Family of Margorie Holland makes call to end domestic violence

Roger Earl Holland convicted for killing his wife, unborn child

Here to help  If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or has experienced sexual assault, contact 360 Communities for 24/7 confidential help: • Lewis House, Eagan, 651-452-7288. • Lewis House, Hastings, 651-437-1291. • Sexual Assault Services, 651-405-1500. To read more about domestic violence prevention, read the newspaper’s November/December 2013 series Behind Closed Doors at www.SunThisweek.com/tag/Behind-Closed-Doors.

Here to help
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or has experienced sexual assault, contact 360 Communities for 24/7 confidential help:
• Lewis House, Eagan, 651-452-7288.
• Lewis House, Hastings, 651-437-1291.
• Sexual Assault Services, 651-405-1500.
To read more about domestic violence prevention, read the newspaper’s November/December 2013 series Behind Closed Doors at www.SunThisweek.com/tag/Behind-Closed-Doors.

The family of Margorie Ann Holland hopes to carry on in her name and stop further domestic violence after her husband was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to two consecutive life sentences for killing her and her unborn child on March 7.

“We will move forward now by the grace of God, to be Margie’s voice to others in advocacy for an end to domestic violence, an end to being left with arms filled with emptiness,” the Apple Valley woman’s father, Ron Brown, told the Dakota County court in a victim impact statement.

With Tuesday’s conviction of Roger Earl Holland, 37, Margorie Holland was proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be among the nearly 40 people in Minnesota who have died as a result domestic violence in 2013 – more than double the number of deaths in 2012.

Margorie Holland’s murder is all too familiar with other domestic violence cases.

Evidence introduced in court revealed that Margorie Holland on March 6 told her husband that she intended to divorce him, and in a text message sent 10 minutes earlier she told him that she intended to report him to authorities “first thing in the morning” for stealing her credit cards.

“As advocates working to prevent domestic violence will tell you – the most dangerous time is when a wife or girlfriend finally takes action to end the marriage or relationship,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a statement. “And that, unfortunately, is exactly what occurred here.

“We see far too much domestic violence in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota and throughout our nation. We must all dedicate ourselves to look for ways to prevent it. In Margorie Holland’s memory and the memory of the other innocent victims who have died at the hands of their spouse or partner, let us all offer a prayer of hope that this deadly violence stops.”

More than 2,500 women and children are supported annually at Burnsville-based 360 Communities Lewis House domestic violence shelters in Eagan and Hastings – that’s nearly seven victims per day.

“Our sympathies go out to the family of Margorie Holland for their tragic loss,” said Sal Mondelli, president and CEO of 360 Communities.

“Unfortunately, Minnesota has seen a surge in domestic homicides over the past year,” Mondelli said. “We want women to know that if they are in an abusive relationship, 360 Communities Lewis House offers confidential help 24 hours a day. Trained advocates provide shelter, counseling, safety planning and more to help women and children escape abuse. It is important that women don’t wait to call us until it is too late. They need to trust their instincts and call us if they don’t feel safe.

“In order to curb this increasing trend of domestic homicides, we feel it is going to take the entire community to stand up against violence in all forms,” Mondelli said. “Most importantly, men need to get off the sidelines on this and engage as an active part of the solution.”

Backstrom described Roger Holland as a desperate man who was experiencing financial troubles, was lying to his wife and had to do something to keep from being exposed as the liar he was.

No evidence was introduced that Roger Holland had been physically violent toward his wife prior to March 7. It was shown that the two had argued verbally and through text messages several times.

Backstrom described Margorie Holland the morning of her death as ready to begin a new life. She was unaware that Roger Holland was considering and planning her death for some time, Backstrom said, as evidenced by multiple Internet searches made on Roger Holland’s smartphone and computer asking questions about whether someone could break their neck by falling down a flight of stairs and whether a person could break someone’s neck with one’s hands.

