WOODSTOCK – Prosecutors are painting Richard G. Nielsen as a man who in a drunken rage stabbed an unarmed man.
But to defense attorneys, the man accused of first-degree murder was bewildered by a roommate squabble and intimidated by a man 20 years his junior.
The murder trial for Nielsen, 53, began Tuesday with opening statements from attorneys and testimony from witnesses of the Feb. 6, 2012, alleged crime.
Nielsen was charged in connection with the stabbing death of 34-year-old Jeremy Lechner.
Lechner's girlfriend, Becky Meyers, was living with her brother at 7607 Orchard Road in Wonder Lake, where the incident happened. Nielsen rented a room from Becky Meyers for $50 a week.
In her opening statements, Assistant State's Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein said that Nielsen returned drunk Feb. 6, 2012, to Meyers' house after being told he no longer was welcome.
"[Nielsen] made bad choices that night that resulted in the death of an unarmed person," Eisenstein said.
Special Public Defender Bill Bligh plans to argue that Nielsen acted in self-defense.
"When you apply the law, you will see the events of Feb. 6, 2012 – while tragic – were not first-degree murder," Bligh said.
Meyers testified that a verbal fight ensued between Lechner and Nielsen, and Nielsen pulled a knife. After he was stabbed, Lechner threw a single punch that landed on Nielsen's face, Meyers said.
"That's the one time Jeremy hit him," Meyers said.
An autopsy revealed that Lechner died of a single stab wound to the chest that pierced his heart.
Bligh attempted to poke holes in the testimony of Meyers, and her brother, Tim Meyers, who also testified Tuesday. Becky Meyers told police the night of the of the murder that Nielsen helped her render CPR.
Jurors saw a video of her telling authorities "[Nielsen] breathed for him." But on the stand, she said that Nielsen refused, saying that was disgusting and began dry heaving.
Prosecutors also introduced bloody crime scene photos, and jurors heard testimony from McHenry County Sheriff's deputies, one of whom said the knife was found in Nielsen's pocket, and a paramedic from Wonder Lake Fire Rescue. The prosecution intends to rest its case Wednesday morning.
The trial before McHenry County Judge Michael Feetterer is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m.