Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Custodial dad RONALD HOLCOMB has been sentenced to 80 years in prison for the beating death of his 5-year-old daughter. During sentencing, the maternal grandmother spoke out against the "circumstances" that had allowed the placement of the child with her father and the stepmother. It's not made clear here what those circumstances were.
Unconfirmed reports I have found elsewhere say that the mother, SueAnn Griffin, lost custody the year before her daughter's death, and that up until then, the father had never even visited the child. At the time of the child's death, the mother has said the father had refused to even let her see or talk to the child. There are suggestions that the mother lost custody because she was single and the father was married, so this made him look favorable to the Tattnall County, Georgia family court judge. It apparently didn't hurt that the father was a corrections officer, either. See Bonnie's Blog of Crime, http://mylifeofcrime.wordpress.com/2007/01/21/brooklyn-holcomb-murder-11707-princeton-wv/. Generally, this sounds like a classic case of an abusive father getting custody from a protective mother.
80 years for Holcomb
By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — Sadness, heart-rending sense of loss and outrage were released Monday while the man found guilty of beating his little daughter to death showed no emotion as he was sentenced to almost a century in prison.
Ronald Holcomb, 36, of Bluefield sat quiet and stoic, always looking ahead and scarcely blinking his eyes as Judge William Sadler of the Mercer County Circuit Court imposed the maximum sentence for the death of 5-year-old Brooklyn Holcomb.
Holcomb received 40 years for second-degree murder and an additional 40 years for child abuse resulting in death. Both sentences are to run consecutively, Sadler said.
The long, complicated case which led to Holcomb’s arrest and trial started Jan. 15, 2007, when he brought his daughter to Princeton Community Hospital. When seeing the extent of Brooklyn’s injuries — severe head trauma, bruising and internal injuries — the Princeton Police Department was notified. Brooklyn was transported the Charleston Area Medical Center where she died Jan. 17, 2007.
Holcomb’s attorneys at the time, Tim and Joe Harvey, moved for a change of venue because of the extensive publicity surrounding his case and concerns that finding an impartial jury would be difficult. As a result, the trial was moved to the Kanawha County Courthouse in Charleston where on April 23, a jury found Holcomb guilty of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. His new attorney, E. Lavoyd Morgan of Monroe County, later asked for a delay in sentencing so he would have time to study the case and prepare a motion for a new trial.
On Monday, after Holcomb was led in handcuffs and shackles into Sadler’s courtroom to learn his fate, Morgan moved for another delay in sentencing and motions for a new trial so the lengthy trial transcript could be reviewed. Prosecuting Attorney Timm Boggess replied that the state was ready to proceed in a “two and a half year case that has seen delay after delay after delay,” adding that members of Brooklyn’s family had traveled from Florida for the sentencing. Boggess also said that he was certain the state had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the questions about admissibility and inadmissibility of evidence had been answered.
Sadler denied the motion for another postponement.
When Sadler asked if any member of Brooklyn’s family wished to make a statement, her maternal grandmother, Helen Neal of Wauchula, Fla., came up to the podium to address both the court and her grandchild’s father. She said that he should have been found guilty of first-degree murder and spoke out about the circumstances that had allowed Brooklyn to be placed with Ronald Holcomb and his former wife who was also Brooklyn’s stepmother.
“How could Brooklyn be taken from a loving family and placed in hell on Earth?” Neal asked. “I hope Ron feels her in his lap right now and saying ‘Daddy, I loved you. What kept you from loving me?’”
Neal described an outpouring of love and support for Brooklyn during a candlelight vigil in her memory, and asked why people who suspected she was being abused had not come forward sooner. At the same time, she was grateful that other people had continuing life due to Brooklyn; for example, a child received her heart and another received a right kidney. Her injuries prevented more organs from reaching those in need, Neal said. She had seen the injuries inflicted on Brooklyn.
“I touched the top of her head...it felt like an egg carton,” she said before going on to remember loving movements with her granddaughter.“I will forever remember her little hand cupping my cheek. How could he destroy this gift from God?” she asked. “Now she’s a poster child.”
Neal said if she were a judge, the penalty for Brooklyn’s murder would be death.
“He took a life. I think he needs to give a life...I pray, judge, you will give him the max. I hope you give him the max so he will never harm another child, ” she said.
Boggess said before sentencing that the court had already heard the graphic details of Brooklyn’s death.
“Brooklyn died at the hands of the person charged to protect her,” he said, calling for the maximum penalty for each of Holcomb’s charges.
Speaking on behalf of his client, Morgan said Holcomb did not testify during his trial and offer his version of events surrounding his daughter’s death. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s stepmother, Tracy Farmer, 34, formerly Tracy Holcomb, received “three to five years” probation after pleading guilty to child neglect resulting in injury. In light of the stepmother’s sentence, Morgan asked Sadler to sentence his client to the minimum of 10 years on each count.
Before sentencing Holcomb, Judge Sadler said that in his 16 years in the legal profession both as a prosecutor and a judge, he had never been exposed to the extent of abuse that he was in the death of Brooklyn Holcomb. One witness at Holcomb’s trial, a nurse who cared for Brooklyn during the last days of her life at CAMC, had stuck with him.
“She described how she and other fellow nurses held Brooklyn, trying to give her some love and comfort she had missed,” Sadler said. “The court sees this case as an abuse of trust.”
Society calls for families to protect children, and Brooklyn’s death was a breach of that trust, he said. Society demands that parents protect their children, nurture them and provide a safe home.
“The defendant breached this trust,” Sadler said.Holcomb’s case was not an appropriate one for mercy.“For a person to obtain mercy, a person must show mercy. No mercy was shown in the case of Brooklyn Holcomb,” Sadler said.
Throughout the deliberations, Neal’s statement and the passing of sentence, Ronald Holcomb stayed quiet and stared straight ahead, never showing any emotion. He declined an opportunity to speak on his on behalf.
Holcomb was remanded to the Southern Regional Jail near Beckley pending his transfer to the West Virginia Department of Corrections. The trial verdict could be appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. Morgan said he had not yet spoken to his client about appealing the case.
Parole could be possible after Holcomb serves a quarter of his sentence, Boggess said. “That doesn’t mean he will get it,” Boggess added.