Dropped murder charge not the end [opinion]

Date: 2010-10-07
Source: QCtimes

Barb Ickes The Quad-City Times 

The poor little guy couldn’t win.

Collin Holdgrafer’s mom was sent to prison for drugs when he was just a toddler. His uncle, who already had three kids of his own, recently adopted Collin, 4, and his older brother, Darrian, 6.

At some point shortly after adopting the boys, Andrew, 32, and his wife, Danielle Holdgrafer, 30, began abusing them, the boys’ biological grandmother told a Quad-City TV reporter.

Diane Haylock, of Maquoketa, Iowa, used the word “torture” when she described the way the boys were treated by their adoptive parents. At 4 years old, Collin spent most of his time locked in a room, Haylock said, adding that family members called the hot line for the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) for help more than once.

“This little boy should’ve been saved,” she said.

But he wasn’t.

Police say Collin’s adoptive mother held his head under water in the bathtub of the family’s Andrew, Iowa, apartment on June 12. Andrew Holdgrafer saw her do it, police said, but did nothing to stop her.

When the boy appeared lifeless after the bathtub dunkings, Andrew Holdgrafer took him to Jackson County Regional Health Center, and Collin was pronounced dead.

Both adoptive parents were arrested and charged with child endangerment resulting in death, but Danielle Holdgrafer also was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of child endangerment resulting in bodily injury. One count is related to Collin’s older brother.

A judge set Danielle’s bond at $200,000 and Andrew’s at $50,000.

Obviously, police believed they had a stronger case against Danielle than they did Andrew. And police said Andrew admitted he knew about the abuse, suggesting he was prepared to testify against his wife.

But two weeks after Andrew Holdgrafer posted bond, he died of a heart attack while working in the garage of his home.

His testimony died with him.

“There was no deposition in this case, yet,” Jackson County Attorney Chris Raker said Wednesday. “If it had been done, under oath and with cross-examination, it would qualify” as evidence to be used in court.

The 6th Amendment guarantees defendants the right to confront witnesses against them, but a sworn deposition is another way of satisfying that constitutional requirement.

Without the deposition, the state lost its witness in Andrew Holdgrafer.

On Oct. 1, Raker and the assistant Iowa Attorney General who is helping him on the case filed a motion to dismiss the first-degree murder charge against Danielle Holdgrafer.

But the charge of child endangerment resulting in death still stands, and it’s no misdemeanor. It is a Class B felony with the potential to land Danielle Holdgrafer a 50-year sentence if she’s convicted. If that happened, and she got the maximum, Raker said, she likely would serve 35 of the 50 years.

The two additional charges of bodily injury carry maximums of five years each.

The trial hasn’t even been scheduled, yet, so we have some waiting to do before we find out what really happened to Collin.

Whatever records DHS has on the Holdgrafer children are under seal, pending the trial.

“With each child-abuse complaint, a record is kept,” said Roger Munns, spokesman for Iowa DHS. “That is what you want to see. We have asked the county attorney for permission to release the records, and it was denied.”

Even if Holdgrafer is convicted and the DHS records are made public, it’s unlikely their contents will answer the questions: Why did Andrew and Danielle Holdgrafer adopt those two boys in the first place? Were they trying to appear heroic? Did they also abuse their own children, or were they somehow exempt?

And one question that neither the courtroom nor the recordkeeping can answer also is the toughest one to ask: Is the poor little guy better off where he is?

Contact Barb Ickes at (563) 383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com.

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