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Former soldier pleads in deadly CA family shooting. Attorney says he has PTSD

Courtroom and gavel. (Joe Gratz/Flickr)

Kyle Holaday, a military veteran charged with murdering his stepfather in a shooting rampage at his family’s home, pleaded no contest to several felonies Monday as part of a plea deal that could send him to a state hospital for the criminally insane.

Holaday was scheduled to go to trial Monday for the fatal shooting of James Willcoxson, 60, and the wounding of his mother, Carol Holaday, her friends Crystal Dominguez and Rachel Schindler and Schindler’s 5-month-old daughter.

The unprovoked attack happened on March 24, 2017 during a dinner at the family’s southeast Fresno home.

Jane Boulger, Holaday’s attorney, has argued her client was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time and does not deserve to be locked away in a prison for the rest of his life. Boulger said two doctors have examined Holaday and found that he was not sane at the time of the crime.

Judge Arlen Harrell is expected to rule on the sanity issue Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. If Holaday is found to be insane there will be a placement hearing to determine how long he will spend in a state hospital. If Harrell finds that Holaday was sane, then he will be sentenced to prison – possibly for the rest of his life.

Holaday has pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder (the charge involving his mother was dropped) and one count of cruelty to animals – he shot the family’s dog.

Carol Holaday said Monday she does not know what caused her son to open fire. Holaday said she is without a husband and soon may be without a son.

“I loved them both and I don’t understand how this could happen,” she said.

Carol Holaday said she struggles with knowing it was her son who pulled the trigger, but also knowing he’s a loving and caring young man.

Served in Iraq, Afghanistan

She said more needs to be done to help returning soldiers suffering from PTSD return to normal life. Holaday served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Relatives of Willcoxson acknowledged Holaday may have PTSD, but they said it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for what he did.

Carol Willcoxson, James’ older sister, said the loss of her baby brother has devastated the family, including his siblings, his children and grandchildren. She said she misses hearing his voice, his generous hugs and his beaming smile that earned him the nickname, Smiley.

“I loved Jim with all my heart and soul,” she said. “I was his oldest sister and still remember the day he was born. I am haunted by the fact that there was nothing I could do to protect him in some way.”


© 2019 The Fresno Bee