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Tonight on Dateland.


She was panicking. She said, Becky's dead. Becky's dead.


When somebody shot 14 times, that's significant.


This was a cold-blooded execution.


The entire city was shaken.


Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.


She's going through a divorce.


They both, by all accounts, were looking forward to getting the divorce behind them.


We learned that she had a boyfriend.


It's a big deal to look at any possible surveillance cameras.


This is the night of the murder? Yes.


It's a person on a bike in the middle of February.


There was a footprint by the window. There's a person in the driveway multiple times.


That was the first time it really registered with her that she or her children could be in danger.


Everybody had a theory. Nobody had any evidence to back any of that up.


There's no possibility of recovering from something like this. It's a hole that will always be there. It's a purgatory.


A Valentine's visitor in the dark, a bike rider in the cold, and murder in the heartland. I'm Lester Holt, and this is Daintline. Here's Dennis Murphy with Ghostwriter. A winter's night. A cyclist peddles down dessert the dirted streets, the clickety-clack of gears grinding, the wher of a tire on pavement, the only sounds to pierce the silence in this small town. Security cameras, lonely sentitals in the dark of night, capture fleeting images of this ghostly rider. Who was it? Where were they going on that February night? And to what end? Here on a bluff above the Mississippi River, Mark Twain Country, sits Quincy, Illinois, an apple pie slice of Midwestern americana. So this is a cool old house. Yes. A small safe town where folks like Taylor and Taylor Hyman, they're both named Taylor, plant their roots and stay for the long haul. Like the house also like the neighborhood? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Love the neighborhood. We heard nothing but good things about the neighborhood and that it was one of the safest in Quincy, actually. In the yard across the way is Becky. Yes. Yep. Becky Bleefnik, their next door neighbor, a mother of three young boys and a nurse at Blessing Hospital here in Quincy.


A single mother, three kids? Yeah, the kids came over and play with her dog sometimes. She would even mow our front yard. Yeah. Friendly neighbors living in nice houses on a quiet, safe street until it wasn't. One morning, the Hymen say they woke up to find their car had been broken into, ransacked. So they installed security cameras. So the idea is if there's a prole around, this thing will tell you. Yeah. The cameras send them an alert every time they're triggered, which is what happened in the middle of the night on February 14th, 2023, Valentine's Day. One of the cameras captured a figure walking between the Hyman's house and Becky's. Could you recognize him, Taylor? If someone showed you a picture in the next place, that's the guy in my camera.


No, I could not.


So it's just a figure moving in the dark. Taylor says she texted Becky right away, asked if she'd seen anything.


And she responded back about 7:00 in the morning saying she didn't that night, but about a month ago, she thought she heard voices in her backyard and that she has been very paranoid.


The Hymans posted a message on the neighborhood's Facebook page, Be on the Lookout. And then The security camera alerted again. February 22nd, caught a person coming in. So when you say coming in, they're going... Yeah, coming in.


Coming in the driveway.


Coming down our driveway from the road.


And then about 53 minutes later, we saw a person leaving. What was the Prowler up to? And what, if anything, did he or she have to do with what happened the very next day? That unimaginable thing. About five cop cars started rolling up with EMTs, so So I was wondering what was going on.


I didn't know until the cop came over and let us know that she has passed.


She's passed. They told you she was gone. Becky Bleefnik was dead. It was her father who'd found her lying face up and bloody on her bathroom floor. He called 911. Was it perhaps a suicide?


When the officers got there, it was readily apparent that that was not the case.


Quincy Police Chief Adam Yates heard his watch commander on the phone with the responding officers.


And that conversation included the words, This is clearly not a suicide.


Other phone calls were being made, including to Becky's husband, Tim. Becky and Tim were separated, and the boys were with him that night. He would have to break the news to the children. Becky's sister, Sarah, got a call from their mother.


She was panicking. She said, Becky's dead. Becky's dead. We don't know anything, but Becky's dead. And then she said, I got to go. I'll call you later, which is terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.


The terrifying unknown. What happened?


We're trying to figure it out because Becky was a healthy 41-year-old mom. There is no logical explanation for why she would be found dead in her home.


