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Bill Macfadyen: Mass Murder Sure Seems to be Hitting Closer to Home These Days

NoozWeek’s Top 5 tries to lift spirits with an affordable-housing lottery and Michael Jackson’s old Neverland Ranch, regresses to two gruesome collisions, and ends with a Street Fight

There were 92,722 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top stories?

1. Sheriff: Mass Murder Suspect Told Investigators Killing Family Was ‘His Destiny’

In Santa Barbara County’s second mass murder in less than three months, a husband and wife, their two grandsons and the family dog were found stabbed to death in their home near Goleta the night of Aug. 11.

Arrested at the scene of the grisly killings was the man who allegedly called 9-1-1 to confess to the crime: Nicolas Etienne Holzer, the retired couple’s 45-year-old son and the father of the two boys.

“In a calm and matter-of-fact manner, (Holzer) told a dispatcher that he had killed his family,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told an Aug. 12 news conference that was team covered by our Lara Cooper and Tom Bolton.

The victims were identified as William Charles Holzer, 73; Sheila Garard Holzer, 74; Sebastian Holzer, 13; and Vincent Holzer, 10, along with the family’s Australian shepherd.

All — including the dog — had been stabbed multiple times, Brown said.

“It is my sad duty to report to you that we have had another mass murder in our community,” Brown said, referring to homicidal maniac Elliot Rodger’s May 23 killing spree in Isla Vista.

Holzer was booked into County Jail on four counts of murder, and was being held without bail. He appeared in Superior Court on Aug. 13, but his arraignment was postponed until Sept. 9.

When deputies arrived at the house in the 600 block of Walnut Park Lane, they were met by Holzer, who was taken into custody without incident, Brown said.

Vincent Holzer
Vincent Holzer
Sebastian Holzer
Sebastian Holzer

He said deputies first found the dead dog, and then Holzer’s father, who had been slain in the den of the neatly kept single-story home. The body of Holzer’s mother was found at the doorway of a bedroom, he said, and his sons were found dead inside that room.

“Holzer told detectives that he had killed his family to fulfill what he believed was his destiny,” Brown said.

He said Holzer had gained full custody of his sons following a divorce eight or nine years ago. For the past seven years, they had been living with his parents in the house on a quiet cul-de-sac off Ribera Drive near Foothill School.

William Holzer, a scientist, had worked with Raytheon. Sebastian was entering the eighth grade at La Colina Junior High School and Vincent was going into fifth grade at Foothill School.

The Santa Barbara Unified and Goleta Union school districts have made grief counseling available for students and faculty at the schools.

“This is right in the heart,” La Colina Principal David Ortiz told our Giana Magnoli. “As I talked to teachers of Sebastian’s from last year, each described him as a very caring, sensitive individual fully engaged in class and in school.”

Sebastian’s teachers said he was very social and friendly, and a high achiever with a 3.8 grade-point-average and a fantastic attendance record.

“He was a very upbeat, sweet boy,” Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher Rebecca Lowi said in a statement. “He had a big smile, and I don’t know a day that Sebastian was in a cranky mood. He was easygoing, mellow and friendly. He got along with girls and the girls liked him, and the guys liked him.”

She described him as a “peacemaker” who never had conflict with others.

“He was always friendly and upbeat, with a smile that I’ll always remember,” Lowi said.

Can you imagine yourself living in Sevilla? It may be closer than you think. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk file photo)
Can you imagine yourself living in Sevilla? It may be closer than you think. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk file photo)

2. Lottery Opens for Affordable Condos in Santa Barbara’s Former Chapala One Complex

The City of Santa Barbara is now accepting applications for a lottery to purchase one of seven below-market-rate condominiums at Sevilla at the corner of Chapala and Gutierrez streets downtown.

“It’s an appealing opportunity for an entry-level homebuyer who is looking to have homeownership in Santa Barbara,” Melissa Bonillo, a city housing programs specialist, told our Josh Molina. “It gives them that opportunity at an affordable price.”

Originally called Chapala One, the 46-unit development was completed in 2008, but the condos were never sold because of an immediate — and ongoing — legal battle between previous owner Don Hughes and the contractor, the now-defunct Melchiori Construction Co. The project eventually was purchased by Los Angeles developer Michael Rosenfeld of Woodridge Capital Partners LLC, and renamed and rebranded as Sevilla.

