Post by Graveyardbride on Mar 7, 2014 16:13:00 GMT -5
March 7, 2013: Death at the Bottom of the Steps
On Thursday, March 7, 2013, in Valhalla, New York, 37-year-old Jamielynn Bleakley (above left) died from subdural hematomas on the left side of her head. The day before, an emergency call came in from 8 Woodfield Road in Denning, New York, and when paramedics arrived, they discovered a woman, covered with a small blanket, lying face-down in the snow at the bottom of a set of steps. She was wearing sweatpants, sneakers and a T-shirt that was pulled up above her breasts to her shoulders. She was rushed to the local hospital and when it was discovered she was suffering from a traumatic brain injury, the woman was transferred to Westchester, where she died. During autopsy, the pathologist found contusions to Bleakley’s arms, chest, back and face; fractured cartilage in the front of her neck; severe bruising and damage to her throat and hemorrhaging consistent with strangulation. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Gerald K. Babcock (above right), age 39, had been living with Bleakley, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, in the months prior to her death and there had been indications of domestic violence. Police immediately suspected Babcock, who had an extensive criminal history.
As Jamielynn Bleakley lay dying in Valhalla, a thousand miles to the west in Apple Valley, Minnesota, 37-year-old Margorie Ann Holland (above) lay dying at the bottom of the stairs of the townhome she shared with her husband. Around 10 a.m., Roger Earl Holland, age 36, called 911 and reported finding his wife slumped on the floor and that she wasn’t breathing. Police and EMTs arrived within minutes, but Ms. Holland could not be revived and was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead at 11:30 a.m.
At the scene, a near-hysterical Roger Holland told police he had gone out to Taco Bell to get breakfast, but then went to McDonald’s instead after his wife texted him while he was driving. But after observing the bruises, scratches, facial petechia (consistent with strangulation) and advanced discoloration on Margorie’s body, Detective Sean McKnight became skeptical of Holland’s story. He also noted Holland had fresh scratches on his face and neck, which he claimed were the result of his wife’s accidentally scratching him while she was having menstrual cramps.
As police and paramedics fervently worked to revive his wife, investigators asked Holland when he last heard from her. Holland was shaking so badly he couldn’t hold his phone steadily enough to check and an officer offered to help, checking the phone for the most recent text messages. Later at the hospital, officers overheard one of Margorie’s family members ask: “Roger, what happened? Why is she so scunned up?” Holland, who was still crying, replied, “I don’t know.”
The night before Margorie Holland died, she sent a text message to her husband indicating she planned to divorce him. On the same night, Roger Holland typed “if you pass out and fall down a flight of stairs can you break your neck” in an internet search engine.
Margorie and Roger Holland were both members of the Texas National Guard and met while on active duty, served together overseas and married. They moved to Minnesota in December 2012 to be closer to Margorie’s family during her pregnancy. According to Barbara Brown, Margorie’s stepmother, the family welcomed Roger “as a son and a friend” and the couple seemed to have a good relationship.
But investigators discovered evidence of a crumbling marriage, money problems and mistrust. Before their marriage, Holland claimed he had a high-paying job, going so far as to plan a move back to Texas because of a fictional promotion. By the morning of March 7, Margorie was on the verge of leaving Roger and ruining his reputation by exposing him as the liar and fraud that he was.
The text messages on Holland’s phone during the days leading up to his wife’s death were especially damning: In a January 2013 text, Holland told his wife he had a surprise: He’d gotten a job that would pay nearly $14,000 per month and had paid off all their credit cards. “Everything is coming together,” he told her. But Holland’s claims were all lies and when Margorie found out, she angrily texted him, while he was supposedly at work, saying: “It’s so bad I don’t even believe you are at work right now!”
On the morning of February 18, Roger Holland texted his wife with the exciting news that his new employer was paying for their upcoming move to Texas and would fly them there first class to look for houses. “That’s great baby,” she replied. However, later that same day, she took a look at their accounts and angrily texted: “Men who lie to their wives certainly don’t love them and I can’t love a husband who I can’t trust.” Roger assured her things would work out, texting that he loved and needed her, ending with “We will get past it honey.”