I guess you're thinking the usual thing. This is a botched robbery that goes wrong?


I didn't even think a robbery. It didn't even cross my mind.


But a botched robbery was very much on the mind of the phalanx of law enforcement that had descended on Becky's home. Including Assistant State's attorney, Josh Jones. He and fellow Homicide Prosecutor, Laura Keck, were assigned the case.


I was actually in Laura's office, and I got a phone call that there was a homicide. They said, give me the address And my first response was, Where? Because that was not an address that...


Nice houses, nice lives, good cars in the driveways?


Not what you would expect. So I drove out there. It took about five minutes, and a couple of detectives met me at the door.


The prosecutor was led up the stairs and into Becky's bedroom.


You could see that that door to the bedroom was shut and the person was trying to shut it, and somebody kicked in that door or broke in that door with their shoulder. Then you found in the bathroom with her hands above her head, and there were bullet holes in her hands.


This victim is fleeing in terror.


You could sense the fear that she must have felt.


Who had pursued Becky in her own home and shot her dead.


It's always a puzzle. It may be a puzzle that you buy for a two-year-old that has four pieces to it, or in certain investigations, it could be a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle where 25% of the pieces are missing, and you don't have the box to look at picture to see what it's supposed to be when you're finished anyway.


This one was shaping up to be one of those puzzles with plenty of missing pieces. But maybe something at the scene would help reveal the picture.


It wasn't just a murder. This was a cold-blooded execution.


41-year-old mother of three, Becky Bleefnik, was dead. Her sister, Sarah, consumed by grief. How did you get through those first few days?


In between the moments of totally breaking down, it was logistics that got us through being able to focus on small tasks. We had to fly to Quincy.


Investigators in Quincy were focused on the immense task of processing Becky's home.


I've been to lots of crime scenes before. This one was different. You could see that there was a concerted effort to be violent in this case.


The violence occurred in the bathroom off Becky's bedroom. She was found there on her back.


We later learned she was shot 14 times.14.




Was 14 times.


This is somebody delivering a message.


To shoot 14 times is not you're just losing your cool. This is you wanted that person dead.


What did the crime scene text find?


We found eight shell casings around the body. That's helpful. We knew that that was going to be important. We found lots of little pieces of plastic around the body. It seemed like they were parts of a plastic bag. Was it an attempt to silence the weapon? Was it an attempt to catch the shell casings?


So you got casings, unexplained plastics. What else is in there?


Honestly, at that point, there wasn't a whole lot more.


Investigators did find a footprint next to a broken second floor window that appeared to have been forced open. The killer's likely point of entry. Rest of the house has it been tossed, Josh? Any sign of valuables missing?


No, there was no evidence of anything missing from the house. It didn't appear that the house had been ransacked. It really appeared from the very beginning that whoever broke into the house broke into the house with the express purpose of executing Becky Bleefnik.


An execution. Someone hated Becky enough to want her dead. But to her family and friends, that idea just didn't compute. It wasn't possible to hate Becky.


Becky just naturally could get along with Everybody that she met.


Although Sarah, who is 16 months older than her sister, admits there was a time she may have been the exception.


We lived in a one-bathroom house, and that caused a lot of conflicts. Two teenage girls trying to share one bathroom, it's not a pleasant sight.


Joking aside, Sarah says people were drawn to Becky.


She was just a likable, kind, funny person. She was really quirky.


Add to that, determination, compassion, and a whip smart brain. And you have all of Becky's qualities that good friend Shannon Zanger knew so well.


We met really in first grade. We would hold hands and walk up the giant steps and spend a lot of time together in those early days just navigating school and being away from our parents.


It's nice to have a buddy.


Yeah, it is.


Best buddies growing up in a small farm town outside Quincy. Pals all the way through high school where Becky was the valedictorian, and then college where Becky played tennis and met her future husband, Tim Bleefnik, a standout on the football team who would later be enshrined in the school's Hall of Fame. Becky and Shannon were still tight as Becky started her career as a pharmaceutical sales rep. Shannon became a labor and delivery nurse. Babies, those had always been part of Becky's life plan, according to her sister.


