Jury finds teen guilty in deadly road rage beating

Christian Hillman
Christian Hillman appears in court on June 28, 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A jury has found a 19-year-old Ada man guilty in the beating death of a 64-year-old.

After a half-hour of deliberation on Thursday, the jury of 10 men and two women found Christian Hillman guilty of second-degree murder in the death of William McFarlan on Sept. 29 on Whitneyville Avenue in Caledonia Township.

Hillman will be held at Kent County Correctional Facility until his sentencing on July 24. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

A large group of friends and family of the victim wiped away tears as the verdict was read on Thursday. 24 Hour News 8 spoke to McFarlan’s son shortly after the decision was announced.

“Nothing is going to bring my dad back. We do feel that we got justice. We were happy that the jury saw that second-degree murder is what they should have gone with, but still, it’s just a terrible situation no matter what,” Dustin McFarlan said.

The verdict came down after jurors listened to more than an hour of closing arguments from prosecutors and Hillman’s defense attorney.

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Blair Lachman focused his final arguments on the lack of injuries Hillman had in comparison to McFarlan. He said Hillman beat McFarlan for more than seven minutes and pulled down his pants and underwear.

Lachman said Hillman was proud of his assault on the 64-year-old man, asking someone to take pictures of his bloody hands after the deadly assault.

“What happens after the man is unconscious (and) alone is second-degree murder,” Lachman said.

Defense attorney Michael Bartish conceded Hillman was not likable as depicted in police video where he asked an officer to “get my good side” during evidence photos. But Bartish said Hillman was acting on impulse during a fight with McFarlan.

Bartish said McFarlan tailgated Hillman’s dirt bike and tried to run him off the road. Bartish said McFarlan tried to choke his client. He also argued his client didn’t know how bad McFarlan’s injuries were during the recorded police interview.

>>App users: Watch the closing arguments here. (WARNING: Graphic images of injuries are shown in the video; viewer discretion is advised.)

Undated courtesy photo of William McFarlan (Courtesy GoFundMe.com/HelpMcFarlanFamily)

That recorded interview with Hillman was played in court Wednesday.

In the interview, Hillman told officers McFarlan put his hands around Hillman’s neck like he was trying to strangle him. Hillman said he felt like his actions were in self-defense, but told the officer he “kind of lost control for a second.”

The camera was still rolling when an officer came into the interrogation room to photograph Hillman after the deadly beating.

“Make sure you get my good side,” Hillman told the officer.

Christian Hillman
Christian Hillman tells an officer to “get my good side” during a recorded interview with detectives.

Jurors Wednesday also heard texts and Facebook messages sent from Hillman’s account after the beating, as well as detailed descriptions and photos of McFarlan’s injuries.

The medical examiner testified McFarlan died from a head injury as the result of a homicide. McFarlan spent about a month in a coma before his death.

Hillman was represented by a powerful defense team that includes a lawyer who previously worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which he foreshadowed in a recorded interrogation room phone call to his mother.

“I’m going to get a really good lawyer and she’s going to shut (police) the f**k up,” he said.

Christian Hillman
Christian Hillman (far left) sits next to his attorneys in court on June 28, 2017.

Hillman’s defense team didn’t call any witnesses after the prosecution rested its case Wednesday. However, his lawyers previously raised questions about why the beating happened, pointing to the possibility that Hillman’s life may have been in 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.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the defense attorney delivering closing arguments as Matthew Borgula, not Michael Bartish. We regret this error, which has since been corrected.***