WICHITA, Kansas — A Kansas woman was convicted Thursday of premeditated murder in the 2017 beheading death of her ex-boyfriend’s mother, an attack that began in front of the victim’s 9-year-old grandson.
Rachael Christina Hilyard, 38, was found guilty of first-degree intentional murder in the April 9, 2017, killing of 63-year-old Micki Lyn Davis. The Wichita Eagle reported that Hilyard is expected to be handed a life sentence next month.
She will not be eligible for parole for 50 years, the Eagle reported.
Hilyard testified at trial that she decapitated Davis “so her soul could get out and go to heaven,” according to the newspaper.
“These things in my head were, like, telling me that I didn’t have much time. ‘You don’t have much time. Hurry up,’” Hilyard said on the stand. “And the things told me I had to hurry to let her soul out of there so she could go be free.”
Police officers were called to Hilyard’s home by Davis’ grandson, who fled the house when Hilyard began attacking his grandmother in the garage. The pair had gone to Hilyard’s home to pick up some of the boy’s father’s belongings.
“JG said he saw Rachael knock down then hit his grandma really hard,” a 2017 arrest affidavit in the case stated. “JG said he then ran out of the house. (He) said Rachael was hurting his grandma.”
According to the child’s statement, which was played for jurors, Davis called out for help, at which point he ran. He locked himself in his grandmother’s car and used her cellphone to dial 911.
At one point, Hilyard followed the boy and asked him through the closed car window who he had called. He told her he was on the phone with 911 dispatchers.
During her own testimony last week, Hilyard told jurors she was “confused as to why (the boy) was so scared.”
According to the Eagle, Hilyard responded to the 911 call by going back in the house, grabbing a steak knife from the kitchen and decapitating Davis, who may have been unconscious but whose autopsy indicated she was still alive. The medical examiner found blood in Davis’ airway, a sign she was breathing when her throat was cut.
She also had cracked ribs and bruises to her face and head, the newspaper said. The autopsy showed Davis died of sharp force injuries to the neck.
When the blade of the first knife broke, Hilyard went back into the kitchen and grabbed another one, according to testimony.
The arrest affidavit said responding officers found Davis’ grandson on an adjacent street, where he ran and sought help from a neighbor after Hilyard went back inside. He took the officers back to Hilyard’s home, where his grandmother’s Ford Ranger was parked.
The officers, concerned for Davis’ welfare, opened Hilyard’s unlocked garage and found a gruesome scene.
“Officer Spicuglia looked into the garage and saw what he thought at first was a mannequin. Officer Crouch then confirmed that it was a body lying on the floor of the garage,” the affidavit stated. “Officer Crouch approached the body to check for a pulse and found that the body was missing its head.”
Davis’ body was lying in a large pool of blood, a steak knife near her shoulder, according to the document.
“As the officers were clearing the rest of the residence Officer Wannow … walked into the kitchen and observed a human head with curly brown hair in the kitchen sink,” the affidavit said.
Hilyard was found crouching in her bathroom, the victim’s blood in her hair and on her clothing. Body camera footage played during the trial showed she was calm when officers placed her under arrest, the Eagle reported.
The newspaper said Hilyard’s mental status, a question that led to multiple competency evaluations since 2017, was not part of the defense case. Neither was an alleged exorcism Hilyard sought to have performed at her home in the days before the killing.
According to KAKE in Wichita, Hilyard had previously been found incompetent to stand trial. She was found competent to move forward last summer following treatment at a psychiatric facility.
“Thank God she is off the streets so this doesn’t happen to anybody else’s family,” Davis’ son, Jeremy Rush, said in an interview with the paper following the verdict.
Rush said the jury’s decision was the justice the family sought.
“Just sitting in the same room with her has been very rough,” he said.
In an interview with KWCH, Rush praised his nephew, who is now 11, for his bravery throughout the crime and the trial process.
“He was the heat of the case,” Rush said. “He knew exactly what happened. He was a very smart and brave young man. Love him to death.”
The boy’s maternal grandmother, Brigitta Christner, said he is a happy child despite what he’s been through.
“He’s had a lot of support, family support,” Christner told the news station. “He seems very happy, plays in the orchestra. He’s doing really good.”
The year of the homicide was a tough one for Davis’ family. In December 2017, less than eight months after losing their mother, her children also lost a sibling, Sammy Barnett. A crane operator for airplane parts manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems, Barnett died a month after being injured in a workplace accident, according to KWCH.
The Eagle reported that Hilyard’s guilty verdict came after two days of testimony and less than four hours of deliberation, during which jurors appeared to reject claims that a series of bad decisions led Hilyard to decapitate Davis. Her defense attorney argued his client believed she had already killed the older woman during a fight, which Hilyard testified began over a painting she wanted Davis to take with her.
She claimed that Davis seemed to "come at (her), which she said prompted the beating. Hilyard also told jurors she never checked to see if Davis was breathing after the confrontation because of voices she heard and something she described as “an app in (her) own eyes” that other people could see through, KWCH reported.
“What we have are bad decisions and horrible consequences,” attorney Quentin Pittman told jurors, according to the Eagle. “My client killed Miss Davis. But there’s no premeditation.”
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett argued that Hilyard attacked Davis without provocation before killing her.
“For her own reasons, Rachael Hilyard had had it with Micki,” Bennett said.
Read the arrest affidavit in Rachael Hilyard’s case below.
The prosecutor argued during his closing statement that Hilyard said nothing before launching the assault on Davis, who she had called earlier in the day to come over and get some items that belonged to Davis’ son, who had dated Hilyard before their recent breakup.
After beating Davis, Hilyard used the two steak knives to decapitate her, the Eagle reported.
“She beats her down. She goes back for one knife. She goes back for another,” Bennett said. “Does that not tell you there’s premeditation here?”
The jury agreed, finding Hilyard guilty of first-degree murder instead of one of the lesser included charges. According to the Eagle, they could have found her guilty of either second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.
Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 27.
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