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Judge Finds Goleta-Area Man Guilty of Killing His Parents, 2 Sons

Nicolas Holzer, 48, was accused in 2014 slayings; criminal trial's sanity phase will begin later this month

Defendant in court Click to view larger
A sheriff’s bailiff cuffs Nicolas Holzer, right, after he is found guilty of four counts of murder in Santa Barbara Superior Court Monday morning. His defense attorney, Christine Voss, second from left, will begin presenting witnesses for the sanity phase of the trial later this month.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Nicolas Holzer was found guilty on Monday of killing his parents and two sons in 2014, with Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill finding true the four first-degree murder charges against him, as well as the special allegations and circumstances in the criminal indictment.

Holzer, 48, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder charges.

With the findings of guilt, the sanity phase of the criminal trial will begin later this month. 

Hill made his ruling after less than two days of trial, with witnesses and evidence providing grisly details of the stabbing deaths of Holzer’s family on Aug. 11, 2014.

Holzer was found guilty of murdering his parents, William Charles Holzer, 73, and Sheila Garard Holzer, 74, and his two sons, Sebastian, 13, and Vincent, 10.

“I find that charge to be true beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hill said for each count of murder.

Holzer also was found guilty of special allegations of using a deadly weapon – a knife – in each case, and special circumstances of committing multiple murders.

According to court testimony last week, all four victims died due to multiple stab wounds — more than two dozen in one case — some of which caused injuries to vital organs.

The family dog also was found stabbed to death at the Walnut Park Lane home Holzer shared with his parents and sons, and he was found guilty of one felony charge of cruelty to an animal.

Before the verdict, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Minter continued his testimony, and said investigators found three folding knives and two KA-BAR knives in a drawer in Holzer’s bedroom at the home.

At Deputy Public Defender Christine Voss’ direction, he showed each knife to the court after unwrapping them from their evidence packaging.

Court trial Monday Click to view larger
Deputy Public Defender Christine Voss, left, presents brief closing arguments to Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill Monday morning. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The KA-BAR knives, which have hand guards and were in leather sheaths, are used by the military, Minter said, noting that he recognized the type of knife from his time in the U.S. Air Force.

It’s a well-known knife for combat, he said.

Those knives and the three folding knives are not suspected to be involved in the stabbing deaths of the Holzer family, he said.

The murder weapons are suspected to be two kitchen knives, one with the blade broken off near the handle, that were found on the kitchen island with a substance assumed to be blood on them, according to court testimony.

The knife handle was located in a trash can, where Holzer told investigators it could be found, Minter said.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen read a stipulation into the record that the Holzer family dog, Dixie, a pembroke welsh corgi, was determined to have died of multiple stab wounds.

The prosecution rested its case Monday morning, and Voss said the defense had no evidence at that time.

Both attorneys presented brief closing arguments to Hill.

Zonen said Holzer had expressed malice and planned to kill his family, which is exactly what he did.

He also said Holzer had time to reflect between each murder, and that he had gone to the kitchen to get a second knife after the first one broke when he killed his father.

Holzer was responsive to questions from investigators, Zonen said, and while a motive can help satisfy people's sense of inquiry, it is not necessary for conviction.

Voss said she doesn’t dispute that Holzer is responsible for the deaths of his family, and he doesn’t either, noting that he called 9-1-1 to report it.

She argued that the prosecution has to prove premeditation and deliberation for first-degree murder charges, and that there was no evidence of a motive to kill his parents and children.

If there was a motive, it would have been based on nonsense and delusion, not reality, she said.

In an interview with investigators, which was video recorded and played in court last week, Holzer said he had to kill his family, and had known he would have to do it someday. He also said he was supposed to do it before his son Sebastian turned 13.

Holzer told investigators that Sebastian’s birthday was Aug. 10, making his 13th birthday the day before the killings.

Voss also posited the question that if Holzer had planned to kill his family, why wouldn’t he have used his combat knives, rather than an average kitchen knife?

“There was no evidence presented of any planning,” she said. “What we have is just the most crude and basic way that anyone could be killed.”

Voss asked Hill to find Holzer guilty of second-degree murder, not first-degree murder.

Hill said Holzer clearly had been contemplating the killings for a long time, and intended to kill the four members of his family.

Holzer was methodical, Hill said, and the nature of the injuries shows he was stabbing the victims in places where vital organs were located, which was likely to cause death.  

“I do find the defendant guilty of all the charges and special allegations and special circumstances in the indictment,” Hill said.

Hill also said there is no question Holzer suffers from some degree of mental illness.

The second phase of the criminal trial, to determine whether Holzer was sane at the time of the murders, will begin next week in Hill’s courtroom.

Both sides are expected to present multiple witnesses during trial, including experts.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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