The homes finally went up for sale last October, and Sotheby’s International Realty agent Michael Calcagno is pleased with the progress.

“We have sold and/or are in escrow on roughly 50 percent of the building,” he said.

The below-market rate condos must be occupied by full-time residents with minimum income amounts ranging from $36,842 to $77,901. There are 11 units in all, but four already have been allotted to those who won the initial lottery under the auspices of Chapala One.

Click here to download an application.

3. Child Ejected, Suffers Major Injuries in Highway 101 Crash

A child suffered major head injuries after being ejected from a vehicle in a crash on Highway 101 in Santa Maria the evening of Aug. 12.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the collision between a tractor-trailer and another vehicle was reported at the northbound Betteravia Road exit ramp around 7 p.m.

The child, whose name and age were not disclosed, reportedly suffered severe head trauma and was transported to Marian Regional Medical Center.

No other details were immediately available.

Could your fairy tale come true at Neverland Ranch? (Channel Islands Helicopters photo)
Neverland Ranch ... it’s like a fairy tale. Of some sort. (Channel Islands Helicopters photo)

4. Owner of Michael Jackson’s Former Neverland Ranch Considering Sale

It’s not my taste but wouldn’t you like to own Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos? The flamboyant fairytale estate owned by the late King of Pop Michael Jackson may soon be on the market.

As our Gina Potthoff reported Aug. 8, Colony Capital LLC is considering selling the 3,000-acre property at 5225 Figueroa Mountain Road. The Santa Monica private-equity firm bought out Jackson’s mortgage in 2008 when he was facing foreclosure.

Santa Barbara County has assessed the property at $30.4 million, but media reports suggest it could fetch upward of $60 million in a sale situation.

Jackson bought the ranch in 1988, famously adding a choo-choo train, a zoo and amusement park rides. He was accused of pursuing other kinds of amusements, however, and authorities raided the place in 2004 as part of an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct with young boys.

Jackson was arrested, but was acquitted on all charges after a five-month trial in Santa Maria in 2005. He reportedly never returned to the ranch, and he died in 2009 at age 50.

Colony Capital spokesman Owen Blicksilver said the estate has been refurbished under his company’s ownership.

“It was in some disrepair because no one had been on the property in some time,” he told Noozhawk.

Over the years, a number of kooky proposals have been floated for the property, including turning it into a state park or a Graceland-type shrine in Jackson’s memory.

5. Bicyclist Struck and Killed By Vehicle Near Santa Maria

A Chula Vista man was killed when he was struck by a pickup truck as he rode a recumbent bicycle on Foxen Canyon Road east of Santa Maria on the evening of Aug. 9.

According to authorities, Matthew O’Neill, 33, was riding westbound on the rural roadway when he was hit from behind by a Chevy dually pickup pulling a horse trailer.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said bystanders administered CPR to O’Neill under the guidance of an emergency dispatcher talking to them on a cell phone. Firefighters took over after they arrived at the scene, but O’Neill was pronounced dead.

The driver of the truck, a 16-year-old boy from Santa Maria, and his 18-year-old passenger were not injured.

The California Highway Patrol said alcohol and drugs were not factors in the collision. The investigation is continuing.

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Thank you to Tom Grubisich at Street Fight for the kind writeup about Noozhawk. We appreciate the attention from a key news and information source for those of us in hyperlocal news.

We also will put in a plug for our colleagues in the Local Independent Online News Publishers Association (LION), which Noozhawk was privileged to co-found a few years ago. Kim Clark, one of my partners and our business development vice president, and I will be attending the 2014 LION Summit at Columbia College in Chicago in October. This year’s theme is Innovation for Local Digital Media Entrepreneurs, a timely topic that we think about almost every day.

As I’ve said often, it’s cool to be a pioneer and it’s an exciting time to be in journalism. That publications like Street Fight and organizations like LION exist just go to show how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time.

                                                                  •        •        •

The comic genius — and timing — of Robin Williams, during a USO performance in Afghanistan. R.I.P.

(MS46Z video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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