argument, she said the case "is dripping with reasonable doubt."

Prosecutors introduced several friends and co-workers of the couple who collectively painted a picture of Rebecca Bliefnick as a victim of verbal and emotional abuse from her husband.

"The thought has gone through my mind that I may need a restraining order ... I'm definitely changing the locks as soon as I can. The only way to ensure all three [sons] choose him over me is to eliminate me as the choice," she wrote.

Despite filing for divorce in 2021, the proceedings dragged on for years because several conditions were contested, according to attorneys who testified last week. The conditions included the location of a handgun owned by Tim Bliefnick, custody arrangements involving the children and whether or not Ray Bliefnick, Tim's father, could be alone with the three sons.

Denny Woodworth, one of Rebecca's divorce lawyers, said Rebecca filed a temporary restraining order against Ray Bliefnick in August 2021 because she did not want him to have any contact with the couple's children. Ray Bliefnick, a retired sales consultant in Decatur, Illinois, had purchased a house on the same block as Rebecca. She also filed a petition to have Tim Bliefnick return a handgun to her but his defense attorney revealed he could not find it.

Jerry Timmerwilke, Rebecca's second divorce attorney, testified that Tim Bliefnick would consider evenly split custody of the children only if Rebecca would undergo a psychological evaluation. He said Tim wanted his father to have unsupervised time with the children.

Testimony from friends showed Rebecca worried Tim would turn violent and Ray Bliefnick would take their children away from her.

"I am scared of his behavior and constant lies ... on top of that he has our guns and ammunition," she texted childhood friend Nicole Bateman. To Rebecca Spots, a co-worker, she wrote that she feared her father-in-law.

"It has gotten to the point that I hate even going to work for fear he will secretly take off with the kids and I won't see them for a long time or ever," she wrote.

Sarah Reilly, Rebecca's sister, read a text to jurors from Rebecca in which she said "if something ever happens to me, please make sure the number one person of interest is Tim."

Their final divorce hearing was not yet scheduled "because Becky Bliefnick was murdered," said Josh Jones, an assistant state's attorney. Schnack, however, repeatedly emphasized to jurors that a messy divorce is not grounds for a murder conviction. She also said none of the witnesses reported the texts to law enforcement.

Closing arguments for the trial are expected early next week. Rebecca Bliefnick's family has launched an online fundraising drive to support the couple's three sons.

ABC News' Kalie Greenberg contributed reporting.

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