After a week of often raw and disturbing testimony, an Oakland County jury early Friday evening convicted a Farmington man of first-degree murder and mutilation of a dead body in the death of his girlfriend in February 2013
William Dhondt, 29, will be sentenced April 18, but it’s a formality. The premeditated first-degree murder charge carries a mandatory life sentence, the Oakland Press reports. A visibly shaken jury returned the verdict after about three hours deliberation.
Evidence presented during the five-day trial included a video of statements Dhondt made in a police interview. Police had been called to the home Dhondt shared with Kaitlin Hehir in late February 2013 when he reported her missing. While there, police saw bloody plastic and obtained a search warrant, which led them to the discovery of Hehir's cut up body hidden throughout the home the unmarried couple had shared.
During the interview, Dhondt said he “sliced and diced” Hebir’s body “like she was a pot roast or some s---,” the Oakland Press reported earlier this week.
The two had argued, Dhondt told police, because she was angry about having to leave a party to pick him up from work. He said in the interview that she kicked him in the genitals and “I f-----’ laid her out."
“She cracked her head on the dresser, and she was out, and that’s where I freaked out. I didn’t know where this was going to end, and I was an idiot. I let her lay there for a while, tried to think it through. .... Then my mind went off — ‘Let’s get rid of it.’ … I took care of that and went to bed. I woke up, said ‘That’s not going to work,’ so I skinned her. Removed flesh.”
The statements Dhont made to police indicated he was “not someone with remorse,” Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Tricia Dare said during closing arguments Friday.
Dare painted a vivid picture for jurors of Dhondt trying to dismember the body, first with an X-Acto knife and then a power saw, and then skinning her arms and removing muscles and tendons “like she’s an animal that was just hunted down in the woods.”
“He talks about it like it’s nothing — ‘Well, that way I can put it in the garbage and people will just think it’s salmon," Dare argued. "It’s not salmon. That’s a person.”
Judith Gracey, Dhont’s attorney, argued that he accidentally strangled his girlfriend of three years during the argument – an explanation Oakland County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kamu Virani dismissed – and that voluntary manslaughter was a more appropriate charge.
Gracey said the two had a stormy relationship in which Hehir ”would belittle him, berate him, on numerous occasions.”
The act wasn’t premeditated, Gracey argued, but occurred in the heat of an argument that Hehir instigated.
“It was a fight, she fought, and she lost her life,” Gracey said. “It’s not first-degree murder. Do the hard thing. Find him guilty of voluntary manslaughter.”
A former Eagle Scout with no history of assault, Dhondt “panicked” and decided to dispose of Hehir’s body, Gracey argued, asking the jury to “disassociate” the act that killed Hehir the dismemberment.
“The dismemberment was after,” she said. “It was on a dead body. Kaitlin was no longer Kaitlin at that point.”
After the jury announced returned its verdict, trial Judge Phyllis McMillen said she would make counseling available to the juors because of the horrific nature of the evidence, the Detroit Free Press reports. At least one female juror was crying as the jury was led from the courtroom, the newspaper said.
Members of Hehir’s family held hands as the verdict was read, then left the courtroom without speaking with reports.Dhondt showed now emotion. His attorney said she was “shocked” at the verdict because “there was no evidence of premeditation,” the Free Press said.