Becky always dreamed of a family, and being a mother was her number one priority.


And when it came time for Becky and Tim to have children, her friend Shannon, the labor and delivery nurse, was there. You, the first-grade mates holding hands, going up and starting life in school, and now that you're delivering her child.Yeah, it was beautiful.How important was that?It was beautiful.


To be able to be there and hold the hand of your friend as she meets one of her children is... It's not something that you can put into words adequately.


But those happy times had a dark cloud. Shannon had a child born six weeks before Becky's first son, who became gravely ill.


So she's first learning motherhood, and I was dealing with my fourth baby being sick.


And Becky would be there for you?


Absolutely. Really, she most definitely was.


Tragically, Shannon's child passed away. But the experience of watching what Shannon and her family went through, the care her son received, and his spirit through it all inspired Becky to change careers and become a nurse. Becky graduated from nursing school at the top of her class, again.


I wrote this speech because I wanted my friends to know how much she and her son have affected me, inspired me to be a nurse, and challenged me to be a better person.


Becky was born for this role. She has an innate quality that you can't teach in a nurse.


She wasn't just good at testing.


No, absolutely not. She did the the important part, the caring part.


It really was her calling. She really provided comfort to people in their greatest time of need.


But sadly, nobody had been there for Becky at her greatest time of need. She was dead, and what was left now was for the police to find her killer. They were speaking with the neighbors.


A couple of hours after the body was found, that's when they came over and asked us questions.


The Hymans told them about their security camera footage. Investigators were eager to take a look.


Obviously, with any investigation, it's a big deal to look at any possible surveillance cameras.


That could be a solve for your case right there. Absolutely.


I was like, this could be awesome.


Join Hoda Codby for a brand new season of her podcast, Making Space. I feel this season is more personal to me. Uplifting conversations with television host Maria Menunos, The Office star and author, Raine Wilson, and more. All of our guests provide something special, every single one. Come with me on this journey, and I promise you'll leave stronger than when you started. All episodes of season 4 of Making Space with Hoda Cotby are available now wherever you get your podcasts. The The murder of Becky Bleefnik had left her neighbors like the Hymans right next door, reeling. I was just nervous to be around in general with something happening so close to your home. The Hymans hoped their surveillance cam video of the Prauer outside their home could help police catch Becky's killer. So did prosecutors, Josh Jones, and Laura Keck.


Initially, we thought we had surveillance video the night of the murder, so we were excited.


If you got my attention, tell me more. It could be a for your case right there.


Absolutely. I was like, this could be awesome. And then it turns out, one, the camera angle was not good, and two, it was not the day of the murder. It was the night before. And you couldn't tell who it was. I would be hard-pressed to even say if it was a man or a woman.


The same was true of the image the Hyman's camera captured about a week earlier. Still, it was a potential lead, so detectives hit the pavement looking for more video.


It's like finding a needle in a stack of needles a lot of times because a lot of folks have video surveillance now on their houses.


The detectives work their way out from Becky's house, knocking on doors of homes and businesses, asking the same question over and over again.


Do you have video cameras? And did you capture anything around this particular time just to see if there's any additional evidence, maybe of someone driving to and from or walking to or from or something like that?


The search paid off because something like that was exactly what they uncovered. Laura, there's a figure seen on somebody's video of a guy on a bicycle.




This is the night of the murder?


The night of the murder, yes. And you see the person riding the bike and then turn towards the direction of Becky Blefnik's house. And I will also say it's a person on a bike in the middle of February, which it's very cold in Quincy.


Just the circumstances alone.


Yes, and it's the middle of the night. That part is very strange.


The bike didn't appear to have reflectors, which made it hard to see. But a few blocks away, also on the night of the murder, another camera picked up what appeared to be the same cyclist peddling toward Becky's neighborhood. At a short time later, heading back. How much information did the video give you? Could you tell Short, Tall?


None of that. All you could tell is there's a person riding a bicycle.


Each video by itself is not super helpful, but each video, when it becomes part of the video before the video after is how these videos become that much more important.


