GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - An Ada teen charged in the road rage beating death of a 64-year-old man will be spending Thanksgiving in jail after a judge today raised his bond to $1 million.
Christian William Hillman, 18, was booked into the Kent County Jail Wednesday, Nov. 23 following a morning bond hearing in Kent County Circuit Court. He is charged with second-degree murder for the beating death of William A. McFarlan.
Hillman was released from jail last week after his family posted a $100,000 bond set by 63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski. At the time, Hillman was charged with assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder.
That changed when McFarlan died from his injuries on Oct. 31. The U.S. Army veteran and 30-year employee of General Motors had been in Hospice care after suffering a severe brain injury from the Sept. 29 beating along Whitneyville Avenue SE near Alto.
Kent County Circuit Court Judge George Quist today arraigned Hillman on a charge of second-degree murder. Hillman pleaded not guilty.
The assault played out on Whitneyville near 52nd Street SE in Cascade Township, not far from Hillman’s home. Although investigators describe the incident as road rage related, there is no indication as to how it started.
Hillman is claiming self-defense. “I had to make sure he was completely immobilized so he didn’t hurt me,’’ Hillman told detectives, according to court records. “Hillman admitted that he stomped the man while on the ground and he did so because the man grabbed his neck.’’
At an earlier court appearance, a witness testified he was driving an ATV and became separated from Hillman. When they found each other again, the witness stated he saw Hillman kicking a man who was unconscious on the ground next to the man’s Silverado pickup truck.
Witnesses said they heard a subject saying “Get up. I dare you to get up and that’s what you get,’’ court records show.
Prosecutors earlier said if McFarlan died, the charge against Hillman would be upgraded. Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth on Nov. 10 authorized a warrant for second degree murder, a potential life offense. The previous charge of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.
Hillman is unemployed and lives with his parents on 52nd Street SE in Ada, court records show. He was to be enrolled for January classes at Grand Rapids Community College. Hillman suffers from depression and anxiety and admitted to using marijuana, court records show.
Kent County deputies found McFarlan unconscious beside the road. He had multiple fractures to his face and ribs and had bleeding on the brain. Family members were given a low percentage that he would survive. Deputies on Sept. 29 found an ATV and a dirt bike at Hillman’s home that matched descriptions from witnesses at the scene, court records show.
Deputies on Sept. 30 interviewed Hillman. He admitted to getting into an altercation with the driver of a Silverado pickup. “Hillman states that the male subject came at him and attempted to grab his neck, so in return he punched him several times and also punched this subject while he was on the ground,’’ Kent County sheriff’s detective Marcus Glover wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
Throughout the interview, Hillman, who stands 6-foot, 1-inch tall and weighs 185 pounds, stated he was acting in self-defense. He gave other admissions that he was an ex-heavyweight boxer and he ‘lost his s---,’ court records show.
“Hillman states he felt really bad about it,’’ Glover wrote in court documents. “Hillman continued to tell the victim please don’t get up so I don’t hurt you anymore.’’
A witness told detectives he did not see injuries to Hillman’s neck or face, but noted injuries to Hillman's hands, court records show.
“Hillman was covered in blood and requested the witness to take a photo of his bloody hands,’’ Glover wrote in the probable cause affidavit. Another witness reported hearing Hillman say “the man he beat up was weak and soft,’’ according to court records.
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