Chapter 12: She said ... he said

Date: 2007-12-14
Source: freep.com

Chapter 12: She said ... he said

BY JACK KRESNAK • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • December 14, 2007

As she was about to be charged with assaulting her husband, Lisa Holland wanted police to hear her side of the story.

She was led into an interview room at the Ingham County Jail on Jan. 26, 2006. Unaware that she was being recorded on video, she listened as Sheriff's Detective Brian Valentine explained her rights and began the questioning. The session went on for hours.

She painted a portrait of Tim Holland as the family antagonist, a violent man who had "laid into" their children over the years. She said she had seen Tim put Ricky in a headlock several times and take him down hard to the floor. She'd also seen him paddle Trevor.

What else? Valentine prodded.

"I'm afraid if I tell you what happened, I'll never see my kids again," Lisa said.

At first she said she didn't know what happened to Ricky the night he disappeared and suggested that police ask Tim about that.

What might Tim have to say? Valentine asked.

Lisa predicted he'd try to blame her and say she overreacted when Ricky hit his sister the night before his disappearance. Tim might say she hit Ricky, possibly knocking him against the wall, and then gotten rid of the body. She said she didn't know where Ricky was.

Could she guess?

She said Tim might have taken Ricky to the Dansville State Game Area straight down Williamston Road. She and Tim occasionally drove that route to Jackson, but since Ricky's disappearance, Tim hadn't wanted to go down the road at all.

She volunteered to drive there with police. At one point, Valentine pulled out a county map and they talked about where Ricky might be. Again and again, she brought up her concern that if she talked, she would lose her children.

'I think Tim killed him'

After one break, Lisa asked that Sgt. Roy Holliday, the lead investigator, come in.

"I'll talk," Lisa began. "I just don't want ... you to yell."

She was worried about being judged.

"This little boy, I pushed to adopt him because I loved him so much," she said.

Slowly, Lisa told her story:

Ricky had been throwing up. Tim cleaned up the vomit and asked Lisa for garbage bags. She asked if Ricky was OK. Tim said no and told her not to come into Ricky's room.

Tim came out of the room carrying two garbage bags, one atop the other. He carried the bags toward the laundry room and told her they contained Ricky's sheets. She said she'd wash them in the morning, then heard the back door open and close. Tim came back in and suggested they go to bed. Lisa wanted to check on Ricky, but Tim said he was fine.

She went to bed, but Tim didn't. Later, she was awakened by a cell phone call from Tim. He asked to be let into the house because he didn't have his key. The next morning, the garbage bags were gone.

"I think Tim killed him and you don't know how hard that is ... for me to say that," she said.

'What's going to happen to me?'

Toward the end, Holliday got word that Andrew Abood, an attorney hired by Lisa's parents to represent her in the domestic violence case, had been at the front desk asking to see her. Twice, Lisa had been read her rights and agreed to go on without an attorney present.

Holliday's questioning became more urgent.

"I'm just trying to think. I'm not stalling. I'm just ...," Lisa said.

Holliday reminded her that Tim would be in to tell his side of the story.

"He, he, he ...," Lisa stammered.

"Come on, Lisa," Holliday urged.

"I'm not going to try to irritate you," Lisa said.

"Just say it. It's the easiest thing to do," Holliday said.

"What's going to happen to me?"

"I can't guarantee you anything, but I can tell you that you're going to be treated with respect. ... And we're not going to judge you. And we're going to do everything that we can do for your children," Holliday said.

"I'm so scared," Lisa said.

"I know you are," the detective said. "Just say it."

"Tim took Ricky's body out of the house and he threatened me, and if I ever told anybody, that would be the end," she said.

"Where's Ricky's body now?"

"That, I don't know. I don't know. He's the only one that would know," she said.

"I understand, but you have to tell me, did you see Tim take Ricky's body out of the house?" Holliday asked.

"Yes."

"Did you see Tim put his body into the garbage bags?"

"I did not see that. I was not in the room."