The videos fit together to form an important piece of that puzzle. Investigators had a suspicious cyclist in the area on the night of the murder, and as they kept digging, they came across that same bike moving along the same route on two other nights, and those sightings match right up date and time with the Prowler in the driveway videos turned over by the Hymans. Given the timing, police now believe that the cyclist and the Prowler were the same person, and in all likelihood, the person who killed Becky. But they wouldn't be able to get an ID from the videos alone. They didn't even know if they were looking for a man or a woman, so they turned to Becky's inner circle.


They were actually reaching out to us, giving us information. You may want to talk to this person, you may want to talk to that person.


They started to learn more about Becky and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Tim. They'd once come across as the perfect He was a big personality, remembers Becky's friend Shannon. Kind of a name in town. He was a star.


For sure, yeah. Very athletic, good-looking, charismatic guy. And she was pretty proud of him. And you could tell that in the beginning.


I think they naturally gravitated toward each other, and they complemented each other at that time in their life.


They married after college. Tim Tim was a successful salesman, and the couple owned a trailer park and part of a CrossFit gym where Tim worked out regularly. It made it easier for this salesman to pitch his favorite product, himself. He relished the spotlight, literally, taking center stage at charity events and appearing with his parents and brothers on the TV game show, Family Fude, where he based in the laughs he got for one of his answers. What's the biggest mistake you made at your wedding?


Honey, I love you, but said I do.


Saying, I do was the biggest regret. Yeah. I'm going to get in trouble for that, aren't I? And the audience eats it up. They go crazy. But back home, Becky, not so much, says Shannon. There was some truth in what he said, she thought.


I think she felt it at that point.


And you think that's the beginning of the end?


From my perspective, yes.


Sarah says the marriage had been unraveling in part because Tim wasn't pulling his weight.


Tim was very much absent in home life, and we used to say in a joking manner, but certainly not in a funny manner, that Becky was a single married mother.


It was Tim who filed for divorce in 2021, moved out of the house. The boys had been with him the night Becky was killed. Police, of course, would have to to check out Tim. But there was another man in Becky's life for the authorities to consider, a new guy named Ted Johnson.


Our detectives became aware of the fact that Mr. Johnson and Ms. Believe nick had a relationship, and they reached out to Mr. Johnson.


Ted told detectives that he had stayed overnight at Becky's house on Valentine's Day, February 14th. You'll want to remember that. And he was also there on the 21st, two before her body was found, making him possibly the last person known to have seen her alive. As for the night of Becky's murder, Ted said he stayed home, hadn't seen her. That would have to be verified.


So we certainly explored that, and we followed that path.


But that wasn't the only path they followed. You must have known instinctively your guy was in trouble.


Absolutely suspect number one.


The Quincy community was mourning the loss of Becky Bleefnik, loving mother and Nurse Extraordinaire. There was a Memorial service at the hospital where she worked. A ceremony by the Quincy Nursing Honor Guard.


They present her, Becky, with white roses and ring a bell and say her name three times, and then the nurses in the room stand up and we release her of duty officially. And it was a beautiful, beautiful thing. And she deserves to be remembered that way.


She certainly does not deserve to be remembered as the victim of a terrible crime. When the authorities were working double time to solve, they knew Becky had that new man in her life, Ted Johnson. He had agreed to speak with the police.


He gives us appropriate answers. He's cooperative with the police. There's no evidence that he was involved. There was no evidence of motive. And so we start looking at a different path and focusing our efforts in a different path.


Down a different path and on a different man. Becky's estranged husband Tim Bleefnik. Tim. Handsome, charismatic, gregarious.


I can't say I blame the police for him being a suspect.


Casey Schnack was Tim's divorce attorney at the time, but she also handles her share of criminal in these cases. You must have known instinctively your guy was in trouble.


Absolutely. Suspect number one.


Did you tell him it's going to be bad?


I told him, You need to keep your mouth shut, and under no circumstances do you talk to anybody. I spoke with one of the investigators gators that was on the scene that night, and I told her that Tim wants to be helpful to the investigation, but he needs to focus on his kids right now.


