Teen charged in road rage death claims self-defense, says he ‘lost my temper'

Christian Hillman shared his account of the September 29 incident that led to the death of William MacFarlan several weeks later.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - An Ada teen on trial for the road rage beating death of a retiree said he acted in self-defense, but acknowledges the beating he gave 64-year-old William A. McFarlan was “thorough.’’

“He was just lying there, gurgling,’’ Christian William Hillman told Kent County detectives last fall. “I really knocked him out cold. I didn’t want him to get back up.’’

The recorded interview was played Wednesday, June 28 during Hillman's murder trial. Both sides will present closing statements on Thursday before the case goes to the jury.

“Like I lost my temper,’’ Hillman, then 18, said in the nearly 2½-hour interview. “I really hate being angry.’’

More: Trial underway in alleged road rage beating death

Related: 18 year old now charged with murder in 'road rage' beating

Hillman is charged with second-degree murder for the death of McFarlan, who died nearly five weeks after he was beaten on a rural road in southern Kent County.

It happened the evening of Sept. 29 as McFarlan returned home from fishing. Hillman was riding a dirt bike along Whitneyville Avenue SE, not far from his home.

He says the driver of a Chevy Silverado pickup was behind him, flashing the bright lights and blaring the horn. Hillman said he pulled into a church parking lot to allow the pickup to pass.

“I stopped for a second and he started getting all mad, and getting out of the car and everything,’’ he told detectives. “And he put his hands around my neck. And there was a thorough ass-beating after that.’’

McFarlan was unconscious when he arrived at the hospital. He suffered numerous broken ribs, head injuries and facial fractures. Doctors gave him little chance at survival; he died Oct. 31.

Witnesses testified on Tuesday that Hillman kicked McFarlan several times after he had fallen to the ground.

Hillman was initially charged with assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder, a 10-year offense. Charges were upgraded to second-degree murder when McFarlan died. Hillman had been free on a $100,000 bond; that amount was increased to $1 million.

Although Hillman is charged with second-degree murder, a potential life offense, jurors will also be instructed on a lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

During opening statements on Tuesday, defense attorney Matthew Borgula said his client went into a rage when McFarlan reached for Hillman’s neck.

“The guy tried to run him off the road,’’ Borgula said. “Adrenalin screamed through his 18-year-old body; raw emotion was in control.’’

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Blair Lachman told jurors that second-degree murder is the only proper verdict.

“Witnesses see the man lying on the ground, unconscious. Mr. Hillman decides, I’m not done yet. I still have a message to send,’’ Lachman said in opening statements.

“He sent a message to Mr. McFarlan – don’t mess with me,’’ Lachman said. “Here’s your chance to send a message to Mr. Hillman. You don’t do this to a man. Find him guilty.’’

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