Trial begins in deadly road rage beating

Christian Hillman appears in court on Tuesday, June 27, 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Testimony began Tuesday in the case of a 19-year-old man accused of murder in the beating death of a 64-year-old driver.

Christian Hillman is charged with second-degree murder after police say he severely beat William McFarlan on Sept. 29, 2016 in Caledonia Township. McFarlan was in a coma for about a month before dying as a result of his injuries.

Witnesses testified about seeing someone kicking McFarlan while he was on the ground, bleeding from the head and unconscious.

“The injuries are staggering,” Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Blair Lachman told the jury as he made his opening statement. “He sent a message to Mr. McFarlan: ‘Don’t mess with me.’ Here’s your chance to send a message to Mr. Hillman: ‘You don’t do this to a man.'”

One of the witnesses testified that the suspect seemed proud of what he had done to the victim.

“I distinctly remember hearing the person on the dirt bike saying, ‘You got what you deserved,'” the witness said.

Hillman’s defense team didn’t dispute that Hillman was the man who beat McFarlan. But they raised questions about why it happened, pointing to the possibility that Hillman’s life may have been in danger.

“You have to determine his intent,” defense attorney Matthew Borgula told jurors. “What was going through his head at the time of the fight? Was it reasonable for him to believe that he was in any danger?”

Prosecutors seemed to be working to dismantle that defense with photos of Hillman taken by sheriff’s investigators hours after the incident. They showed that Hillman had no obvious injuries.

Testimony in the case is expected to conclude Wednesday. Jurors will have the option to find Hillman guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter, or they could find him not guilty.

The teen will have the opportunity to take the stand in his own defense.

**Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the prosecutor’s last name as Lockman. It is actually spelled Lachman. We regret the error.