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Brestan Murder Trial Goes To Jury

Brad Rigdon in court
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
McLean County First Assistant State’s Attorney Brad Rigdon told jurors Shannon Hastings' murder was “beyond brutal, beyond heinous."";s:

UPDATED 6:20 p.m. | A jury considering murder charges against Kyle Brestan in the 2017 brutal stabbing death of a 27-year-old Washington woman deliberated about four hours Tuesday without reaching a verdict.

The jury of five women and seven men began deliberations about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Deliberations will resume Wednesday morning.

Closing arguments delivered Tuesday came after a week of testimony on the murder charge accusing Brestan, 35, of Bloomington, of stabbing Shannon Hastings 105 times in May 2017.

The victim’s mother, Cheryl Hastings, broke down in tears during the final portion of the trial after a photo of her badly injured daughter was displayed on a screen in the courtroom. Surrounded by other relatives who attended the trial and two years of pre-trial hearings, Hastings’ mother hugged Bloomington Sgt. Todd McClusky, lead detective in the investigation, after closing arguments.

Sitting behind Brestan on the opposite side of the courtroom was the defendant’s mother, Sally Brestan, and other family members. Both mothers offered brief testimony for the state during the trial: Hastings identified her daughter in a photo taken months before the assault, and Brestan confirmed she had not seen her son for at least five months before the incident. Her testimony conflicted with her son’s statement to police that his mother may have had the shirt he was wearing on the bike ride.

In her closing remarks to the jury, defense lawyer Stephanie Wong asked the jury to consider alleged flaws she identified in the state’s case, errors the defense claimed created significant reasonable doubt as to Brestan’s guilt.

Two defense witnesses—a clerk at Pilot Travel Center and a woman who lived at the EconoLodge—both testified they saw Hasting after May 16, 2017. That's the day Brestan was seen riding a bike in what appeared to be blood-stained jeans near the hotel. Police located video of Brestan’s image on the bike from public safety and commercial surveillance cameras on West Market Street.

Forensic evidence also tipped in Brestan’s favor, Wong argued.

“There’s no evidence Kyle handled the knife—zero,” Wong said of the murder weapon examined by state crime lab scientists. An unidentified DNA profile found on the knife was similar to a genetic profile detected on a vaginal swab from the victim, the defense lawyer told jurors.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Brad Rigdon laid out the state’s case in his closing remarks, starting with the text messages exchanged between Brestan and Hastings in the days before her death. The conversations included references to crack cocaine the couple shared and the need to cover the costs of the drugs.

Rigdon contends money and drugs were the motive for the slaying. In one text, Hastings asked Brestan for money he owed her for drugs. The dispute that left Hastings with more than 100 knife wounds in her neck and upper torso was tied to Brestan’s addiction, said Rigdon.

In his rage to obtain his next narcotics fix, Brestan “failed to find the reason he killed her. He didn’t look in her sock,” said the prosecutor, referring to the area between two pairs of socks, the place Hastings hid a nugget of crack cocaine.

Technology from surveillance cameras and cell phones that allows police to compile a timeline of a person’s activities also confirms when all activity stopped, Rigdon explained to the jury.

The last activity on several cellphones found in Hastings’ hotel room was logged at 5:05 a.m. on May 16, 2017. Brestan’s cell phone dropped its connection to the hotel’s internet system at 5:33 a.m. that day and three minutes later he was seen on the bike heading east towards his home on Davis Street, according to testimony at the weeklong trial.

The next time Brestan used his phone was a search for the city’s trash and recycling pickup schedule shortly after 6 a.m., according to police. The state argued Brestan disposed of his clothes before he was questioned May 23 – two days after the victim’s body was found by a hotel worker.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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