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Chapter 6: Ricky's gone!


Chapter 6: Ricky's gone!


Tim and Lisa Holland's phone rang just before 9 a.m. It was July 2, 2005, and Arcie Holland, Tim's mother, was calling from DeWitt. Ricky was coming to stay for a few days on the Fourth, and she wanted to remind Tim to send enough clothes so she wouldn't have to do laundry.

Tim asked her if she wanted to talk to Ricky. He was still asleep, Tim said, but he could put the phone by Ricky's ear so she could yell at him to wake him. Arcie listened as Tim walked to Ricky's bedroom with the phone. Then she heard Tim bellow:

"Ricky's gone! Ricky's gone! I've got to find him!"

Tim hung up and called 911 to report that his son had climbed out the window and run away. It was 9:35 a.m. An Ingham County sheriff's deputy arrived less than 25 minutes later. Lisa was gone, having left early that morning to go shopping with her mother in Lansing.

Tim showed the deputy Ricky's first-floor bedroom. The bed was pushed under a sliding window, and the window and screen were open about 8 inches. Ricky must have used the bed to climb out onto the front porch. He'd done it before, Tim said -- once in May when he went to a neighbor's house and just two weeks earlier when he hid in pine trees at the entrance to their subdivision just outside Williamston.

Tim said Ricky wasn't well mentally or emotionally and was taking medications for several disorders. He also suggested that Ricky's birth mother might have kidnapped him.

Tim called Lisa's cell phone to break the news about Ricky, and when she came home, the deputy asked her to type up a sheet with Ricky's description. Tim pulled out a photo while Lisa put together a flyer on the computer and printed out copies.

The deputy called dispatch and issued a lookout alert for the 7-year-old, described as weighing 55 pounds and standing 3 1/2 feet tall. Before dusting the bedroom window and screen for prints, he requested backup from Williamston police and help from a tracking dog unit.

Within an hour, a Michigan State University officer arrived with her dog. They tried for hours but couldn't pick up a trail. At the sheriff's headquarters in Mason, a program called a Child Is Missing was initiated, sending recorded messages to listed phone numbers in the area to watch for the boy.

Search comes up empty

About 11:30 a.m., a deputy called Tim with more questions.

Were there any phone calls to or from the house the previous evening?

No, but you can check the caller ID on our phone, Tim said.

Was there an issue of discipline or a family problem that might have led Ricky to run away?

Yes, there was. Last night, Ricky had been disciplined after he slapped his 2 1/2 -year-old sister. He got a 6-minute time-out, then "went to bed mad," telling his father, "I hate you."

Tim again mentioned Ricky's medications.

The sheriff's department set up a mobile command post on Grand River, around the corner from the Hollands' house on Douglas Street in Leroy Township, and the family left so deputies could search the house.

As the sun set, Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Cook and Maj. Allan Spyke briefed the Hollands. The ground search was suspended until morning, but police would continue looking from their vehicles through the night. Officers wouldn't patrol the Hollands' street, so as not to scare away the boy.

Spyke asked the Hollands to leave the house unlocked and the porch light on, so Ricky could easily get in if he returned.

"At no time during this conversation did the Hollands express any type of emotion," Spyke later noted.

As Cook and Spyke were leaving, someone from Camp Pa-Wa-Pi, a 52-acre day camp in Williamston operated by the Lansing YMCA, walked up and said he had found a flashlight and blue hairbrush while searching the grounds for Ricky.

Cook turned toward the Hollands, who were standing on their porch about 30 feet away, held up the hairbrush and asked whether it might be Ricky's. Tim said it was. But later that evening, Tim and Lisa went to the command center and examined it more closely. Tim remained convinced it was Ricky's; Lisa wasn't sure.

Investigators question Hollands ...

Sheriff's Sgt. Roy Holliday and Detective Paul Nieusma went to the Hollands' the next morning. They were now heading the investigation. Next to finding Ricky, their goal was to get a read on the Hollands.

Holliday interviewed Lisa in one of the kids' bedrooms; Nieusma talked with Tim in the living room.

Lisa told Holliday how, after dinner, Ricky hit his sister after she ran into him and was given a time-out for 6 or 7 minutes at the kitchen table. Then they watched "The Pacifier," a Vin Diesel comedy, on TV. Ricky laughed during the movie, Lisa said, but when they told him to go to bed between 9 and 10 p.m., he got angry. Ricky told them, "I still hate you," Lisa said.

Nothing else of importance happened, she said. She left about 8:20 the next morning to take her mother shopping and didn't know Ricky was missing until Tim called her cell phone.

Would anyone want to kidnap her son?

Lisa didn't think so, though she also brought up his birth mother. The adoption had been "nasty," Lisa said, and Ricky had hitchhiked across the country with his mother as a 2-year-old, sleeping on the ground and eating out of garbage cans.

Lisa said she had to pull Ricky out of school to home-

school him because he kept stealing food from other kids, implying this was a behavior he learned on the road. And, she said, he was on medications to mellow him out.

Holliday asked if Ricky had any friends; Lisa said they were new to the neighborhood and "Ricky had no friends."

Holliday asked Lisa if she would take a polygraph test. She wondered if that meant she was a suspect. The detective said the test would help rule her out, and she agreed to it.

... and they seem almost too calm

Tim's statement was nearly identical to Lisa's, except that he said Ricky's time-out was spent sitting at the fireplace.

"Ricky is very streetwise and is very self-sufficient and independent," Tim told Nieusma. He gave the detective phone numbers for Ricky's foster care worker and pediatrician in Jackson.

But now, Tim altered his story about Ricky's medications, saying he'd stopped them about six months before because they turned Ricky into a zombie. Ricky's behavior was worse when Tim was out of town for military training, he said.

Did he have any reason to suspect the boy was being abused in their home? Certainly not, Tim said.

Would Tim take a polygraph test? Yes, he replied.

That afternoon, Lansing TV station WILX (Channel 10) arrived to interview Tim and Lisa, who pleaded for their son's safe return. Lisa clung to Tim's arm and buried her face in his shoulder.

And later that day, Tim and Lisa were driven to the Michigan State Police complex in Lansing. Lisa's polygraph was inconclusive, meaning the examiner couldn't determine whether she was being truthful. Tim's examiner indicated he was truthful "in his answers in relation to Ricky Holland's status or knowledge of Ricky Holland's whereabouts."

Though the detectives saw a few discrepancies in the Hollands' stories, they were more troubled by something else: The Hollands just weren't acting like the parents of a missing child.

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

2007 Dec 7