He said Margorie Holland, a former member of the Texas National Guard, fought for life like the trained soldier she was.

“She scratched and she clawed and she kicked, but she could not overcome the superior strength of her husband, Roger, as he eventually choked the life out of her,” Backstrom said.

Roger Holland was also a former member of the Texas National Guard.

“Her dreams for a happier life – her dreams of completing her schooling and starting a career as a physician’s assistant – her dreams of becoming a mom, would never be,” Backstrom said.

Family impact

Roger Holland was told on Tuesday afternoon in court he would serve consecutive life sentences without parole after he was found guilty just 12 hours prior of two counts each of first- and second-degree murder in the March 7, 2013, death of his wife and child, a girl who was to be named Olivia.

“Our arms are filled with emptiness and the shallow satisfaction that comes with hearing the verdict of guilty in the first degree,” Brown said in a victim impact statement. “We will now be left with mere imaginations of how many more memories we could have shared with Margie and Olivia.”     Roger Holland was found guilty of the same four charges that he was indicted for in April.

“Words fail to express the grief, betrayal and horror we are now left with when we hear his name,” Brown said. “Even knowing justice is served does not comfort us.”

His trial lasted two weeks and the jury deliberated for approximately 10 hours, delivering a verdict at about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

During the sentencing hearing, family members of Margorie Holland asked for consecutive life sentences for both of the deaths, and Roger Holland denied the killings in a statement read by his attorney, the Pioneer Press reported.

The first-degree murder with premeditation and intent to kill conviction will be appealed automatically to the state Supreme Court under Minnesota law, according to the Pioneer Press.

The jury was faced with deciding if Roger Holland strangled his wife to death or that Margorie Holland died after she fell down the stairs at their townhome on 157th Street West.

Roger Holland’s defense was that he returned home in the morning after going out to get breakfast and found his wife face down on the floor wrapped in a blanket and non-responsive at the bottom of a staircase inside their townhome. He then called 911 to report she was unresponsive.

Upon arrival of medical personnel, Margorie Holland’s body was cool to the touch, she was not breathing and had no heartbeat, according to the criminal complaint. Resuscitation efforts were attempted and she was transported to Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville where she and her unborn child were officially declared dead. She was approximately 15 weeks pregnant.

The prosecution said the medical examiner assigned to the case determined that Margorie Holland died by strangulation.

When this evidence was introduced, Roger Holland’s defense offered that someone else could have entered the home and strangled her before Roger Holland found her.

The complaint said medical personnel found numerous injuries on Margorie Holland’s body, including bruising and abrasions on her head, face, hands, legs, ankles and feet.

Prosecutors presented that Roger Holland had visible scratches on the left side of his face and neck, and were signs of a struggle between the husband and wife. The defense attributed the scratches to rough sex, according to the Pioneer Press.

Prosecutors also presented the Hollands’ cellphone records with a large number of text messages, which contained numerous arguments between the couple in the weeks prior to March 7 and some texts that referenced concerns about their financial problems.

It was the text message records of March 7 that Backstrom said was the key piece of evidence.

A text message Roger Holland claimed his wife sent him after he left the townhome was proven by a video surveillance tape to have been sent before he left the townhome, Backstrom said.

“Inescapable proof of the truth of the violent, premeditated and intentional murder Roger Holland committed that morning,” Backstrom said.

Roger and Margorie Holland had been married for approximately a year and a half and had been dating for some time before their marriage. They had moved into their Apple Valley residence in December 2012.

Backstrom said in a press release that under Minnesota law, to convict someone of first- and second-degree murder of an unborn child, it is not necessary for a jury to find that a person had intent to kill the unborn child, or did so with premeditation, provided the defendant intended to kill the unborn child’s mother and did so with premeditation.

Backstrom thanked the Apple Valley Police Department, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which assisted in the investigation of this case. Backstrom praised chief deputy Phil Prokopowicz for his outstanding work prosecuting this difficult case.

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