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Chapter 8: A sticking window


Chapter 8: A sticking window

Detectives turn up heat on Hollands and make a crucial discovery: The window Ricky supposedly used needs a man's strength to budge


Tim and Lisa Holland were assuring their families, neighbors and Tim's coworkers that they weren't suspects in their son's disappearance because they'd passed lie detector tests. Trouble was, the State Police lieutenant in charge of the polygraph unit had gone back over Tim's test and reached a different conclusion.

Lt. Shawn Loughrige called Ingham County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Roy Holliday on Aug. 5, 2005, to say there were signs Tim had fooled the examiner. His staff hadn't known when it gave the test that Tim had a lot of experience taking polygraphs as part of his Army intelligence work.

Loughrige wanted to know more about the case and asked Holliday to drive him around locations connected to Ricky's disappearance. The two met in Williamston the same day, and Holliday drove slowly past the Hollands' home on Douglas, a dead-end street off Grand River just outside town.

At the end of the street, Holliday turned the unmarked car around and parked it half on the grass, north of the house. The officers sat and talked about the similarities between the written statements the Hollands had made about the night before Ricky disappeared. They were supposed to write them out at home in longhand without consulting one another. But Tim's was typed, and Loughrige believed they had coordinated their statements.

As the detectives talked, they saw Tim back his car out of the driveway and come toward them. He made a U-turn and parked behind them, got out and made a wide approach as he asked in a quavering voice, "Is it OK if I go by here?"

"Why wouldn't it be OK for you to go by us on a public street?" Holliday said.

Struggling, Tim said, "I guess ... I don't... I ... It ... OK!"

He turned to leave but stopped when Holliday motioned him to come closer.

'His hands were shaking'

How did Tim know the police car was there? Holliday asked.

Tim said he'd seen them drive slowly by the house and not return. He figured he'd better check it out. Did he think it was suspicious? Holliday asked. Tim said he and Lisa became concerned after Lisa stepped outside with binoculars and saw two people sitting in the parked car.

Tim's arms were resting on the open window and his "hands were shaking as he talked to me," Holliday said. Within five minutes, Holliday saw beads of sweat on Tim's forehead and the front of his shirt was soaking wet.

Holliday introduced Loughrige, who told Tim he'd been reading over their statements and wanted Tim to redo his, this time in longhand and without consulting his wife. Tim agreed. Then Holliday asked if Tim would show Loughrige around the house, and they followed him down the block.

Loughrige wanted to see Ricky's bedroom and was shown to the door, which was latched from the outside. Inside, the detectives saw that everything of Ricky's -- clothing, toys, bedding -- was gone.

Tim said BioClean Team, the company hired to clean up after the police search, had taken the clothing and bedding. Tim knew that was untrue; BioClean took only the carpeting from Ricky's room. Holliday said he couldn't believe the company would do that, especially clean items. Loughrige thought Tim was caught off guard and tried to change the subject by showing the detectives the window. When Holliday tried to slide open the screen and couldn't, he asked Tim to do it.

Using substantial effort, Tim edged the screen open. Loughrige told Tim he was amazed that a 7-year-old could open it by himself and asked whether Ricky could have used a tool to pry it. Tim nervously replied that he didn't know. The detectives saw nothing to indicate the screen had been pried.

Holliday also noticed that the carpeting smelled new. Tim said BioClean had recommended replacing it, though it was only a few months old.

Out the window? It isn't easy

As they walked around the house, the detectives asked Tim about his civilian intelligence job with the Army. He revealed that he'd been trained in an interrogation technique widely used by police and that he'd taken many polygraphs.

Holliday asked Tim what he thought happened to Ricky.

"Tim Holland looked down at the floor, hesitated for a few seconds and then replied, 'I don't know; I'm not an expert,' " Holliday said.

"Yes, you are," Loughrige said.

Tim didn't answer and Holliday thought he looked shaken. Then Tim said, "I guess Ricky was probably abducted after he ran away and taken somewhere out of the area."

As the detectives were leaving, Loughrige told Tim he wanted to check one more thing in Ricky's room. He tried the screen again. It was just as hard to slide open. He turned to Tim and said, "It really is hard to believe that Ricky could have opened this screen window on his own, don't you think?"

Tim said nothing.

Strange, Holliday thought as he and Loughrige left. Neither Tim nor Lisa ever asked whether there were any new leads in their son's disappearance.

Dog's grave yields no clues

The phalanx of police and Michigan State University forensic anthropologists arrived at the Hollands' on Aug. 12, 2005, to dig up a dog's grave in the search for clues. Tim and Lisa were away in suburban Detroit, hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Tim had taken a second polygraph the day before, and the results hadn't ruled him out as a suspect.

The affidavit authorizing the dig noted that Ricky's clothing was missing, the dog had been euthanized about two weeks after Ricky's disappearance and Tim had refused to answer when police asked him whether anything else was buried there.

Police thought they might find Ricky's missing clothing, but nothing was there but the animal's bones. Police reburied them in the same spot.

Detectives resumed knocking on the doors of people who knew the Hollands.

Neighbor Mike Freeman, then the principal of Williamston High School, said the only time he'd seen Ricky, the boy was shockingly skinny and in need of a haircut.

"The kid didn't look like he had hardly any muscles on his body at all, looked like a stiff wind would blow him right over," Freeman told detectives.

Tim's nephew Rodney Weston said he thought the way Ricky's disappearance was discovered -- with Tim talking to his mother on the phone -- seemed staged. But Weston also said he didn't believe Tim would hurt Ricky, nor could he imagine that Lisa -- whom he never liked -- would harm the boy. If Lisa had anything to do with Ricky's death, Weston said, "she would not be smart enough to dispose of Ricky's body on her own."

A lawyer warns off detectives

On Aug. 15, the Hollands' new lawyer, Neil Rockind, sent a letter to Holliday that cut off direct communication with his clients.

"Both of the Hollands regret very strongly that it has come to this, but unfortunately it has," Rockind's letter said in bold italics. "They are hurting over their son's absence, which pain was only exaggerated by your digging up their yard, suspecting them of having buried evidence connected to his disappearance and unsettling a deceased, beloved family dog."

He asked for copies of all the investigative reports the detectives had so far.

The request was ignored.

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

2007 Dec 9