A 14-year-old Ashland boy who murdered his mother with a knife and attacked his sister nearly two years ago had been playing violent video games “for a period of time” prior to the attack, prosecutors said Monday morning during his sentencing.
Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Ruby Herriott said the motive for then 12-year-old Ezekiel Holmes’ attacks was still unclear, but he had been playing the games and watching online videos of other gamers playing similar games, before the attack Jan. 10, 2017. A press release also said he had been reading “violent graphic novels.”
“We also know his mother took his computer away due to grades for school,” Herriott said.
Holmes will remain in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority until he is 25, Judge Kelly Ravassipour ruled Monday in juvenile court.
Holmes pleaded guilty in August to the murder of his mother, Pam Wolosz, and to attempted murder and first-degree assault for the attack on his sister, Lydia Holmes, who was a 16-year-old Ashland High School student then.
Ravassipour said there was no finding of a psychotic disorder at the time of the incident. Ezekiel Holmes also had no history of violence and no prior referrals to police, prosecutors said.
“And that is what, I believe, leaves a very chilling effect on all of us in this courtroom,” Ravassipour said, adding that the exposure to the games was “not the sole sufficient factor, but it is a factor.”
Holmes’ attorney Emily Simon said fully understanding why he committed the act will be something he has to work toward with professional help.
“There are parts of the motive that we don’t know yet, which is not surprising that we wouldn’t know them yet,” Simon said. “He’s only 14 years old. This happened when he was 12. And the process of treatment and therapy has to do with a lot of time spent really analyzing your motives and analyzing what went into things.”
Holmes will travel to the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn Tuesday, his father, Jim Holmes, said in a prepared statement. Holmes’ family and defense lawyers are hopeful he will spend his sentence at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility in Grants Pass, though that is not yet confirmed.
Ezekiel Holmes declined to speak, but his lawyers said he had made significant progress since his arrest.
“The kid that I first met is a totally different kid,” lawyer Jeni Feinberg said.
Jim Holmes said he believes that with the appropriate treatment, his son “will not be a threat to his sister or anyone in society when he leaves the juvenile system at age 25.”
“I hope the community can grow to see a different picture of Zeke than they may have heard from the DA’s office or that which people may have drawn on their own,” he said in the statement.
Herriott, who prosecuted the case, said earlier that Wolosz was in the kitchen when Ezekiel Holmes came downstairs, picked up a knife in the kitchen and stabbed her. She suffered multiple stab wounds, including an injury to the back of the neck, Herriott said.
The boy then started going back up the stairs, where he met his sister, she said. The sister’s injuries included stab wounds to the back, head, arm and shoulder, she said.
Wolosz then wrestled with her son for control of the knife. She managed to get the knife away from her son, but then collapsed on the downstairs floor and died, Herriott said.
Jim Holmes said despite his son’s horrific attacks, “he’s a great kid.”
Holmes said his son was involved in Boy Scouts, Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon and several bands at Ashland Middle School. He also spent time volunteering at animal shelters, was an avid reader and liked to play chess with other students.
“He had an incredible, close bond with his grandmother, Joanne, who lives with us,” Holmes said. The grandmother was home at the time of the attacks.
“Zeke has matured and grown in the last 22 months of incarceration at the Juvenile Detention Center. He’s doing well academically and continues to be an avid reader, moving out into many new, mature genres,” Holmes said.
Jim Holmes said the boy remains in close contact with his grandmother, “has taken a wonderful step in his faith thanks to the terrific staff from Rogue Valley Youth for Christ ... and is looking forward to finishing regular school and moving on to college opportunities.”
After the sentencing hearing, Jim Holmes said it was important for him to forgive his son early on, not only for himself, but for his children.
“I had to take that step of forgiveness for myself. I know if I was holding onto rage and anger at him, it wasn’t going to do me any good,” he said. “That was a crucial thing and made the rest of this horrible journey much easier.”
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