Tim's kids were also his alibi. He says he was home with them on the night of the murder, according to Casey. And it was Tim who alerted Becky's father that something was off when he told him Becky wasn't responding to his text about the boys. Becky and Tim had been separated two years by then. Could they be civil with one another?


They could be. They had gotten a lot of the ugliness out of their system by the time February rolled around, and they both, by all accounts, were looking forward to getting the divorce behind them.


But investigators had pulled those divorce records and didn't like what they saw.


It's not only that she's going through this divorce, but it's actually scheduled to go to court a week after the murder.


So it hasn't all been settled in that. No.


In fact, there there were multiple issues that were contentious at that point.


They were fighting over the big two issues, money and custody. Shannon noticed it was taking a toll on her friend Becky. The divorce is where it was. It was.


She just looked beaten down by the whole process.


The process had taken a particularly nasty turn when Tim filed for a protective order against Becky. She followed suit with one of her own. The dueling petitions laid a marriage in its death throes. Accusations flew back and forth of poor parenting, verbal assault, harassment, and rage-filled destruction of property. There were also accusations of pushing and grabbing, but no documented physical injuries. Tim's attorney says it was all a lot of smoke, no fire.


Very common gameplay in a divorce in Adams County, Illinois. But there is no evidence in any court filings that I've ever seen that would suggest that he was abusive. They both said things that they shouldn't have said during the divorce. They both probably did things during the divorce that they could take back if they could.


Becky also filed for a protective order against Tim's father, Ray. She accused him in court filings of inappropriate sexual behavior with female members of Tim's extended family, including minors. Accusations that had been floating around Tim's family for years.


She did not want Ray Bleefnik to be around her children alone, and that was a A very contentious issue in the divorce. Tim's father.


I don't want him near my kids.


Yeah, doesn't want him anywhere around the kids unsupervised.


Tim fiercely defended his father, and Ray unequivocally denies the allegations. Allegations that nobody in the family ever brought to the attention of the authorities. The protective order against Ray was denied. Same thing for the protective orders against Becky and Tim. But the puzzle of Becky's murder was starting to reveal itself to investigators. The bitter divorce had given them a string to pull, a lead to follow, and they began to think this former football star was hiding something behind his megawatt smile. Time to go back to those fuzzy pictures from the security camera. Another look at that biker on a cold winter's night. For every driver, there's a Hyundai. Whether it's from our range of fuel-efficient petrol and diesel models, our latest hybrid range, or our family of all-electric models, talk to us and find the Hyundai that's right for you and your family. Visit highundi. Ie to learn more. Hyundai, our family, designed for yours. Tim Bleefnik was used to being the center of attention, from his college days as a hero on the football field to parties organized around that appearance on Family Feu and the comment that made some people wonder. Honey, I love you, but said I do.


But there were different sets of eyes on Tim now, and they weren't looking to heep laughter and praise. Investigators were hearing that in the privacy of his own home, the outwardly charming Bleefnik was a starkly different man. Domestic violence doesn't always manifest itself as the wife with a black eye, does it?


It doesn't. Tim can put on a show, and that show did not play out in their household. He was very emotionally abusive to Becky. He was very, very controlling.


Shannon remembers when Becky's third son was born. As both nurse and friend, she implored Becky to stay an extra night in the hospital to heal.


And her immediate reaction was, I can't. He won't let me. We have to go home.


He won't let me. We have to go home. Yes. And after they separated, Friends and colleagues say Becky became increasingly worried about what Tim might be capable of.


She had made lots of statements to people about being scared of Tim, that she thought Tim might do something to her.


According to Sarah, Becky started telling her how scared she was after a nurse colleague of hers was murdered by her ex-partner.


I think that was the first time it really registered with her that she or her children could be in danger.


But remember, despite that very real fear Becky felt, the judge denied her an order of protection against him. The bulk of her allegations were not physical in nature, and she had no injuries to show.


The law with regard to protective orders treats emotional and verbal abuse differently than physical abuse.


Detectives decided it was time to take a look inside Tim's home. They executed a search warrant.


