Some of the abrasions and bruises on Margorie Holland’s head and face, knees and ankles and hands and elbows could have come from falling down the stairs. Others could have come from more than an hour of manual and machine-aided resuscitation efforts.
But it was the extensive petechiae — tiny hemorrhages from broken capillaries — on her face and in her eyes, and the bilateral fracture of the horns of her thyroid cartilage that led Dr. Enid Boeding to rule that Holland’s death was homicide and the cause was strangulation. Such hemorrhages, Boeding said, can be caused by the forcible compression of a victim’s neck.
Boeding, an assistant Hennepin County medical examiner, testified on the second day of Roger Holland’s trial on charges of first- and second-degree murder in the death of his 37-year-old wife. Margorie Holland was 15 weeks pregnant with the couple’s first child when she died March 7.
Dakota County prosecutor Phil Prokopowicz told the jury that Margorie Holland was fed up with her husband’s lies and deceit and wanted a divorce. Defense attorneys Marsh Halberg and Eric Nelson said that investigators made up their mind that Holland was guilty before they even investigated and ignored evidence that didn’t support their presumption.
Holland, 37, told police that he returned to the couple’s Apple Valley condo apartment that Thursday morning after running to McDonald’s to get them some breakfast and found his wife lying unresponsive at the foot of the stairs.
Police, fire personnel and paramedics arrived within minutes of Holland’s frantic 911 call at 9:55 a.m. Margorie Holland was taken by ambulance to Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, where she was pronounced dead at 11:24 a.m.
Dr. Jerome Walker, an attending emergency physician at the hospital, testified Tuesday that he initially believed Holland had died from a pulmonary embolism, a large blood clot that blocks blood flow to the lungs. She was given tPA, a medication that breaks up clots. The medication can cause petechiae, he said.
But Boeding, who performed the autopsy the next day, said the petechiae didn’t come from the medication, because the first officers at the scene noticed it.
Jurors saw a graphic series of photos detailing Holland’s injuries, such as deep bruises and lacerations on each side of her tongue, a large bruise on the underside of her scalp and a bruise on her neck, the size of which was consistent with a finger, Boeding said. In two photos, she noted that blood under Margorie Holland’s fingernail and on the side of her pinkie finger had been swabbed by investigators who watched the autopsy. Jurors haven’t heard yet what became of those swabs.
As the autopsy photos were displayed, Roger Holland shaded his eyes and stared intently at a yellow pad of paper on the table in front of him. He appeared to tear up as Margorie Holland’s father, Ron Brown, went through a series of photos taken during happier times.
Brown cried, too, as he talked about the photos of his youngest child receiving military awards and promotions, relaxing with her Texas National Guard unit and vacationing in Ireland.