Apple Valley strangulation trial to open in wife’s death

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 29, 2013 - 6:51 AM

Apple Valley man told police he was getting breakfast when his pregnant wife apparently fell down the stairs and broke her neck.

Allegations of ominous Internet searches, deleted text messages and lies to police will be at the center of the murder trial of an Apple Valley man accused of killing his pregnant wife in March.

Roger Earl Holland, 37, will change out of the jail jumpsuit he’s worn for the past nine months and into dress clothes Monday for the start of the trial on charges of first-degree premeditated murder in the death of his wife, Margorie, 37, and their unborn child in their townhouse.

Prosecutor Phil Prokopowicz will likely tell the jury that the state believes Holland strangled his wife after she told him she wanted a divorce, then tried to cover up the crime by telling authorities that he was out fetching breakfast for the couple when she apparently fell down the stairs and broke her neck.

The trial before District Judge Timothy McManus is expected to last about three weeks. Jury selection wrapped up Monday, but the 12 jurors and three alternates were excused for a week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to court documents, Holland and his wife moved from San Antonio to Minnesota last December so they could be closer to her family, who live in Faribault and Blackduck, Minn., while she was pregnant. Both were sergeants in the Texas National Guard. Roger Holland had served in Iraq, and both returned from deployments in the Republic of Djibouti, Africa, at the end of last year.

Margorie Holland was 15 weeks pregnant with the couple’s first child when she died.

Roger Holland called 911 at 9:57 a.m. March 7, hysterical, saying he’d found his wife at the foot of the stairs after he returned from McDonald’s. The couple had a good relationship and were happy, he told police. They didn’t have any financial problems, he said.

One officer’s suspicions were raised, however, almost immediately after he arrived at the Hollands’ home. Roger Holland had fresh scratches on his neck; Margorie Holland had bruises and abrasions from head to toe, some inconsistent with a fall down the stairs, according to court documents. She had broken capillaries in her eyes and on her face, consistent with strangulation, documents say. Blood had pooled in her hands and feet, suggesting she had been dead longer than the few minutes Holland was away from the house.

The Hollands’ cellphones showed that the couple had argued numerous times via text message about money and about Roger Holland’s unauthorized use of his wife’s credit cards. In one exchange on March 1, Holland asked his wife how she was, and she responded, “Like I hate my life, I hate the man I married, and I wish I could erase the past 3 years.”

The night before she died, Margorie Holland texted her husband that “she did not believe anything he said and that the only thing she could do was divorce him,” court documents say. Another text that night said she was planning to turn him in to police for using her credit cards “first thing in the morning.”

Investigators also found texts about food the morning of her death, with time stamps of 9:29 a.m. and 9:32 a.m. But surveillance cameras in the townhouse complex parking garage showed that Holland didn’t leave in his vehicle until 9:34 a.m.

Information also was found on Holland’s cellphone about Internet searches: “If you pass out and fall down the stairs, can you break your neck?” Similar Google searches were found on his laptop, court documents say.

An autopsy revealed that Margorie Holland died of strangulation.

Holland was arrested March 8 and charged with two counts of intentional second-degree murder. He has been jailed since then. In April, a Dakota County grand jury indicted him on two counts of first-degree murder and two of second-degree murder.

“These charges reflect allegations that this was a premeditated and intentional domestic-related homicide that tragically claimed the life of Margorie Holland and her unborn child,” County Attorney Jim Backstrom said at the time.

In October, defense attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to declare that the death of the Hollands’ unborn child was an abortion, not a murder, and the only person whose rights were violated — the mother — was already dead.

“The exact conduct he is being accused of is chargeable under a separate, less severe statute,” attorney Marsh Halberg wrote in his brief to the court.

McManus disagreed, saying the criminal abortion statute applies only to someone who intends to terminate a pregnancy, while the murder statute applies to those who intend to kill a fetus and another person.

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