LACON, Ill. (WMBD) — (UPDATE — 11:45 a.m.) — The man accused of murdering and dismembering Tiffini Murphy of Peoria in 2019 has been found guilty of all charges Friday morning.
During their final arguments, the defense stated that there was no clear evidence Berchtold committed first-degree murder by the definition of the law. At one point, the defense suggested lesser charges.
“This man is not guilty of first-degree murder. He is not guilty of dismembering a human body. He may be guilty of concealment. He may be guilty of a manslaughter charge, maybe,” said Roger Bolin, public defender.
The defense also questioned the credibility of Krystofer Williams’ testimony, who was with Berchtold and Murphy on the night of the death, stating that he may have testified in order to avoid jail and be granted immunity.
On the prosecution’s side, they said the circumstantial evidence against Berchtold was “overwhelming,” and they said Berchtold’s story that a struggle over a weapon caused Murphy’s death defied logic. They mentioned using “common sense” several times.
“Actions speak louder than words judge, and his actions tell you he murdered Tiffini Murphy,” said Assistant Attorney General Steve Nate.
In the end, Judge James Mack ruled in the prosecution’s favor, as Berchtold was placed in cuffs and escorted out of the courtroom Friday morning guilty on all charges.
“Real life is not a TV show or crime drama where everything is conclusively buttoned up in an hour. Both Williams and the defendant had reasons to be untruthful when talking with the police but that doesn’t make all the information provided false especially those aspect corroborated by other evidence,” Mack said before delivering those verdict.
Berchtold’s charges include two counts of first-degree murder, dismembering a body, and concealing a homicidal death.
Sentencing will be at 10 a.m. on Aug. 18.
WMBD will continue to bring you the latest updates on the case.
(UPDATE — 10:30 a.m.) — Closing arguments have wrapped up Friday morning in the trial of the man accused of murdering and dismembering Tiffini Murphy of Peoria in 2019.
At this time, the defense for the suspect, Gary Berchtold, has no one to testify. Berchtold elected not to testify on his own behalf Friday.
A judgement is expected to be made in the trial by the end of Friday.
On Thursday, the main focus for prosecutors was the bone fragments found in an ash pile that prosecutors allege Berchtold dropped Murphy’s remains.
Prosecutors called an Illinois Department of Natural Resource employee named Dawn Cobb to the stand. Cobb is an expert in studying human skeletons. Cobb helped analyze the bone fragments that were found in 2019.
Cobb said she was able to determine that many of the bones were from humans, but she was unable to determine the gender or exact age of the person the bones came from, except for part of a jaw bone that was “possibly” from a female and the person was an adult over the age of 20.
Berchtold previously appeared before a Marshall County Judge in a bench trial Wednesday. Prosecutors called five witnesses and played an hour-long interview between Berchtold and Marshall County Deputies about Murphy’s disappearance, where Berchtold insisted he had no involvement.
As previously reported, Marshall County authorities were led by a witness to a property on the Marshall-Peoria County Line where they found bones and hair. At the time they were thought to be Murphy’s but were sent off for DNA verification.
Murphy went missing in August 2018 and authorities learned Berchtold was the last person to be seen with her.
After being brought in for questioning, Berchtold told authorities the last time he saw her saw Aug. 31, 2018, and said he and a friend dropped her off at a former Casey’s in Lacon.
Later in the investigation, deputies said a friend came forward and explained his account of what happened the night Murphy died.
The man said Murphy, who was intoxicated, got into a fight with Berchtold and came home with them after.
When the three got to the house, the witness said Berchtold told him to go inside the home and not come out no matter what he heard. The witness then reported hearing five to six gunshots.
The next morning, he realized Murphy was gone, and a fire was burning outside. He then admitted to helping Berchtold get rid of the burnt pile.
After hearing that story, deputies re-questioned Berchtold, and his story changed.
Berchtold then told deputies he was actually breaking up a fight between Murphy and the friend when a gun went off. When Berchtold realized she was dead, he decided to get rid of Murphy’s body by burning her.