One thing that we found was a box of shell casings.Spent shell casings.Spent shell casings.


Investigators had eight shell casings from the scene. Seemed unlikely these would be a match.


And in my mind, I was like, There's no way. There is no way that anybody he would keep shell casings from a gun that he used to murder his wife.


The shell casings were sent to the lab for testing. You never know. Investigators also found plastic shopping bags that looked similar to the shards of plastic found near Becky's body.


And we seized a computer, and we didn't know what we were going to find on that.


Something rather interesting, it turns out.


So when we start looking at the laptop search history, that is when we found the information where he was searching about Ted Johnson.The boyfriend.The boyfriend.


So Tim was researching his wife's new love interest. That wasn't terribly strange. But when he did it, jumped out at investigators.


Ted Johnson had a Missouri license plate, and in the middle of the night, on February 14th, at 1:10 in the morning, he starts searching information about how How do I look up Missouri license plates.


Valentine's Day. Why was that important? Let's go back to those security videos and how investigators saw the picture finally coming together. February 14th was one of the dates they'd spotted the suspicious cyclist going to and from Becky's neighborhood. Images that coincided with a Prowler in the Hyman's driveway just after 12:30 AM. And February 14th was the very same night the boyfriend told police he had stayed over at Becky's, parked car outside. So was this Tim? Biking to his wife's house? Up to no good, but then scared off by seeing a strange car with Missouri plates. Then biking home just before 1:00 AM. The timing was just too perfect. They thought it had to be him.


Because you see a person in the driveway, you see a person on the bike, you see the person riding back, and then at 1:10 AM, he goes down the rabbit hole into these Google searches.


And if Tim was the cyclist that night, the theory went, he had to be the cyclist the night of the murder as well. And when investigators were poking around less than a block from Tim's house, they found a bike.


Ditched behind a garage, and it didn't have any reflectors on it.


No reflectors, just like the bike on video. And there was that divorce court date coming up. Tim was not only going to square off against Becky, but also against members of his own extended family who were set to testify on Becky's behalf about those allegations against his father. Prosecutors believed it spoke to motive.


Tim's world was going to come crashing down in his mind.


The puzzle had finally taken shape. The picture, at least to prosecutors, was clear. On March 13th, two and a half weeks after Becky was shot to death in her bathroom, her estranged husband Tim Bleefnik was arrested and charged with her murder. Were you surprised? No.


No. Because nobody else would ever do something like that to Becky.


But there would be plenty of surprises ahead as the case barreled toward trial. Could the state put him in that house, breaking in, put the gun in his hand, being the killer?


No, they can't.


Murder trials are complicated, time-consuming affairs. It can be years between an arrest and a jury hearing evidence in a case. Preparing for one is no small feat. So what prosecutors Josh Jones and Laura Keck were about to do was downright nuts. So what's your shot clock? What are you up against here?


90 days.


90 days. They wanted no bail for Tim Bleefnik and the judge agreed. But in Illinois, if a defendant is held without bond, the state is required to bring the case to trial within 90 days.


We got 90 days to take this to a jury.


A ton of evidence still to come back from the lab.


The defense could have asked for a delay, but Tim's attorney, Casey Schnack, chose not to. So now you're both playing chicken against the clock, huh?


Oh, yeah. I dropped everything all hands on deck.


Do you like to make an opening statement? Remarkably, both sides were ready when the trial began in May 2023.


The last minutes of Becky Liefnick's life were not spent surrounded by Family, friends, and loved ones. The opening statement I started writing in my mind the moment you walked into that bedroom and you saw her lying on the floor. Now, the last minute of Becky's life were spent in fear, in pain and terror.


The prosecutors presented all the evidence they'd assembled in that compressed time period. They led the jury through the steps they believe proved Tim was the one riding the bike and lurking in the neighbor's yard on those security cameras. They even told the jury how they think he got the bike.


We found that he had a burner Facebook profile, a John Smith. We also found that the John Smith was looking at this blue bike with no reflectors on Facebook.


The bike for sale was strikingly similar to the blue bike with no reflectors found abandoned near Tim's house. And there was more evidence on Tim's phone, more suspicious Internet searches.


