THATCHER — Special crimes often require special circumstances.
Such is the case with the 18-year investigation into the murder of Mary Anne Holmes.
In its attempt to utilize all resources available, the Thatcher Police Department accepted an offer from the TNT television show “Cold Justice” to re-examine evidence in the nearly two-decades-old unsolved murder. The resulting episode will air Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 9 p.m. On Oct. 1, CableOne announced that it will not be able to broadcast TNT and other Turner Network channels due to an ongoing contract dispute.
The show features Kelly Siegler, a former Texas prosecutor who has worked more than 1,000 murder cases, and Yolanda McClary, who spent 25 years on the Las Vegas Police Department as a crime scene investigator. “Cold Justice” specializes in solving rural area cold case murders.
Holmes, 29, was brutally murdered in her home July 9, 1995, after holding a yard sale. Her two daughters, then ages 4 and 18 months, were present during the crime. The next day, Holmes’ 4-year-old daughter ran across the street to her neighbor’s house naked and with her hands bound. She asked her neighbor why she couldn’t wake her mother.
Investigators with Thatcher Police and the Arizona Department of Public Safety have periodically re-examined the case throughout the years. This past January, Thatcher Police Chief Shaffen Woods looked into having new DNA tests performed by a private lab on a handful of evidence and was told it would cost about $15,000. Earlier in the week, however, Woods had received an e-mail from the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police advising about a request from the “Cold Justice” producers for cold case stories. Woods spoke with representatives with the show, and they agreed to assist with the investigation with the caveat that the resulting story be televised.
Producers sent Siegler, McClary and a host of associates into Thatcher in May. The group, along with Thatcher investigators, conducted 56 new interviews, and the show paid for the examination of more than 50 pieces of evidence that had been kept in a climate-controlled environment since the murder. The new advances in DNA testing allowed investigators new insight into the case, which they then followed up with interviews.
Woods stressed that allowing the television show to assist with the case was the best way to aid its solution and that family members were in favor of its inclusion.
“We chose the show and we chose these options because that was what was in the best interest for the case and best interest of everybody involved,” Woods said. “The Thatcher Police Department, from day-one, has done everything in (its) power, ability (and) resources on this case.”
A Houston detective who was part of the “Cold Justice” crew commented that the Holmes murder case was so complex that if it had happened in his jurisdiction, he would have had an entire squad working it. At the time of the murder, the Thatcher Police Department had a total of eight officers on its payroll.
Woods said Thatcher Police and DPS have invested hundreds of thousands of hours working the case and that the information they have to move forward on now is testament to the work others performed before them.
Thatcher Detective Kendall Curtis has been on the case since the beginning and commented that it is a crime like no other he has ever encountered. He refused to comment on the results of the investigation due to contractual obligations to the show but recommended everyone watch it for an eye-opening experience.
“This is a different murder,” Curtis said. “This isn’t like the murders that you’ve been seeing around here . . . This is a different murder, so you’ll just have to watch the show.”
“Cold Justice” prides itself on solving unsolvable crimes and has already led to the arrest of an alleged cold case murderer in its inaugural episode. Reportedly, its findings from the DNA testing in the Mary Anne Holmes case might have narrowed the handful of possible suspects to one person, and the results are set to air Tuesday night.
Woods said his desire is to honor all who have worked on this case and the family by getting enough evidence to compel the County Attorney to bring a suspect in front of a Grand Jury for indictment.
“It’s kind of a tribute to Mary Anne Holmes and to her family,” Woods said of the continuing investigation. “People just didn’t forget about it. It didn’t just go away.”