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Chapter 10: The office search


Chapter 10: The office search


Through the fall of 2005, police looked in a lot of places for clues to Ricky Holland's disappearance, even obtaining a search warrant for a purple comforter that Lisa Holland had taken to a dry cleaner three days before Ricky was reported missing.

She'd driven 9 miles out of her way, bypassing several dry cleaners, to take the bedding to Okemos. Employees said the comforter had stains that looked like blood, but because of the cleaning fluids used, forensic tests never could identify what they were.

Police wanted to put pressure on the Hollands. Investigators had worked with the Army for weeks after a district court judge signed a warrant in late August to allow a search of Tim's office in Troy. As a civilian intelligence specialist, Tim dealt with classified information and worked behind locked doors in a space tucked discreetly inside a military contractor's office.

Finally, at 6 a.m. Oct. 5, seven law enforcement task force members assembled near the building, moving in after they saw Tim go inside about 7 a.m. They walked through the outer offices of Radian Inc. to an electronically secured door in back. Behind it was the windowless room where Tim worked alone. He seemed startled but agreed to help.

Police were seeking anything that might provide a clue about Ricky's whereabouts, including e-mails. Among several laptops and hard drives, Tim identified eight that he said contained only unclassified information. All were seized. From his cubicle, police took about a dozen photos of his kids, including a small one of Ricky, and retrieved flyers about the boy's disappearance from a wastebasket. They also impounded Tim's government-owned Chevrolet Malibu. Tim was sent home and told not to return to work until notified.

Intelligence to washing cars

A week later, Wayne Campbell, an intelligence specialist assigned by the Army to help with the search, called Sgt. Roy Holliday, the lead investigator, to say he'd examined one of the hard drives left behind. Tim had said it contained classified information, but Campbell found thousands of pornographic images Tim apparently had downloaded off the Internet.

Campbell thought Tim might have intentionally misled investigators. Tim had been calling Campbell from home, asking who had authorized the search and when he could come back to work. Tim told Campbell the investigation was focusing on a 19-year-old sex offender who lived in a trailer park near Williamston.

Holliday set Campbell straight: The task force was following up on all leads, but there was no 19-year-old prime suspect.

Though he'd lost his security clearance, Tim was called back to work in November for a few weeks. He was assigned to the Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren. His assignment was to wash command vehicles.

In an attempt to save his job, Tim tried to explain away the pornography. It would take weeks before he would learn his fate.

Meanwhile, back at home ...

A call in late October to Child Protective Services revived hopes that the four other young Holland children could be placed in state custody.

Ruth Sills, principal of Discovery Elementary School in Williamston, and preschool teacher Nancy Deal had information about Ricky's little brother Trevor. A month earlier, Deal had told CPS she'd seen no signs of abuse. But now, she was convinced the 3 1/2 -year-old was in danger. He had a small bruise below one eye and scratches on his right thigh. The call from the school came too late for CPS to get there before Trevor was to leave for the day, but Sills also alerted State Police Sgt. Frank Mraz. He hurried over.

In the principal's office, Trevor pointed out his "owies" and Mraz took photographs. Deal asked the boy questions, and Mraz reported that Trevor said his mother had hit him.

That afternoon, CPS investigator Kathleen Daugherty went to the Holland home. She saw the bruise on Trevor's cheek. Lisa said his sister, who would turn 3 in a few weeks, had hit him with a toy. She showed Daugherty a similar mark on the face of her 1 1/2 -year-old daughter.

Examining Trevor's legs, Daugherty found a faint, dime-size bruise on the back of his thigh and three small reddish marks that were scabbed. Lisa said he probably fell on a toy.

To Daugherty, the explanations seemed plausible and she saw no other marks on the children. She tried to talk with Trevor out of Lisa's presence, but in her view the boy, who had developmental delays, couldn't articulate much. Daugherty called Mraz to say there wasn't enough evidence of abuse to ask a judge to intervene. Mraz thought CPS wasn't trying hard enough.

The next day, he took the photos of Trevor's marks to Dr. Stephen Guertin, medical director of Sparrow Hospital's Regional Children's Center in Lansing. But Mraz didn't get what he was looking for -- confirmation of abuse. Guertin said the bruise on the boy's face could have been caused by a fall or a bump and the scratches by a dog, though he couldn't rule out other possibilities.

Still, Mraz and other detectives believed Trevor and his siblings were at risk. The investigators were pushing to file a petition -- on their own, if necessary -- to have the kids removed. Police contacted the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office, but prosecutors concurred that there wasn't enough evidence of abuse to go to court.

Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said later he was worried a judge would balk at removing the kids because of the slim proof. "You have to look at it from the point of view -- if we file this petition, are we going to get the kids out of the house?"

Complaint angers Lisa Holland

Deal called in a second complaint to CPS on Dec. 7, 2005, reporting that Trevor's back and thighs were bruised. Lisa said the boy had been horsing around in the garage with his father, but Deal said Trevor had told her, "Mommy did it." Deal said Trevor had spoken a word that sounded like "spatula," so he was given a doll and a spatula. He spanked the doll with it and said, "Just like that."

The next morning, CPS investigator Colin Parks went to the school to interview Trevor. Again, the boy was difficult to understand. Parks made note of the marks, took photos and went to the house. Lisa said that Trevor was playing in the garage with the other kids when she heard him yell. He told her he'd fallen.

Lisa wanted to know who called CPS. When Parks wouldn't say, she said she believed someone at the school was targeting her. Parks examined the three other children and saw no signs of abuse. He recommended that Lisa take the kids to the doctor. She said she would, but she never did.

After Parks left, Lisa called Sills, the principal, angry about yet another CPS investigation. She said the scratches came from a sibling and the bruises from roughhousing and it wasn't right for the school to call CPS about such minor incidents. Sills explained that the school was required to call CPS if any child came to school with unexplained injuries.

Lisa carried on as if nothing were wrong. She got her nails done and did her Christmas shopping, and when people asked about Ricky, she gave them a prayer card that read: "Jesus gives me life. In the memory of Ricky." She even wrapped gifts for Ricky -- toys he hadn't been allowed to play with from previous years -- writing on the gift tags: "To Ricky, from Santa."

Tim Holland tells of dilemma

Detectives tried again on Dec. 9, 2005, to get prosecutors to intervene by presenting a request for a warrant charging Lisa with abusing Trevor. Once again, they didn't succeed. There wasn't enough clear evidence.

In the midst of the investigations, Lisa called her Department of Human Services licensing worker to say she wanted to close her licensed foster home. The Hollands' license expired on Dec. 12, 2005, and was terminated on Jan. 12, 2006.

Trevor's school Christmas break began Dec. 19 and ended Jan. 3, 2006, but he did not report back. He was out sick for a week, then came to school on Monday, Jan. 9, but was absent again the next day. Sills told police the bus driver waited outside Trevor's home at the normal pickup time but the boy never came out. Sills called the house and left a message.

Later that day, Tim Holland called her, saying he had a dilemma. Trevor needed to stay in school, but Lisa was ready to pull him out and Tim couldn't bring himself to challenge his wife. He wanted Sills' help, but repeatedly asked that she not tell Lisa the two were talking.

To Sills, Tim Holland sounded helpless.

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

2007 Dec 11