HASTINGS, Minn. - Calling it a symbolic gesture, a Dakota County judge sentenced an Apple Valley man to two terms of life in prison without parole for the murders of his wife and unborn fetus.
Roger Holland, 37, was convicted early Tuesday of two counts of first-degree murder and two of second-degree murder in the deaths of Margorie Holland and their unborn baby, who was to be named Olivia.
"With the total absence of honor, integrity and wisdom, and the malice, mental abuse and manipulations, my daughter Margorie and my granddaughter Olivia are dead," said Claudia Jones, Margorie Holland's mother.
Roger Holland said he did not have the strength to speak during the proceedings, but maintained his innocence through defense attorney Marsh Halberg. Halberg said his client would rather spend the rest of his life in prison than plead guilty to a crime he did not commit and that he would declare his innocence until the day he dies.
Prosecutors asked for two terms of life without parole to honor both lives, saying one each for Margorie and the couple's unborn child would be appropriate even if one term would suffice.
"March 7, 2013 brought with it more than just an ordinary day. This is the day murder was conceived into our family. Now, a little more than nine months later, when we should be sharing the joyful news of a birth of a new granddaughter, we instead are announcing justice has been birthed instead," said Barbara Brown, Marjorie's stepmother, in her plea to the judge.
In March of 2013, Holland claimed he had left the home to buy breakfast and told officers he returned to find her at the bottom of the stairs, face down, wrapped in a blanket and non-responsive. He told police that he rolled his wife over and began CPR before calling 911.
Margorie Holland was rushed to Fairview Ridges Hospital where she and her unborn child were pronounced dead at about 11:30 a.m.
When questioned by detectives, Roger Holland said his relationship with his wife was good and that they did not have any financial problems. He told them they had been married for three years and both were members of the Texas National Guard.
Evidenced uncovered during the investigation suggested a different scenario. Officers conducted a search of the cellular telephones of both Roger and Margorie Holland and found in a large number of deleted text messages documenting numerous arguments between the couple, including concerns about their financial situation.
The last text argument took place around 9:30 p.m. on the night before her death. It was an exchange during which Margorie Holland sent her husband a text indicating she planned on divorcing him.
Officers also found a text between the couple's cell phones relating to the breakfast purchase on March 7, the day Margorie Holland died. Roger Holland claimed he received a text from his wife after he left the home and responded. The phones indicated the messages were sent at 9:29 a.m. and 9:32 a.m. Video surveillance at the apartment building, however, showed that Roger Holland did not leave the residence until 9:34 a.m. that morning.
Also found on Roger Holland's cell phone was a data entry on March 6 which stated, "if you pass out and fall down a flight of stairs, can you break your neck and can your neck be broken if you are."
First responders noticed numerous injuries on Margorie Holland's body, including bruising and abrasions on her head, face, hands, legs, ankles and feet. The autopsy by a medical examiner found broken cartilage in the victim's neck and hemorrhaging in her neck and eyes, suggesting she had been strangled.
"The soldier fought to the end of her life to save herself and the life of her unborn baby. She will always be a hero in my book," said Prosecutor James Backstrom.
Margorie's family will return to Texas for the holidays with "empty arms" and a vow to advocate for domestic violence victims.
"My heart is crushed, but my spirit remains strong. I will use this life lesson to reach out to others to share where the needs are great, in order that Margorie's voice continues to be heard and her life will not have been in vain," said Jones.
Judge McManus urged Holland to reflect on his silence.
"If you did this, the only way you can save yourself is to acknowledge it, privately or publicly," said McManus. "There were three lives lost here - Margorie Holland, the unborn child and yours."