Jury selection got under way Monday in the first-degree murder trial of William Dhondt, 29, who is accused of killing his girlfriend in February 2013 and then cutting up her body with a knife and electric saw.
The trial before Oakland County Circuit Judge Phyllis McMillen is expected to last at least a week, the Detroit Free Press reports. McMillen was expected to review photos of the gruesome crime scene – a home in Farmington where buckets and trash bags were stuffed with body parts – to determine which ones to present to jurors, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Dhondt allegedly hit his live-in girlfriend, Kaitlin Hehir, 29, during an argument, then climbed on top of her and strangled her, before cutting up her body. Both had been drinking during the day, and Dhondt’s attorney is expected to argue her client and the murder was not premeditated, which could convince the jury to convict him of a lesser charge.
“There was no assaultive history or anything like that,” defense attorney Judith Gracey told The Free Press. “It’s very unfortunate. If there is such a thing as an accidental tragedy, this is it.”
Dhondt, who gave police a detailed confession, acted out of “panic” when he cut up the body, his attorney said. He is also charged with mutilation of a body, a 10-year-felony.
First-degree felony murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
The defendant and Hehir had lived together for about six months.
Farmington police arrived at the home about 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, after Dhondt reported his girlfriend was missing. He said that the last time he had seen her was about 12:30 a.m. the day before when she dropped him off at home and left to go back to a party. But the woman’s friends told officers they had not seen her since she left the party to pick him up from work.
Police detained him after finding what appeared to be bloody plastic in the home. After Dhondt told detectives that he and his girlfriend had a verbal argument that turned physical, police obtained a search warrant for the home and found the woman's body.