Soon after the February 18 blow-up, Margorie Holland sent her husband an emoticon of a person blowing a kiss. On February 24, a photo was taken on Roger Holland’s phone that showed his wife sitting on the couch exposing her pregnant mid-section and smiling. A few days later, Roger texted his wife asking how she was doing and she replied: “Like I hate my life, I hate the man I married and I wish I could erase the past 3 years!”
On March 3, they exchanged “I love yous,” revealing that Margorie could be furious one day and affectionate the next. On March 6, the day before she died, texts sent from her phone to her husband’s questioned his every remark and move. She called him “a shitty husband” and told him not to come home. In other messages that night, she said she was reporting him for using her credit cards. “I hope you get arrested,” one read. Another: “I’m not having this child with you in my life. She deserves better.” Also, on the night before she died, Margorie sent a text message to her husband indicating she planned to divorce him. On the same night, Roger Holland asked the question about breaking one’s neck from falling down the stairs, while he continued to text his wife that he had been truthful and loved her.
On the morning of March 7, messages from Margorie’s phone were once again affectionate – if she sent them. At 9:29, a text from her phone to Roger’s said: “Baby I changed my mind I want McDonald’s.” In it she also claimed she was looking at houses and her brother in Texas had sent her Internet listings. “Thanks for getting baby and I something to eat,” the message read. “Love you.” Roger replied a few minutes later: “No worries honey love you too.” There was no response to Roger’s last message. His phone showed he texted her, asking what she wanted from McDonald’s and that he called her, but did not get an answer.
At 9:55 a.m., Roger’s phone indicated he called 911. This was when he said he returned from getting breakfast and discovered his wife unresponsive on the floor. Roger told police he and his wife had a good relationship free of financial worries, but by March 7, 2013, Roger Holland had almost no money in his bank accounts and Margorie had only a few thousand dollars. Together, they owed more than $160,000, including approximately $20,000 in credit card debt. Roger hadn’t “paid off” their credit cards. Additionally, the timing of the McDonald’s text did not match Roger’s story. He said he was driving to get food when he received it, but surveillance video in the garage of his townhouse community showed him leaving after the message was sent. Police suggested the entire exchange was part of an elaborate coverup perpetrated by Roger while Margorie was lying unconscious at the bottom of the steps.
On Monday, March 11, 2013, charges were filed against Roger Earl Holland (above) and he was arrested March 15. Bail was set at $750,000 with conditions, or $1 million without. Before his trial began October 28, 2013, defense attorneys moved to have the text-message evidence excluded, claiming police obtained Holland’s cellphone illegally. His lawyers also alleged the messages did not reveal when Holland checked his phone on the morning of March 7.
At trial, Holland’s lawyers offered an explanation for the internet and phone searches regarding broken necks from falls alleging that Margorie had a dream about falling and hurting her neck. Holland had earlier told police similar searches would likely be discovered on his wife’s computer, but investigators found none. Margorie Holland was an Army medic. Wouldn’t she know whether or not a person could break his/her neck from a fall? The jury did not buy Holland’s “explanations” and found him guilty on all four counts of murder relating to his wife and unborn child. In December 2013, he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, one for the murder of his wife and one for the death of his unborn daughter.
Meanwhile in New York, Gerald Babcock was charged with the first-degree murder of Jamielynn Bleakley and on March 11, 2013 – the day his counterpart in Minnesota was charged – Babcock was arrested. During his November trial, even his defense attorney admitted Babcock – who had once assaulted a pregnant girlfriend with a baseball bat – was a “bad guy.” The jury agreed and found him guilty of manslaughter. In December, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Sources: Jeremiah Horrigan, The Middletown Times Herald-Record, December 21, 2013; The Daily Freeman, December 20, 2013; Lissa Harris, The Watershed Post, March 14, 2013; Ted Johnson, The Apple Valley Sun, December 17, 2013; Brian Lambert, The MinnPost, December 17, 2013; The Dakota County Tribune, April 24, 2013; The Bemidji Pioneer, March 11, 2013; Twin Cities Pioneer-Press; The Hudson Valley Insider; and Mid-Hudson News Network.