"Did Tim ever tell you what happened that night?" Holliday asked.

"No," she said. "But I do know that Tim did leave the house. He did come back in. The next day my son was gone."

Exasperated, Holliday asked: "Is there a reason, Lisa, that he would tell us that he ..."

There was a knock on the door. It was Abood. It had taken him nearly 20 minutes to get in to see his client.

"They were talking about Ricky," Lisa told Abood.

"Oh, they were?" the lawyer said.

The interview was terminated. Lisa was taken to court and arraigned on felonious assault and domestic violence charges and released on $5,000 bond.

Tim Holland takes them to body

Hear the interview

State Police Sgt. Frank Mraz speaks with Free Press reporter Jack Kresnak about Ricky Holland.

A few minutes after noon the next day, Tim Holland and his attorney, Dennis Hurst, walked into the State Police post in Jackson.

Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Mike Ferency and Hurst had worked out an immunity agreement in which Tim promised to tell the truth about what happened and reveal the location of Ricky's body. In return, nothing he said could be used against him in court and, if he was charged and convicted, the judge would be told of his cooperation.

This was Tim's story:

Lisa dragged Ricky from his bedroom into the hallway the night of July 1, 2005, and hit him in the head with a small hammer. Ricky fell to the floor and Lisa hit him again. After seeing Ricky's lifeless body in a pool of blood, Tim got a white plastic trash bag and a larger black one and gave them to Lisa, who placed Ricky's body in the white bag and then into the black bag. Tim put the bags in the bed of his pickup, drove to the Dansville game area and tossed them into a swamp.

After giving his account, Tim signed a form consenting to a new search of his home. Just after 3 p.m., he was driven to the game area in a caravan of four police cars.

State Police Sgt. Frank Mraz said Tim was "like a beagle" looking out the car window. Suddenly, Tim said, "Right here!" The cars stopped, and Holliday and Mraz walked back toward something they spotted from the road -- a black garbage bag partially submerged in the icy swamp.

The detectives were expecting to find the body in a shallow grave. But it was in the open, perhaps 10 yards from the road, down an embankment, nestled among cattails and grasses in water that couldn't have been more than a couple of feet deep.

Mraz called to Tim to walk over. As he approached, Tim collapsed to his knees, buried his head in his hands and wept, repeating the words, "What have I done? What have I done?"

At the bottom of the embankment, State Police Lt. Jaime Corona also fell to his knees. Corona made the sign of the cross and offered a quiet prayer. Corona said he asked "the good Lord to take this child in his hands, and for him to be healthy and happy for once in his life."

Minutes later, Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Sopocy, who had Lisa Holland under surveillance, got a radio message to arrest her.

Other kids show signs of abuse

Four-year-old Trevor was seen by Dr. Stephen Guertin at Sparrow Hospital's Regional Children's Center that afternoon. Guertin said he couldn't with certainty attribute the marks on the boy's neck and back to abuse, but because Trevor had said his mother hurt him with a spatula and a body believed to be Ricky's had been recovered, Trevor's marks could be construed as part of a pattern of abuse.

All four children underwent full-body scans a few days later. No fractures were found, but Guertin said the 20-month-old girl had a black eye and bruised cheek and 2-year-old Brett had a scratch on his back that, in the context of Ricky's apparent slaying and other events, were suspicious for abuse.

Tim had left the children with his mother and sisters, and authorities decided they would stay put. Tim and Lisa no longer posed a danger.

Child Protective Services began the process of terminating the Hollands' parental rights on Jan. 28, the same day Tim and Lisa were arraigned -- not initially on murder charges but on charges of obstructing the investigation. Murder charges wouldn't be filed for about a week, but their bonds were raised from $5,000 to $1 million because they were material witnesses to a homicide.

At their house, police and crime scene technicians searched one more time. Among the items seized: two spatulas and three hammers.

Contact JACK KRESNAK at 313-223-4544 or jkresnak@freepress.com.

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