Jury deliberating Wonder Lake stabbing verdict

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 11:02 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 5:58 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – Jury deliberations in the murder trial of Richard G. Nielsen began this afternoon.

Nielsen, 53, is accused in the stabbing death of 34-year-old Jeremy Lechner.

The incident, on Feb. 6, 2012, began with an argument after Nielsen was asked to move out of the home at 7607 Orchard Road in Wonder Lake. Nielsen rented a room from Lechner's girlfriend, Becky Meyers, who also lived there with her brother. Lechner stayed at the home on occasion.

Nielsen was told earlier that day he was no longer welcome in the home, Meyers testified in the first day of testimony. But the man believed that he had a few more days at the home to gather his things, defense attorney Bill Bligh said during closing arguments.

"He had no idea that he was not allowed to return that night," Bligh said.

Bligh argued that Nielsen acted in self defense and that Lechner had a history of aggression. He asked that jurors find Nielsen guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Lechner's ex girlfriend and mother of his child, Tamara Odarczenko, testified earlier about an domestic violence incident between her and Lechner.

Her testimony was tense at times. Odarczenko agreed when defense attorney Matthew Haiduk asked if she previously told Nielsen's legal team that she was "not going to saying anything in court that would help the defense."

Prosecutors said the Nielsen was not provoked but was the instigator. He returned to the Orchard Road home, drunk, and after Tim Meyers shut the door in his face, he entered with a key through a side door. He began yelling and arguing with Lechner and Tim Meyers.

"He brought a knife to a fist fight – if you believe there was one," Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs said, adding that testimony showed there was only one punch thrown and that was by Lechner after he was stabbed.

Earlier today, a forensic pathologist testified that Lechner died from massive blood loss from a single stab wound to the chest. The knife broke through the ribs, lung and pericardial sac before piercing the heart.

"You really have to stick somebody with force," said Combs, who also is the chief of the State's Attorney's Office Criminal Division.

The doctor also said Lechner had a host of medications in his system when he died, including Xanex, Phentenol, morphine and hydro-codone in either his blood or urine.

Defense attorneys stressed the drugs during closing arguments.

"[Nielsen] is in a brawl, a fight with [Lechner] who is filled with chemicals and 20 years younger than [Nielsen]," Bligh said.

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