Shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, Nicolas Etienne Holzer called 9-1-1, and allegedly made a chilling admission to a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher.
“In a calm and matter of fact manner, (Holzer) told a dispatcher that he had killed his family,” Sheriff Bill Brown told a Tuesday afternoon news conference at sheriff’s headquarters.
Deputies who arrived at the house in the 600 block of Walnut Park Lane a short time later encountered a horrific scene, Brown said — the bodies of Holzer’s parents and his two sons, all of whom had suffered multiple stab wounds. The family’s Australian shepherd also had been stabbed to death.
The victims were identified as William Charles Holzer, 73, Sheila Garard Holzer, 74, Sebastian Holzer, 13, and Vincent Holzer, 10.
Holzer, 45, was booked into County Jail on four counts of murder, and was being held without bail, Brown said. He was expected to appear in court on the charges Wednesday.
“It is my sad duty to report to you that we have had another mass murder in our community,” Brown said, referring to Elliot Rodger’s killing spree in Isla Vista less than three months ago.
When deputies reached the door of the single-story home at the end of a small cul-de-sac Monday night, they were met by Holzer, who was taken into custody without incident, Brown said.
While searching the residence, deputies first found the body of the family’s dog, and then discovered Holzer’s father dead in the den.
The bodies of Holzer’s sons were found in a bedroom, and his mother’s body was at the doorway of that room, Brown said.
All of the victims had been stabbed repeatedly, Brown said, and deputies recovered two large kitchen knives they believe were used in the killings.
Deputies checked all of the victims for signs of life, and although one of the boys was thought to have made a “gurgling sound,” Brown said all four were dead by the time paramedics arrived at the scene.
Autopsies on all four victims were pending Tuesday night, he said.
“Holzer told detectives that he had killed his family to fulfill what he believed was his destiny,” Brown said, adding that he admitted he had fatally stabbed them shortly before he called 9-1-1.
Holzer told detectives that he killed his father first, then both of his children, who investigators believe were sleeping at the time. His mother and the dog were the last to die, Brown said.
“When asked why he had committed these crimes, he claimed, ‘I had to,’” Brown said.
The Sheriff’s Department has only had one previous documented contact with Holzer in the past, Brown said, an assault case from 1996 in which Holzer was a witness.
There had been no calls for service at the residence “at least for the past several years,” Brown said, adding that Holzer does not appear to have any criminal history.
When asked about Holzer’s mental-health history, Brown said that it’s still early in the investigation and investigators don’t have any information they can release.
“There’s nothing that points out any motive or anything that would have preceded this terrible tragedy,” he said.
Holzer had gained full custody of his sons following a divorce eight or nine years ago, Brown said, and he and his sons had been living with the elder Holzers at their home off Ribera Drive for the past seven years.
William Holzer was a well-known scientist who worked with Raytheon in the past and held a patent for an optical-measuring device, Brown said.
“This is another huge tragedy for our community, and our condolences go out to all of the family and friends of the innocent victims who were murdered last night,” Brown said.