Iraq, Afghanistan vet declared insane in stepdad’s slaying. PTSD to blame, lawyer says

Calling it a sad and tragic case, Judge Arlen Harrell ruled Tuesday that Army veteran Kyle Holaday was legally insane when he fatally shot his stepfather and wounded four others in 2017.

Holaday, a former soldier who served in Irag and Afghanistan, will be sent to a state hospital where he will receive treatment.

A hearing’s scheduled Nov. 20 to determine where he will be placed for treatment. Had he not been declared legally insane, he could have faced life in prison for the death of James Willcoxson, 60.

Holaday, a former Army corporal, pleaded no contest on Monday to one count of second degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. He also pleaded no contest to once count of cruelty to an animal for shooting and killing the family dog.

Holaday’s lawyer Jane Boulger pushed for the legally insane designation, saying her client is suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder and needs help.

“He does not belong in prison,” she said.

Judge Harrell agreed. He reviewed more than 5,000 pages of medical records, court transcripts and audio recordings. What he learned was Holaday suffered a traumatic brain injury from multiple improvised explosive devices during his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008 and 2011.

He was diagnosed by doctors as having PTSD, anxiety and depression. He also began drinking alcohol to the point of blacking out.

Holaday was also examined by two doctors after he was arrested. Both concluded he was legally insane at the time of the March 24, 2017 shooting.

Justice not served, says victim’s family

The victim’s family was arguing for a life sentence in prison for the death of their loved one.

“Our family is very upset with the prosecution’s decision not to contest Kyle Holaday’s insanity plea and to forego a jury trial,” said Carol Wootton, the victim’s sister. “ In our opinion, there is a lot more to Kyle Holaday’s character and motives than PTSD. For justice to be served, as well as society protected, Kyle Holaday should spend the rest of his life incarcerated.”

Harrell acknowledged his decision was not what the victim’s family wanted, but he said he was left with little choice, given the evidence.

Harrell said he understood the family’s frustration over Holaday’s actions, calling what he did inexplicable, irrational and without warning or justification.

Holaday, 29, was charged in the death of Willcoxson and for the attempted murders of Crystal Dominguez and Rachel Schindler, along with Schindler’s 5-month-old daughter. Dominguez and Schindler were co-workers off Carol Holaday, his mother.

Defendant’s mother says son needs treatment, not jail

Carol Holaday was thankful her son will be receiving treatment for his PTSD and hoped his case will help raise awareness of the problems some soldiers have adjusting to life after war.

“There needs to be more acknowledgment of the problem and it needs to be dealt with,” said Carol Holaday. “This is a very real thing. And I’m not the only one this is happening to. Other mothers have lost their sons to suicide.”

It remains to be seen, how long Holaday may stay in a state hospital. Boulger said it’s possible he could be there for the rest of his life. Or, he could be out in a few years. That will depend on how well he progresses.

A jury trial would also be required before Holaday could be released, to determine whether he’s been rehabilitated, she said.

A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering various topics including education, business and agriculture. He currently covers courts.