Original article no longer available
The Louisville Courier-Journal (KY)
April 11, 2001
Author: SCHNEIDER, GRACE , The Courier Journal
Kelly Holland’s surprise plea means life – no parole – for killing wife, her mom, kids.
After describing his crimes in chilling detail, a Harrison County man pleaded guilty yesterday to killing his wife, her two children and her mother.
Kelly Holland, 29, will escape the death penalty under the agreement that led to yesterday’s plea on four counts of murder and one of arson. But he will be sent to prison for the rest of his life, without any possibility of parole, when he is sentenced May 16 by Harrison Superior Court Judge Roger Davis.
Yesterday’s developments came as a surprise during a proceeding that had been expected to be routine. Late last year Holland had withdrawn from a previous agreement to plead guilty in the case, and yesterday’s hearing had been scheduled to prepare for his trial this summer.
The events that led to Holland’s guilty plea occurred early the morning of March 26, 2000. He shot his wife, 22-year-old Summer Holland, and her mother, Donna Daley, 49, with a borrowed 9mm handgun at the rental house the couple shared in Harrison County. He then set a fire that killed his wife’s two children from previous relationships – Dillian Daley, 4, and Marissa Meyer, 3.
His plea agreement required him to provide an account of the murders, and he did that yesterday during more than an hour of testimony.
He said he suffered from a mental disorder that – coupled with money problems and his wife’s recent admission of an extramarital affair – had plunged him into an ag itated emotional state.
Initially, he said, he had been hoping to rekindle his four-month marriage that night. He and his wife had agreed that he would leave work during his overnight shift and come home so they could have sexual relations. Then he would hurry back to his job, at a Louisville-area warehouse.
Instead, he told the court, he arrived home and became angry and suicidal when he found the house in its usual mess. Dishes were left unwashed, he said, cabinets were open and food was out on the counters.
“Nothing was done . . . laundry all over the place,” he said.
It may sound “old-fashioned,” he said, but he felt that if he was bringing home the paycheck, the least his wife could do was keep the house clean.
He said he felt deflated and recalled thinking: “Why am I trying so hard when an attempt’s not being made” in return?
AS ABOUT a dozen relatives of his wife and her mother sobbed in the courtroom, Holland recounted how he went to their bedroom, where his wife was in bed, and pulled the handgun from a drawer. He said his plan was to kill himself and thus make her suffer the pain he’d undergone.
“I wanted her to hurt like I was hurting,” he said.
But as he held her on the bed face down, he recalled wavering between shooting himself and shooting her. Finally, he said, he shot her.
He said he killed Daley moments later when the two met in the hallway. She had rushed from a nearby bedroom, asking what had happened, Holland said.
He said he then rushed outside and got a jug of gasoline from his wife’s Camaro. He poured the gasoline around a linoleum entryway inside the front door and in the living room.
Setting it ablaze with a lighter, he said, he closed the door and drove back to work at the warehouse in Middletown, Ky. He said he didn’t realize the children were in their bedrooms.
He called his father at the end of his shift, at 4:50 a.m., prepared to tell him what he’d done, he said. But he couldn’t bring himself to pour it out.
Instead, he called the Harrison County police department and asked that someone check the home, telling them he’d been unable to reach his wife. He said he tossed the gun into the Ohio River.
NEAR THE END of his statement, Holland apologized to his wife’s relatives and told them that he believes his life is worth nothing. He said he accepted the plea agreement to spare his parents the trauma of a potential death sentence.
“If I was to die tomorrow,” he said, “it wouldn’t matter to me.”
The relatives who sat through yesterday’s proceeding were clearly shaken and drained when they left the courtroom. Several hugged and continued to cry.
Dorinda Arndt-Riley, Summer Holland’s sister, said family members are upset that Holland will go to prison having given an incomplete account.
For instance, she said, the family knew that the children would be staying at the couple’s home for the night – not at the home of Marissa’s father, Greg Meyer, as Holland indicated during his testimony.
“He’s wishy-washied around a lot of things,” she said. “It’s a lot of lies.”
IN AN INTERVIEW after the hearing, Harrison County Prosecutor Ron Simpson agreed that it has been difficult getting a clear-cut account of events from Holland. Several times he revised his statements, making it difficult to pin down what really happened, Simpson said.
The prosecution was prepared to challenge some inconsistencies with testimony from experts who examined the crime scene, he said.
For instance, in Holland’s initial account of his wife’s death, he said he held her hands while the two spoke at their bedside. He said she’d pleaded with him not to kill himself.
Yesterday, in court, Holland said he held her down with his left hand and held the pistol in his right hand, moving it from his head to hers.
But Simpson said the evidence indicates that Summer Holland may well have been sound asleep when her husband came in and shot her. He said ballistics experts were prepared to testify that she was shot through the back of the head – and that the bullet traveled through the mattress and was found beneath the bed.
DURING HIS testimony, Holland acknowledged being troubled – and stressed – before the murders. Although he said he and his wife fell in love immediately after they met, they moved twice before settling in at their $750 rental home on Wiseman Road south of Corydon in December 1999.
Holland said that, with his warehouse job and his Army Reserve duty one weekend a month, he made $33,000 to $35,000 in 1999. But he often worked three weeks straight without a day off to ensure a large enough paycheck to cover their bills.
With the rent, two car payments and other bills, they were short of money, he said.
Holland said he and his wife had discussed having children. But he said he was disturbed one day to find several condoms in wrappers on the floorboard under the driver’s seat of their car. He said he didn’t ask his wife about them and tossed them out the car window.
MEANWHILE, he said, he went on medication for depression, which diminished their “love life.”
In addition to depression, he said he suffers from social anxiety and from an obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes him to become distracted if things around him aren’t kept in order.
When Davis asked Holland about that disorder, he called the judge’s attention to an American flag leaning slightly sideways behind the bench. He said that without his medication – Paxil – that would bother him greatly. He said he is less distracted over such things when he’s taking the medication.
Holland testified that on the Wednesday before the murders, his wife admitted to having had a brief affair. She had told him she was lonely and “our sex life wasn’t great.”
He recalled feeling angry and hurt. “I did my best to give her everything she wanted. . . . Instead of being a little more patient, she found comfort elsewhere,” he said.
HOLLAND INSISTED that he had no intention of killing his wife when he called a friend from his reserve unit and arranged to borrow his 9mm handgun. They’d had trouble with a group of rowdy neighbors, Holland said, and he felt they needed some protection at the house.
Holland previously had agreed to plead guilty, but the agreement unraveled in late December when his lawyers decided that the account he intended to provide of his wife’s death didn’t meet the legal requirements for the charge he faced.
Davis then appointed Lorinda Youngcourt of Lawrence County to represent Holland in a death-penalty trial that, until yesterday, was scheduled for this summer.
Record Number: lou2001041106522197