His phone show searches for the following: How to open my door with a pro-line. How to make a homemade pistol silencer.


He is searching things like how to make a homemade silencer.


No, you're kidding. Prosecutors told the jury the plastic shards of the scene had perhaps been Tim's attempt to make a silencer using the shopping bags found in his home. It all added up to Tim being the killer.


That was a good story that Mr. Jones just told you. That's exactly what-A good story and a great theory admitted Tim's defense attorney, except for one thing.


Could the state put him in that house, breaking in, put the gun in his hand, being Can you kill her?


No, they can't. They have somebody going into that house and killing Becky. I don't think they gave you Tim.


And what about the bicycle videos?


Those were infuriating as an attorney because you don't know where that person's going. You don't know if it's the same person on each occasion. We don't know anything about that individual.


But it tells the story of a round trip, bicycle ride to a gruesome murder.


Well, it tells the story of somebody riding a bike late at night.


So what do you call evidence like that when it's thrown up against you?


It was circumstantial at best.


And the motive that Tim was so angry over the way Becky was handling the divorce, her accusations and demands that he plotted her murder. His attorney told the jury that's just not true.


Their divorce was winding down. There was no reason that Tim had to do this. He wasn't that angry. He wasn't that mad.


Why was his life going to be better as the prosecution saw with Becky dead on the bathroom floor?


I don't know. Things weren't terrible with her in the picture, and by all accounts, they were looking forward to moving on with their new lives.


But prosecutors had something they felt did tie Tim to the actual murder. Remember that box of shell casings found in Tim's house?


The 27 shell casings in his house exactly match the shell casings that were around Becky. They were fired by the exact same gun.


So the shell casings from the scene match shell casings taken from Tim's home. But that's not a smoking gun, according to his attorney, because no gun was ever found.


We didn't have a murder weapon. They said it was shot with the same gun, but we don't know what gun. They never had a gun in Tim's possession that they could link to this murder.


The puzzle finally assembled. But what picture did the juror see?


I think that was the most anxiety I've ever felt. What if they find him not guilty?


After four hours of deliberation, the verdict was in.


We, the jury, find the defendant, Timothy Bleefnik, guilty of first-degree murder. It was pure panic, and then utter relief.


Tim Bleefnik was sentenced to life in prison. He told Dateland he maintains his innocence and is appealing his conviction. His future behind bars is of little comfort to Sarah.


There's no possibility of recovering from something like this. It's a hole that will always be there. It's a purgatory.


But if Sarah and her family are condemned to a type of purgatory, she is determined to push so that other families don't join hers.


When we think of domestic abuse, domestic violence, we often think about, Oh, well, that happens to other people. That happens to women who date the bad boys. It doesn't happen to the quintessential American family. When we don't think that it's a possibility, it becomes dangerous.


Sarah says that even though the judge followed the letter of the law in denying Becky's order of protection against him, the system failed her sister by not seeing what was really going on. The prosecutors in this case agree.


If there's not an act of physical violence where a judge can see a bruise or a broken bone, it's much harder to get an order protection.


I think there is such a stigma for people when they're going through a divorce that if they claim domestic violence, people assume it's just a divorce tactic. I think all of us can learn that we need to believe people and be able to help refer them to the right resources.


Of course, all of that's too late for Becky, and it won't change the fact that three young boys have effectively lost both parents, living now with relatives. And so Sarah hopes people remember her little sister, not for how she died, but for how she lived. As a mom who loved her boys and dedicated her life to making theirs and everyone else's a little bit brighter.


If anybody could know Becky, they would know her generous spirit.


I think you're proud of her.




That's all for this edition of Dateland. We'll see you again Friday at 9:00, 8:00 Central. And of course, I'll see you each weeknight for NBC Nightly News. I'm Lester Holt for all of us at NBC News. Good night. Dateland Thursday. Reaching flames were meant to hide a murder, but investigators thought they revealed a motive. Will a new trial change the end of the story? You got to pay for what you did. Dateline, Thursday, 10:9 Central, only on.